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Uvindu Kurukulasuriya Responds:

Jul 23, 2011 5:53:56 PM - thesundayleader.lk

About September 1978, when J.R Jayewardene’s new constitution came into force, the Supreme Court was reconstituted. Twelve senior serving judges were thus excluded. Four of them were demoted to the Court of Appeal and eight were altogether left out.

The members of the Special Presidential Commission received undue promotions. Justice Weeraratne went up to the fifth place of seniority in the Supreme Court from the eleventh place, and Justice Sharvananda from the fourteenth to the sixth, eventually becoming Chief Justice. Justice de Alwis was promoted over 18 High Court judges to the Court of Appeal.

Politicisation of the judiciary then became a matter of public discussion. In this context a Sinhala pamphlet was circulated under the authorship of “Raja NeetheegnaWalter Jayawardena”. Raja Neetheengna means QC. I found that small pamphlet on my father’s bookshelf. I even didn’t know who this Jayawardena was and I thought he was a relation of J.R Jayawardene. My father said he was Walter Jayawardana Q.C., Secretary to the Ministry of Constitutional Affairs under Dr. Colvin R. De Silva in the 1970s.  In that pamphlet he exposed how judges went home drunk after parties. Explaining how the politicisation of the judiciary started in post-colonial Sri Lanka, Jayawardana said the downward slide commenced under then Justice Minister Felix Dias Bandaranaike who invited judges to political parties and offered drinks.

Jayewardene’s government in several instances extended abuses to which the 1972 Constitution, and the practices of the previous United Front government, had set precedents. One instance of this was Felix Dias Bandaranaike, who as justice minister in the UF government, appointing a personal friend, party member and former MP to the Supreme Court (see p. 26 of V.P. Vittachi’s ‘Sri Lanka: What Went Wrong’ for more details on much of the foregoing). Another source for this subject is Dr Rajan Hoole’s “Sri Lanka: The Arrogance of Power”, in  page 47 he says;“Jayewardene’s practices here were not entirely original. Jayewardene’s tampering with the Law and Judiciary too had its roots in the practices of Justice Minister Felix Dias Bandaranaike and his secretary Nihal Jayawickrema in the previous government.” See also Dr A.R.B Amerasinghe “ The Supreme Court of Sri Lanka: the First 185 Years”. 

uvindu@lankaindependent.com