Opposition slams govt. for move to undermine judiciary
The Opposition has strongly condemned what it calls a move by the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government to undermine the Supreme Court (SC).The Opposition has, in a joint statement issued over the weekend, urged the government to refrain from being hostile towards the apex court.
Among the signatories to the statement are Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa, Dullas Alahapperuma, Prof. G. L. Peiris, Wimal Weerawansa, Gevindu Cumaratunga, Dr. Harini Amarasuriya, Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, M.A. Sumanthiran and Udaya Gammanpila.
“The country is facing an unprecedented crisis in respect of the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary,” the Opposition has said.
“Basic principles and values we had all taken for granted, are now being directly and strenuously challenged.
“Now, for the first time, a criterion fraught with the gravest consequences for the very survival of representative democracy, is sought to be laid down that election can be held only if and when the Head of State is subjectively satisfied that the economic condition of the country warrants the allocation of resources for the conduct of an election at a particular time.
“The alarming corollary is a vicious onslaught on the Supreme Court in the exercise of its inalienable jurisdiction to uphold and implement the provisions of the highest law, the Constitution of the Republic.
“The country has been treated to the ignominious spectacle of the apex court being derided and reviled in parliament.
“The interim order by the court, directing the Minister of Finance and the Secretary to the Ministry of Finance to refrain from preventing the release, to the Election Commission, of financial resources allocated by parliament in the annual budget for the conduct of the Local Government election, has been contemptuously disregarded.
“In a flagrant violation of a binding decision by the Supreme Court, the Government Printer and other relevant authorities are being deprived of funds required for the performance of essential functions in this regard.
“Urgent appeals by the Election Commission, addressed to the Finance Secretary, continue to be simply ignored.
“Refusal by the Executive to give effect to imperative directions by the Supreme Court represents, of itself, a deliberate erosion of the foundations of our constitutional system, based as it is on the clearly demarcated separation of powers among the organs of government.
“It expresses, in our view, undisguised contempt for cherished constitutional values which form the bedrock of freedom and stability in our country.
“Tragically, not even this seems to satisfy the appetite of an unelected administration to arrogate to itself authoritarian powers incompatible with the rudiments of a functioning democracy.
“The government has brazenly invaded the province of the judiciary by means of a wholly distended, and entirely illegitimate, recourse to the concept of parliamentary privilege to assail the independence and integrity of the judiciary.
“We are aghast at the purported initiative by the Privileges Committee of Parliament directing the Supreme Court to forward to parliament the interim order which has already been impugned with egregious disregard for sound principle and policy.
“There were strident calls in parliament for the discontinuation of proceedings property in progress before the Supreme Court : these were complimented by demands for the cessation of all judicial action in respect of pending proceedings , until parliamentary processes with regard to privileges are exhausted : to cap it all, cynically infringing express provision contained in the Standing Orders of Parliament, there was explicit criticism of a judgment of the Supreme Court and indeed, of propriety of the behavior of a judge , in the absence of substantive motion before the House.
“In keeping with established precedents across the civilized world, these actions constitute, cumulatively, contempt of the Supreme Court in uniquely aggravating circumstances.
“We find very disquieting the arrogant and dismissive attitude which the government, embarked on its dangerous frolic, has adopted to the emphatic appeals by religious leaders, including the Venerable Theras of the Malwatte and Asgiriya Chapters and his Eminence the Archbishop of Colombo.
“The sense of frivolity and flippancy underpinning the government’s approach to issues which define our political system and our way of life, presents to this nation and the world a spectacle of which we can hardly be proud.
“Representing all parties and groups in the Opposition in the parliament, we wish to express our profound respect for the judiciary –an indispensable pillar and, indeed, the final bulwark for the enjoyment of individual and collective liberties enshrined in the Constitution –and our firm resolve to resist, by all means at our disposal within a democratic framework, every attempt to undermine the prestige and stature of our country’s judiciary.”