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6th January 2002

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JSC: More questions than answers

By Victor Ivan
The Judicial Services Commission has issued a statement in response to criticism contained in an International Bar Association report that analysed the state of Judiciary in Sri Lanka. 

According to the JSC statement, the commission has taken measures of disciplinary control of Judges in accordance with the law. However, the statement says nothing about the alleged partiality shown by the judiciary with regard to the case of Magistrate Lenin Ratnayake and District Judge Upali Abeyratne two judicial officers who, according to some analysts, were alleged to be responsible for causing a crisis in the judiciary of this country.

It was on August 17, 1997 that a newspaper levelled a charge of rape against Magistrate Ratnayake. Thereafter, the newspaper claimed that Mr. Ratnayake had been dismissed from his earlier employment at the Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation after being found guilty of a fraud.

When the alleged rape story was reported in the newspaper, attorney Kalyananda Thiranagama on behalf of the raped woman made formal plaints to the JSC and to the Supreme Court, based on two affidavits from her and her husband.

But the JSC took 23 months to initiate an inquiry into that incident. Why? A three-judge committee of Inquiry consisting of Appeal Court judges was appointed by the Judicial Services Commission to inquire into the charges and it ruled that the Magistrate was guilty of camouflaging his 'dishonorable' past for the purpose of joining the Judicial Service as well as of rape. But the JSC did not take deterrent action against Mr. Ratnayake. 

The judiciary handed over to the Attorney General's Department the responsibility of framing charges against the Magistrate and pending this action sent him on compulsory leave on full pay. But, 27 months after, the matter remains dormant.

The complaint made to the JSC by Chemical Engineer Jayasekera against District Judge Upali Abeyratne, also was taken up for inquiry.

By the time Sarath Silva was appointed to the post of Attorney General, those two Judges had inquired into the complaint, prepared a formal charge sheet, and had sent it to Judge Abeyratne, calling for his response in writing within one month.

The JSC must explain to the country what happened to that inquiry?

It was only after a request made to the Chief Justice by the congress of former presidents of the Bar Association in response to continuous agitation made by a newspaper that the Judicial Services Commission was compelled to revive the suppressed inquiry.

The inquiring committee consisting of three Appeal Court Judges found the District Judge guilty of all the charges. The Commission immediately decided to sent the judge on compulsory retirement.

However, surprisingly the JSC took a different action by suspending the judge's promotions for two years and transferring him to Moneragala. The JSC' response to the change of action was that it took this decision after considering an appeal made by President's Counsel Faiz Mustapha on behalf of the judge. 

If the commission had any respect for natural justice, it should have considered the appeal only in the presence of the complainant's lawyers. It was me that the commission considered to be the complainant in the inquiry against Magistrate Lenin Ratnayake. Although the committee of inquiry had given me the right to obtain the daily reports of the inquiry the reply given by the JSC when I asked it for the report containing the conclusions of the committee of Inquiry was that it would not be given. However, one of the terms included in the Beigin Accord is that the reports of disciplinary inquiries conducted with regard to Judges must be treated as public documents.

- The writer is the editor of Ravaya



Appreciation

Farewell sweet prince

By M. Ismeth
"His life was gentle and the elements
So mixed in him that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world, "This was a man." 

"I don't mind even dying after making Ranil Wickremesinghe the Prime Minister," were the words of the late Transport, Highways and Aviation Minister Gamini Atukorale uttered to some of his close associates.

The mission has been accomplished but he did not see the fruits of his labour. The void he left behind by his untimely death is definitely not going to be that easy for the UNP leadership to fill. Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe would feel the loss more as he had associated with him for more than two decades facing the ups and downs of the political arena.

Mr. Atukorale was one of the younger men put forward by the UNP in 1977. He was born on April 2, 1951 and was educated at Colombo's St. Peter's College.

He started his political career at 22 and became an MP at 26. The Nivitigala electorate remained an LSSP or SLFP stronghold for over 20 years until Mr. Atukorale won it for the UNP in 1977.

His appointment as Youth Affairs and Employment deputy minister in 1977 was the stepping stone for him to finally rise to the position of assistant leader of the UNP.

Mr. Atukorale was at the Hilton last Sunday hosting a dinner for his well-wishers comprising lawyers, friends and of course some media personnel with whom he had a close rapport.

It is learnt that he had hosted the dinner to meet his friends before he could get cracking with his work from Monday. Those who knew him well say he was a workhorse and a man of the masses.

Going from table to table the affable minister inquired from every guest whether he had dinner and one wouldn't have, even in his wildest dreams, dreamt that a man of his calibre would depart from us on the New Year day.

Although he was a planter he spent his wealth for the people of his electorate. Dr. Rajitha Senaratne once said Mr. Atukorale's father used to say his son always wanted money from him to be given to the poor.

After the 1994 defeat Mr. Atukorale set about reorganizing the party with Ranil Wickremesinghe. Both of them visited every nook and corner of the country mobilising support for the UNP.

Mr. Atukorale was the UNP livewire and his loss will remain irreparable. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has lost his trusted lieutenant. This could be compared to the death of Dudley Senanayake whose loss was severely felt by President J. R. Jayewardene when the UNP was swept back to power in 1977.



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