A news item was published in the Daily News today under the title – Alleged attack on 160 Churches – BASL asks lawyer to come clean.
In this news item, it refers to an order made on the basis of a decision at the Bar Council calling on Mr. Lakshan Dias, Attorney-at-Law, to explain the statement made by him at a television interview.
Several Bar Association Members, including some senior Attorneys-at-Law, have informed the Asian Human Rights Commission that at the last Bar Council Meeting held last weekend, no decision to such effect was taken by the Bar Council. In fact, no Motion was proposed or put into a vote during this Bar Council meeting. The Bar Council was not informed of any letter written by the Minister of Justice to the Bar Association on this issue. Naturally, there was no occasion for the reading of such a letter – if such a letter exists at all. Thus, no decision was ever made on such an alleged letter by the Minister.
The Members explained that what happened at the meeting was that several Bar Association Members raised objections to the statement made by the Minister Wijedasa Rajapaksa, threatening to disbar Mr. Lakshan Dias because of a statement he has made on some attacks on churches. These Members have questioned the authority of the Minister of Justice to make such statements and they have categorically stated that the Minister’s conduct is highly questionable and should be condemned by the Bar Association.
Several other speakers have objected to the matter being taken up by the Bar Association and have tried to justify the Minister’s position. At this stage, the President of the Bar Association has intervened stating that he will ask Mr. Lakshan Dias to submit his request by way of an Affidavit. Nothing more than this had been discussed at the Bar Association.
It is not within the power of the Bar Association to conduct inquiries into statements made by any of its members on political or public issues. Nor does the Bar Association have any authority to inquire into any matters at the request of the Minister of Justice. The Minister of Justice is just a Minister and the Bar Association is a body constituted to protect the rights of the lawyers. When a lawyer comes under attack by any Minister or any other person holding any authority, the duty of the Bar Association is to protect the interest of the Attorney at Law concerned.
Bar Council Members who spoke to the Asian Human Rights Commission were worried that some political conspiracy is being hatched and that there is an attempt to drag the Bar Association to play a role to carry out this conspiracy. The attempt they felt was to turn the Bar Association into some inquisitorial Board making the Attorney at Law to be the accused and the Bar Association to become the prosecutor against its own member.
The Bar Association is not an arm of the state and it certainly is not an arm of the Ministry of Justice. The Minister of Justice has no rights inside the Association except of his own right as another member. He has no special status, as none of the Members of the Bar Council have any special status.