By Former Chief Justice, Shelton Perera
The entire Democratic World; especially its Legal Fraternity and more so the past and present members of the Judiciary who valued and observed Judicial Ethics; would have been deeply stirred by the appointment of the former Chief Justice at retirement to a newly created office as Senior Legal Advisor to the President.
With the Attorney General and his whole band of able lawyers to advise the Government in addition to the lawyers in the Cabinet and in the Party; and the availability of any other; should a most unlikely special need arise; one wonders whether this is not a sinecure appointment not seen to have been so far needed. Fortunately, for the dignity of the Judiciary this appointment may not be viewed as a reward for a favour granted since Justice Silva’s rulings have not been seen as having been partial. It is to prevent wild conjecturing in situations like this that former Chief Justice A.C.Alles; when he was President of the Retired Judges’ Association proposed as a mandatory principle that Judges on retiring should not accept Public Office for a period of three years.
When J. R. Jayawardena took over the power to appoint Judges above the District Court he quelled the anxiety of the Judiciary about its independence by saying that although he appoints them he cannot dismiss them and thus their independence remains intact. But yet, hard-boiled politicians have the knack of selecting honest men if such are wanted, or others whomsoever depending on the need. Perhaps an indication may be given to an intended safe appointee that if his rulings are not unfavourable he would be rewarded with plums and a comfortable bed for life at retirement. If such an indication is given, it’s left to the integrity of the particular individual concerned either to preserve his honour and reject contemptuously the appointment offered on despicable preconditions touching Judicial decisions, or to accept it and on retirement receive the plums and comfortable bed: which alas would come together with a burning, guilty conscience that would finally lead him to a death- bed on fire.
When J.R.J appointed Neville Samarakone QC as Chief Justice, Neville was J.R.J’s lawyer. A former Bishop who knew how close Neville was to J.R.J asked me “How could there be Justice now?” I replied “Neville lacks neither position nor funds. We’ll wait and see”. When later on J.R.J had tried to touch him, Neville seems to have said “J.R our friendship is at home. My duties are sacred! Please don’t touch”. Honour was greater to Neville than were material benefits and his duties were sacred to him. A judge worthy of his appointment can never compromise his honour and integrity to the detriment of his Sacred Duties.
We see Asoka also as one who would not have compromised his honour and integrity to the detriment of his sacred duties as a Judge. Then as to what could be the agenda behind this seemingly sinecure appointment: Could it be to have a knowledgeable and wise person to be tapped to find loopholes in the Law, Regulations and Precedents to cover up past lapses; if any; or for future use are questions that Concerned Citizens; both individually and as Associations; would be interested in and be watchful about. Let’s keep our fingers crossed and watch future developments for whatever guidance and assistance we could offer, for the good of society.