over rapporteur post
By Ayesha R. Rafiq
With the post of United Nations Special Rapporteur for the Independence
of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession due to fall vacant shortly,
Sri Lanka has placed itself in an awkward position by taking the
unprecedented step of forwarding two nominations for the post, and
Foreign Minister Tyronne Fernando saying he will forward any number
of applications that come to him.
While the International
Bar Association (IBA) is supporting the candidature of its former
President, Desmond Fernando, the Foreign Ministry had as long as
six months ago forwarded the candidature of Nihal Jayawickreme,
a former Secretary to the Ministry of Justice in the Sirima Bandaranaike
government of 1970-77, whose civic rights were later taken away
by the UNP Government.
The IBA had
earlier this month informed Mr. Desmond Fernando that it had decided
to nominate him to fill the vacancy for the post of Special Rapporteur
currently held by Dato Param Cumaraswamy, but Mr. Fernando had sought
Government blessings for his nomination. Mr. Param Cumaraswamy is
from Malaysia, but his own Government did not back his candidature
at the time due to chronic differences with Prime Minister Mahathir
Mohammed. He was supported by the ICJ (International Commission
When Mr. Desmond
Fernando contacted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe regarding
this, the premier reportedly unaware of Mr. Jayawickreme's nomination
had said the government would back Mr. Fernando's candidature and
to follow the matter up with the Foreign Ministry.
Fernando when contacted by The Sunday Times said it was 'extremely
curious' that Sri Lanka had decided to forward two nominations,
and added that Mr. Param Cumaraswamy who shared his view had informed
him that never before had a country submitted more than one nomination
for this post.
UN Ambassador in Geneva, Prasad Kariyawasam, has also reportedly
said the situation had placed him in an extremely embarrassing position.
Foreign Minister Tyronne Fernando told The Sunday Times that since
nominees would be selected not by election but by interview, he
had forwarded both nominations to the United Nations Human Rights
Commission in Geneva and would forward any more nominations that
came his way. 'There is no question of a Sri Lankan nominee. Each
candidate will have to run their own race," he said.
board, of which Sri Lanka's Ambassador Mr. Kariyawasam is the Vice-President,
will decide on the best candidate based on the merits of the candidates'
bio-data and on the interview, the Minister said.
Times, however, learns that Mr. Desmond Fernando had been asked
by an official of the Foreign Ministry to withdraw his nomination,
offering him a diplomatic posting as Mr. Jayawickreme's name had
already been forwarded. Mr. Fernando had refused to do so on the
basis that the IBA had wanted him to run for the office.
It was only
last Wednesday that Ambassador Kariyawasam had been instructed by
the Foreign Ministry to proceed with Mr. Fernando's application.
Desmond Fernando pointed out that it was the common practice for
the Foreign Ministry in consultation with the proper authorities
such as the Prime Minister, the Attorney General and the Justice
Ministry, to carry out the pre-selection process and then forward
just one nomination.
however, said it was not necessary to consult such authorities as
they were only forwarding names and not selecting candidates. Mr.
Jayawickrema who later taught law at the Hong Kong University and
worked for Transparency International in Berlin now resides mainly
maintains a roster of human right experts from whom special rappoteurs
are chosen by the UN Commission on Human Rights. An NGO or a government
can recommend names for inclusion on the roster. My name was submitted
last year by the Sri Lanka mission in Geneva," Mr. Jayawickrema
person is invited by the chairperson of the Human Rights Commission
to be a special rapporteur, it is for that person to decide whether
to accept," he added.
The UN pays an honorarium of one US dollar a year for the post.