Opposite Editorial

11th March 2001

'He who conquers himself is the greatest warrior'

A judge has to administer the law-good or bad

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'He who conquers himself is the greatest warrior'

The speech made by Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative to the UN, John de Saram, when the Resolution expressing the deep concern of the member states of the UN over the destruction of relics and monuments in Afghanistan was tabled at the 55th session of the General Assembly.

I have the honour, on behalf of Sri Lanka, to convey appreciation and gratitude to the delegation of Germany, for all that Ambassador Kastrup and his colleagues at the Permanent Mission of Germany have done, to ensure that the General Assembly considers, urgently, today the subject of the preservation of the statues of the Buddha on the cliffs of Bamiyan.

For his very thoughtful introduction of the Resolution before us, I thank Ambassador Kastrup. It is a resolution of which Sri Lanka is honoured to be a co-sponsor.

There is an extraordinary uniqueness in our gathering in the General Assembly today. It is to the General Assembly in its universality - of membership and concerns and responsibilities - that the world comes with its great troubles, its sorrows, its anxieties, its hopes; and it is the General Assembly that through its discussions and exchanges of views and formal Resolutions provides solace, if not always solutions, to millions around the world.

The statues of Bamiyan are of the Buddha but it is Germany, not a predominantly Buddhist country that, has brought its proposed Resolution, on the preservation of the statues of the Buddha, to the General Assembly.

The co-sponsors of the Resolution include numerous delegations of countries where the other great religions of humanity are principally followed.

Those who now stand in Bamiyan before the statues of the Buddha are of ancient tribes - ancient tribes that have impressed millions over the centuries with their courage - in battle with the hordes that came through their valleys not in peace but in war.

Yet we are told that these present-day warriors wish to destroy the statues of the Buddha though it was the Buddha that taught us that the greatest warrior of all is he who conquers himself.

The words of the Buddha moved the warrior emperor Asoka, three centuries before the Christian era, to turn from the violence of war to the non-violence of peace. And it is the same emperor Asoka who then sent his son Mahinda and his daughter Sanghamitta to Sri Lanka with the teachings of the Buddha. The daughter Sanghamitta brought with her to Sri Lanka, when she came, a sapling of the sacred Bo-Tree under which the Buddha centuries earlier had sat in thought and in meditation - on the sufferings of humanity and how from such sufferings there may - through enlightenment - be a release.

The sapling now the sacred Bo-tree in the world heritage city of Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka still stands and is loved in reverence by all the people of Sri Lanka be they Buddhists or followers of the other great religions of our land: Christianity, Hinduism, or Islam.

We in this Hall today can only hope and pray that the statues in Bamiyan are not and will not be destroyed - in cruel and wanton destruction of a shocking magnitude. We do not know what their fate is or will be.

Yet we can make sure that within the United Nations at its Headquarters here - every endeavour is made to consider in what ways all statues and monuments and objects and places of religion or spirituality, that form, such a valuable and irreplaceable component of the civilization of humanity shall be preserved and treasured by humanity - always.

The delegation of Sri Lanka hopes, in preparing for the next regular session of the General Assembly, to consult with other delegations on how best we might in that connection proceed.

The Resolution before the General Assembly this morning has, of course, Sri Lanka's whole hearted support.

I conclude by assuring this Assembly that the President, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka are continuing to do all that they can possibly do with a view to the preservation of the statues in Afghanistan.

UN Resolution

General Assembly

Fifty-fifth session Agenda item 46

The situation in Afghanistan and its implication for international peace and security

Afghanistan, Andorra, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Benin, Bhutan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Hungary, Iceland, India, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia (Federated States of), Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Samoa, San Marion, Slovakia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Tajikistan, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Togo, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of America, Uruguay and Yugoslavia: draft resolution

The destruction of relics and monuments in Afghanistan

The General Assembly,

Recalling its resolutions 53/203 A of 18 December 1998, 54/189 A of 17 December 1999 and 55/174 A of December 2000. Bearing in mind the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 16 December 1966 and the need to respect the common heritage of mankind. Respecting the multicultural, multi-ethnic and historical heritage of Afghanistan,

Deeply concerned and appalled by the Taliban edict of 26 February 2001, ordering the destruction of all statues and non-Islamic shrines in Afghanistan, and by the deliberate ongoing destruction of these relics and monuments, which belong to the common heritage of mankind, Recalling the several appeals made by the General Assembly to all Afghan parties to protect the cultural and historic relics and monuments in Afghanistan, and welcoming recent calls by the Security Council, the United Nations Special Mission to Afghanistan, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisatiion and others, urging the Taliban to halt their destruction.

Noting that the destruction of the statues in Afghanistan, in particular of the unique Buddhist sculptures in Bamiyan, Would be an inseparable loss for humanity as a whole,

1. Strongly calls upon the Taliban to abide by their previous commitments to protect Afghanistan's cultural heritage form all acts of Vandalism, damage and theft;

2. Strongly urges the Taliban to review their edict of 26 February 2001 and to stop its implementations;

3. Strongly urges the Taliban to take immediate action to prevent the further destruction of the irreplaceable relics, monuments or artifacts of Afghanistan's cultural heritage;

4. Calls upon Member States to help, through appropriate technical measures, to safeguard the sculptures, including, if necessary, their temporary relocation or removal from public view.

Additional co-sponsors of the Resolution

In addition to the co-sponsors listed in the UN Document setting out the Resolution and the list of co-sponsors, the following additional Delegations wished to co-sponsor the Resolution: Argentina, Bolivia, Cambodia, Madagascar, Mauritius, Monaco, Moldavo, Peru, Sierra Leone, Slovenia, South Africa, Suriname, Thailand and Uzbekistan

A judge has to administer the law-good or bad

Addressing a ceremonial sitting of the Supreme Court after he was appointed a Supreme Court Judge, Justice Hector S Yapa said:

Justice Yapa receiving his lettor of appointment ......It was just one and half months ago that you welcomed me as the president of the Court of Appeal. And once again you are having this ceremony of welcome. Sometimes one way get the feeling that it is a burden on you.

However in my view this ceremony of welcome which is deeply rooted in history and tradition should be maintained and preserved without a break for posterity. Permit me therefore to thank you Mr. Attorney and the President of the Bar Association most sincerely for the sentiments you have expressed on this occasion. Perhaps this may be my finest hour to assure you and the country at large that my duties and responsibilities as a Judge of this Court will be continued as before, preserving the integrity and the independence of the judiciary. As a Judge, I have nobody to protect except the course of justice and the larger interests of this country.

That responsibility has to be discharged within the law operating in this country for, a Judge has to administer the law good or bad as he finds it. It is for the Parliament of this country to offer good, benevolent and just laws for the people.

One unhappy feature in the history mankind is the presence of disputes. Disputes take various forms and proportions ranging from personal disputes to even international disputes.

However over the years, man in his wisdom has devised many ways to resolve such disputes in a peaceful and orderly manner using methods such as negotiation, mediation, arbitration and adjudication.

Adjudication by courts of law appears to be the widely used method of dispute resolution in our country. Our courts following the English tradition adhere to the adversary system.

Despite the fact that this method of adjudication is expensive and time consuming, we have to continue with it, since it his still one of the best methods of resolving many disputes ensuring confidence and acceptance among the litigants. One great quality of this system of adjudication is the need to hear the parties. Therefore it is an indispensable requirement of justice that a Judge who has to decide a case should give a patient hearing to both sides before a decision is made. A Judge has to decide a case after considering the submissions made by Counsel and after weighting the evidence available. Finally when deciding a case a Judge has to give reasons for his decision.

It is from the reasons that one could test the correctness of a judgment and further such reasons would inspire confidence in the litigant who has either won or lost the case. It is also from the reasons given, that one could decide whether justice has been done to the litigant or not.

In recent times I have observed that judgments have been commented upon or criticized without considering the reasons given and without due regard to the quality of the evidence in the case.

This is an unfair practice bordering contempt of court. Undoubtedly it is a healthy practice to comment upon and analyze a judgment, but such comments and analysis must be fair and reasonable having regard to the quality of the evidence in the case and the reasons given in the judgment.

If judgment are criticized without due regard to the nature of the evidence and the reasons given, it would certainly have a disastrous effect by conveying a wrong impression regard to the quality of justice that is being handed down by the Superior Courts of this country.

Besides one should not overlook the fact hat a judgment is given in the name of justice after a careful consideration and deliberations.

As I stated before, our system of adjudication by Courts of law is a time consuming exercise.

Therefore laws delay to some extent is something unavoidable. It is also a great virtue of our system of justice that the judiciary is dependent on the support it receives form the bar.

Hence our legal system is necessarily dependent upon the co-operation between the judiciary and the legal profession.

Legal profession therefore can to a very great extent assist the court in minimizing the laws delay and thereby the public confidence in our judicial process. What the majority of litigants in this country want is a speedy disposal of their cases, after a fair hearing and at the same time maintaining the quality of justice.

This country has never been poorer with such eminent and quality Judges and lawyers who could stand up to this challenge. Finally I take this opportunity to mention with gratitude and veneration my parents, my teachers and my seniors in the legal profession.

I served my apprenticeship under the late Mr. Neville Samarakoon Queen's Counsel and a former Chief Justice of this country. It is with a deep sense of gratitude that I remember him on this occasion. Permit me also to refer to three of my teachers who have guided and encouraged me.

They are Dr. Ranjith Amarasinghe, a very Senior Judge of this Court, Mr. Raja Goonesekera, a respected Senior member of the bar and the late Mr. B.P.A. Joseph a former vice principal and a much respected teacher at Christian College, Kotte. I will be failing in my duty if I do not refer to the Attorney General's Department which for many years gave me the necessary training and the guidance in the art of decision making. I also take this opportunity to mention with gratitude my wife and children who have shown much care and affection. In conclusion I thank each and everyone of you for your kind presence this morning. May the Triple Gem bless you with good health and happiness.

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