Candidate for Bar Association presidency drops out of race

President asks Neil Dias not to contest in Tuesday election

One of the candidates for the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) presidency has decided not to contest at Tuesday’s election. The decision was made after the candidate met President Mahinda Rajapaksa at Temple Trees on Friday.

Neil Dias was to challenge former Attorney General Shibly Aziz, PC, Palitha Kumarasinghe, PC, and V. Thangarajah for the post of BASL president.

“The President and I have been close friends since childhood,” Mr Dias told the Sunday Times. “Last evening, he asked me whether it was possible to keep away from contesting. The decision was entirely mine, and was not done in support of any candidate.

“As president of the Outstation Bars Committee of the Sri Lanka Bar Association, I believe I have much support from the outstation members. I have been advocating a decentralising of judicial functions. I strongly believe the Provincial High Courts should have fundamental rights jurisdiction, because persons who are harassed in the peripheral areas rarely file a fundamental rights petition,” Mr. Dias said.

Former Attorney-General Shibly Aziz, PC, has 30 years’ experience in the legal field. His election pledge is to prepare lawyers for the challenges of post-conflict Sri Lanka. He says lawyers should be ready to tackle a larger volume of legal work; they should be provided with comprehensive education programmes in both criminal and civil law; they should be able to attend seminars and workshops islandwide, and at affordable rates, and law books and legal resource materials should be regularly updated and made accessible to all.

If elected Bar Association president, the former AG promises to give special attention to the needs of lawyers and corporate lawyers in the outstation bars. He also wants to put in place a system that recognises and accredits junior lawyers who specialise in areas of the law. He says this would be a step towards creating a more skilled and sophisticated community of legal professionals.

President’s Counsel Palitha Kumarasinghe has been in the legal profession for the past 27 years. He has pledged to work on behalf of young lawyers, help legal practitioners acquire the basic resources for their work, and improve legal education. He also wants to revive the Sri Lankan legal website, He says the website should be continuously updated with court news and the latest legislation, that it should be rich in academic content. He says all members of the legal profession should have access to a centralised electronic library. While he is against the setting up of ad hoc courthouses, Mr. Kumarasinghe is in favour of setting up law libraries, lawyers’ rooms and consultation rooms. Such facilities, he says, are essential in any new courthouse.

V. Thangarajah is a former independent candidate at parliamentary elections for the Jaffna district. He practised as a lawyer in Jaffna for 25 years before setting up his Colombo practice 10 years ago.
Meanwhile, on January 12, Attorney-at-Law Mahinda Lokuge was elected uncontested as Bar Association Secretary for 2010/ 2011.

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