Sri Lanka: NfR holds the government accountable for any violence that may take place against pro democracy lawyers or independent judges

(NFR’s statement on the need to re-establish the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary following the illegal impeachment of the Chief Justice.)

 NfR Sri Lanka, a net work of Sri Lankan journalists and human rights defenders, believes that the time has come for all Sri Lankans to come together to vehemently denounce the present regime’s moves following the illegal impeachment of the Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranaike, which has negated the power of the judiciary. By such an action the Government has taken away the confidence people had in the judiciary to obtain redress when their rights a violated, and has unleashed terror campaign against all forms of dissent against the Government.  The regime not only disregarded the judgements of the highest court of Sri Lanka regarding the impeachment process but has also openly encouraged thugs and unruly mobs whom they mobilized against legitimate democratic protests in the country.

 The Judges who upheld the independence of judiciary and the senior lawyers who led the pro-democratic campaigns against the illegal impeachment process have been threatened with death. So far four eminent lawyers have received letters with death threats. Even Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayke has expressed fear that violence may be directed against her and her family. NfR condemns these intimidatory tactics and death threats, and holds the government accountable for any violence that may take place against such persons.

 By disregarding the ruling of the courts that the impeachment process against the Chief Justice is unconstitutional and by unleashing its goon squads on protestors, the regime has once again revealed that it will continue to act with impunity against those who indulge in legitimate protests.

 The Government has proceeded to appoint Mohan Peiris to the post of Chief Justice despite opposition to such a move by many among who was one of the Cabinet Ministers. He is a man who had deliberately lied to the UN in defense of Sri Lanka’s human rights abuses, and is yet to extricate himself from that untruthful statement. He had claimed that journalist Prageeth Ekneligoda who is missing since January 2011, is alive and living in a foreign country. While he was the Attorney General, he had withdrawn serious charges against persons who happened to be associates of the government who were on remand pending trial, without giving any valid reasons for doing so. Recently, even a complaint had been lodged against him at the Bribery Commission. The fact that he was serving as the Chief Legal Adviser of the President, is enough proof of his proximity to the regime.

 By the appointment of such a person as Chief Justice, the Rajapakse regime has blatantly ruined the image of an independent judiciary which was until then one of the few democratic institutions that remained in the country. This regime continues to thumb its nose at every democratic institution in the country, and pays no heed to the concerns raised by persons of eminence locally or the international community that is seeking accountability for war crimes and the implementation of a genuine process of reconciliation to the ethnic conflict that has seen thousands killed and displaced.

  The emerging scenario in the South of the disregard for the rule of law and rule by threats and intimidation is the situation that existed in Tamil dominated North and East for quite some time. This scourge has now spread to such an extent in the South that even local government members of the ruling party are complaining that Minister Mervyn Silva is behind many murders and is plotting to kill some of them. Further the Tamil and Muslim communities are at the receiving end of government sanctioned Sinhala Buddhist extremism. Even though incidents such as the breaking down of mosques have taken place in broad daylight, no action is taken against the perpetrators.

NfR reiterates that there cannot be democracy in the country while North and East of the country are under the military rule. Lately the military have even been appointed as teachers in some of the schools in the North. The impeachment process disregarding court orders, mob rule, death threats, illegal arrests, slander campaigns etc., are nothing but a continuation of the politics of the Rajapakse regime. Any genuine attempt to re-establish democratic governance in Sri Lanka needs a holistic view. But that is apparently not in the mind of this regime.

NfR is of the view that time has come for all Sri Lankans to rally together as one force to wrest back their democratic rights and ensure that all citizens are treated as equals, the rule of law is upheld and the independence of the judiciary is restored.

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