FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION SRI LANKA

For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya

CJ to initiate action against media outlets critical of the judiciary

By Hiran H. Senewiratne

Chief Justice Asoka N. de Silva says that before his retirement, he intends to take necessary action against certain media organizations which criticize the judiciary. Speaking at the 37th Annual Convention of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka† (BASL) in Colombo last week, he requested the BASL and the legal fraternity to back him for this endeavor.

“Today the nation is geared for prosperity after three decades of war but development could be seen only if the rule of law prevailed in the country, Justice de Silva said.

At the event, the incumbent BASL President†† Shibly Aziz, PC was re-elected for the year 2011-2012 for the second time and was inducted by the Solicitor General W. P. G. Dep, PC.

Justice de Silva said that the BASL plays a vital role in upholding democracy in the country and even the present attorneys-at-law take the oath of allegiance to defend and uphold the constitution of the country.

He said that one has to remember that the judiciary cannot function in isolation and its duty is to uphold and strengthen democracy in the country. Therefore, nobody could criticize the judiciary as they please. They and will have to face severe consequences for such actions.

The Chief Justice said that “a handful of people in the profession resort to certain undue practices and it is unbecoming to paint a grim picture of the whole profession”.

The standards at the Bar are deteriorating as revealed in letters receive by him, he noted. “Therefore, we have to be blamed as lawyers for not correcting them”, Chief Justice said.

He said the Bar is not just a job bank to curb unemployment. On the contrary, the Bar is the living conscience of the nation. Without the Bar, the constitution will be just an instrument devoid of power, devoid of meaning and indeed devoid of life.

“There is a famous quote that the Supreme Court is the custodian of the fundamental rights of the people. But, actually the fundamental keeper of the fundamental rights are the people themselves, who are sovereign”, he said.

The Supreme Court provides the dynamism to the rights and makes them tangible and the connecting factor between the people and the Supreme Court is the Bar. It is the Bar that has to set the wheels of justice in motion,” he told the Convention.

In his address, Appeal Court president S. Sriskandarajah said the decision to absorb young lawyers as research associates in courts was a positive step, as it gave the juniors the opportunity to train under seniors, while helping to accelerate the legal procedures.

BASL President Shibly Aziz said that he is committed to enhance standards in the legal profession.

He said that last year he restarted the Law Net system to provide exposure to lawyers in the country.
The Island

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