SRI LANKA: Attack on two courts - It is time for judges and lawyers to fight back
According to reports we have received, a group of criminals allegedly sponsored by a government minister, stoned the High Court and the Magistrate Court of Manner in a coordinated attack yesterday. A very tense situation is reported to be taking place in manner.
According to information we have received, a mobile fishing hut was attacked by a group of criminals. The Magistrate directed the police to apprehend the culprits. Soon after, a government minister contacted the Magistrate hoping to discourage him from placing legal sanctions on the perpetrators of the crime. Despite his attempts, the Magistrate insisted that the legally proscribed court order be carried out. It is believed that the attack occurred in response to this decision made by the Magistrate.
A clash between fishermen of Uppukulam and Vedithaltivu in Mannar left several people injured yesterday (July 18). AHRC Photo
The incident comes as no surprise. Political attacks on courts, both physical and verbal, have been occurring for many years now. When the supporters of ruling parties are suspects of crimes, politicians resist the attempts of courts to investigate cases and maintain the rule of law. As such, courts are forced to subordinate their legal duties to the personal and professional priorities of politicians. Past parliaments have made limited attempts to counteract this politicization, such as with the passing of the 17th Amendment. However, this law was later negated by the 18th Amendment to the Constitution.
The recent incidents involving Julampitiye Amare expose the depth to which political interference has become embedded in Sri Lanka’s legal system. Indeed, a man allegedly accused of 24 murders and 15 arson attacks as well as several other crimes, is moving freely, despite the fact that courts have issues numerous warrants for his arrest. This case was one of thousands in which legal process has been flouted due to political influence.
It is time for judges and lawyers to collaborate and protect the law, the judicial process and each other. If they do not fight back, the downward spiral that the legal system is currently in will continue and ultimately, Sri Lanka’s rule of law system will perish.
The gang rape of a girl by 20 men
The news of the gang rape of a 13-year old girl by 20 men in Tangalle has been reported by several news channels, sending shock waves across the region. An investigation is currently underway, and several of the suspects have been arrested. Recently however, the victim’s mother has filed a complaint with the local police station regarding death threats that her family has received from the perpetrators of this heinous crime. The family has been told that once the main suspect is released, he will come to the victims’ house with his family and neighbours and kill the whole family. The The main suspect is an alliance member of the Tangalle Municipal Council.
Despite the rise in complaints of sexual violence, government officials have repeatedly denied that sexual violence is an issue that must be paid attention to. One government minister publicly stated that he did not believe the crimes had increased, just the number of complaints filed. This, he believes, is sufficient reason not to devote more resources to countering sexual violence. There is little public faith in the credibility of the country’s policing system and its capacity to investigate crime. Such repeated denials of criminal epidemics and institutional failures are major contributing factors to the spread of lawlessness in Sri Lanka.
Moreover, the governments’ inaction is unsurprising since the communications portal through which the government expresses opinions is the Ministry of Defence. The Ministry of Defence is militaristic in its philosophies. Sine the Ministry of Defence is a highly politicized agency, it cannot be expected to play an effective role in deterring crime.
At this point, there are serious threats to Sri Lanka’s legal processes. The only people who can remedy this situation are lawyers and judges. If there is no pushback from the Bar Association of Sri Lanka and the Judges Association of Sri Lanka, nothing will be able to stop the downward spiral that Sri Lanka’s rule of law system is in.