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22nd November 1998

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Ravaya allegations: BASL seeks advice from ex-presidents

The Bar Association had written to the past Presidents of the Association seeking advice of the past Presidents of the allegations made in the 'Ravaya' newspaper.

The 'Ravaya' tabloid published an account of an incident of rape which involved the former Magistate of Mahawa this column took upon itself the responsibility to make some independent inquiries.

What was revealed to us was published in detail in this column. Later the 'Ravaya' made additional allegations of embezzlement of public funds and another incident of rape.

It is impossible either to pass judgement on the revelations contained in 'Ravaya' without a proper independent tribunal investigating into the allegations. Therefore we have remained silent on this matter and neither supported the views of 'Ravaya' nor the Magistrate. The subsequent allegations made by 'Ravaya' with regard to the conduct of Sarath N. Silva, the Attorney-General and Upali Abeyratne, District Judge must be inquired into thoroughly and a finding should be made to ensure that the proper administration of justice and Rule of Law is still the order of the day.

BASL President and the Executive Committee very correctly have sought the advice of the past presidents as 'Friends of the Chair' consisting of past Presidents of the Bar Association. This principle was enunciated by Lakshman Kadirgamar, PC and was mooted by K. Neelakandan, the treasurer of the Bar Association and a person who has worked more for the welfare of Bar Association than any other member from its inception. H. L. De Silva P.C one of the outstanding leaders of the Bar has agreed to chair the committee. We believe that with the guidance of Desmond Fernando P. C. Ranjit Abeysuriya P.C. and H. L. De Silva P.C the Bar Association would soon become the most prestigious non governmental association in the country like when H. L. De Silva P.C and Desmond Fernando P.C. were its presidents. We believe this is a good trend to be followed by future Presidents of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka.

The letter of Romesh de Silva P.C. is as follows:

"The publication in the Rawaya Newspaper has caused much concern to the Executive Committee of the Bar Association. In the circumstances the Executive Committee has thought it fit to seek the advice of all past Presidents of the Bar Association on this matter and contents of the publications regarding:

Re:(1) The Honourable Attorney-General

Mr. Upali Abeyratne, D.J.

Mr. Lenin Ratnayake, D.J.

We forward herewith the relevant publications of the Rawaya for your perusal.

"We earnestly request you to serve on this committee and to give your expertise to the Executive Committee as these matters are serious.

"We shall contact you shortly to fix a date of a meeting which would be convenient to many Ex-Presidents as possible. Since this matter is urgent the meeting may have to be fixed on Friday the 20th of November, 1998 or Saturday the 21st (in the morning)

Yours faithfully,

J. Romesh de Silva, PC, President"

The crusade of Victor Ivan, the editor of ' Ravaya' to inculcate a sense of accountability in public conduct would take some time as this country appears to be fast abandoning the values associated with decency in public life.

I can do no better than quote the Bishop of Liverpool who wrote last week in a British newspaper following the recent scandals involving Agriculture Minister expressed in the British Press.

"Some of those who are the keenest to hold the private and the public apart are also the first to demand transparency in public affairs. But transparency is a sheet of glass that looks both ways

"Our public figures are not to be plaster saints. But they do need to be big enough to admit mistakes and to stand down when serious errors of judgment have been made."

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