Interference in judicial matter: Lanka protests to India

By Chris Kamalendran

Sri Lanka has lodged a strong protest to India over the interference in the country’s judiciary by New Delhi’s Jaffna-based Consul General V. Mahalingam, a senior official in the External Affairs Ministry said yesterday.

Speaking on grounds of anonymity, the official said the government’s concerns were expressed by External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris during a dinner meeting with India’s High Commissioner Ashok Kanth. The Indian envoy met Dr. Peiris after he returned to Colombo on Wednesday night following a visit to New Delhi.

The reported interference came after fishermen in the north rounded up two batches of their counterparts from Tamil Nadu for poaching in Sri Lankan waters. The first batch of 112 was originally remanded till February 28 and the second batch till March 1.

However, following government intervention, the Point Pedro Magistrate, Srinithi Nandasekeran, released the Tamil Nadu fishermen on February 18. In delivering her order, she noted that Mr. Mahalingam had asked her not to remand the fishermen. This is what the Magistrate said in her order:

“It is highly improper and regrettable for the Consul General of India to have come to my residence just before remanding of the suspects and to have without any basis uttered that remanding them would cause a serious political issue between the two countries. Further, had the Indian Government instructed their Coast Guard to monitor the fishermen entering Sri Lankan territorial waters, the unpleasant situation would not have arisen.

“Therefore, I fervently hope that the Hon. Attorney General would take notice of the circumstances of the series of incidents and inform the authorities concerned to avoid a repetition of these unpleasant incidents.”

The Attorney General’s Department has in the meanwhile called for an English text of the Magistrate’s proceedings. Officials at the Point Pedro Magistrate’s Court said that the translation of Court proceedings from Tamil to English was now being carried out.

Judicial Services Commission (JSC) Secretary Priyantha de Silva told the Sunday Times, “We are awaiting the full proceedings of the case.” Deputy Justice Minister Reginald Cooray said his Ministry was also studying the matter further.

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