Senior judges premature resignation calls for a thorough review of Sri Lankas judiciary
The leading prelates of Sri Lanka have made strong pleas for Justice Mark Fernando to stay in his post despite the difficulties he has faced. The Mahanayake of Asgiriya and Rammanniya Nikayas, the Catholic Archbishop of Colombo, several Annunayakas of Asgiriya, Amarapura and Malwatta also have written to the judge lauding his contribution to justice in Sri Lanka and calling for him to stay on for his full term. These calls have come after Justice Fernando announced his resignation with over two and half years left in office.
Meanwhile public expressions of appreciation for Justice Mark Fernandos work have appeared in print and on television. The media has also begun to examine the circumstances that led to Justice Fernandos resignation. A letter written to the Prime Minister by 45 organisations has called for the appointment of a Parliamentary Select Committee to examine the circumstances that led to this situation.
The Asian Human Rights Commission has on many occasions expressed concern over the extremely worrying state of the judiciary in Sri Lanka. The Supreme Court, being the apex court of the country, is expected to lead the struggle to uphold judicial independence and principles of justice. Only vigorous leadership from the apex court can counter the common perception that there is little or no justice in Sri Lanka. When such leadership is missing the cynicism about justice becomes so widespread as to cause a serious threat to the rule of law itself.
Justice Fernandos resignation is a wake up call to a country in peril. It is a call for collective reflection on the existing threats to the countrys justice system. The Asian Human Rights Commission has already warned that the independence of the judiciary can be destroyed not only by outside pressure but also by internal neglect. The earnest calls being made for Justice Fernando to stay on indicate the growing realisation that the country is in a crisis. At this critical point, the judiciary is faltering. An open and thorough review of the judiciary is now needed. International human rights organisations, including the International Bar Association, have for some time been calling for such a review. At this juncture, it is absolutely imperative.
As one of signatories to the letter calling for a Parliamentary Select Committee, the Asian Human Rights Commission hopes that it will be appointed as soon as possible. In the past, political compromises have sometimes postponed important parliamentary intervention at critical moments. While we strongly defend the independence of judiciary, we also acknowledge the duty of Parliament to intervene in order to uphold the Constitution and save the judicial institutions when they are faced with danger, as they are now.
— Asian Human Rights Commission – AHRC
‘Senior judges resignation a warning of deteriorating judicial independence and rule of law in Sri Lanka’