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Bar Association should not dabble in party politics

Constitution of the BASL is clear on the objectives as an independent professional body which is the most powerful professional organization in the country. Judiciary consist only of lawyers - the Head of the official Bar is the Attorney General and the Private Bar has only one organization statutorily recognized which is accepted by the Executive and the Judiciary which of course is the BASL. Therefore the elected office-bearers of the organization who carry the 'Flame' has to be extremely careful in decision making and should not be allowed other interested parties to 'Hijack' the organization jealously guarded by the members in the interest of justice and professional advancement.

BASL Constitution

Since the inception of the profession in 1974 and the establishment of the Bar Association by amalgamation of the two limbs of the profession as Advocates and Proctors to Attorneys-at-law the principles, objects independence and the respectability of the highest professional standards and ethics were maintained by the guardians of the profession.


President
Mahinda Rajapaksa


Defence Secretary
Gotabhaya Rajapaksa

Article 2(1) of the BASL Constitution amongst other objectives promotes good relations and co-operation between the Bar, Public, Legislature, Judiciary and the Executive. The disproportional explosion of an insignificant issue on a small news item of the defence website has reached the BBC, News, Television and the Parliament causing an unnecessary rift and unpleasantness among the parties concerned generally cordial in dealings in public duties.

The Prime Minister in Parliament defending the Defence Secretary who sphere headed the victory over LTTE based on the vision and directions of President Mahinda Rajapaksa made strong remarks and sentiments on the great achievements of the Secretary of Defence and the need to be magnanimous calm and gentle to achieve the remaining targets. Prompt news and media publicity, BBC interviews, offered to the press have been picked up by the media waiting for some spicy news. Now the episode has blown out of proportion.

The issue has arisen on a statement made by a lawyer about the activism of the group of five lawyers who have common interests, affiliations and interest who generally make use of the court proceedings for activism on political and otherwise which is not unusual. Though outdated they often use the principles of Public Interest Litigation and Fundamental Right procedure in the activism and propagation of ideologies - political or otherwise which is not unusual.

They are great efficient and effective Lawyers belonging to the United National Party or activism in other fields which of course is their right to carry on. They are lawyers committed to a course who are duty bound to serve the client and their strategies in politics and activism. In such circumstances it is natural to be exposed and criticized which any activist should be aware of.

Defence Website

They have the right to represent the anti government Sunday Leader in which the previous set of lawyers have withdrawn on the basis of the yeomen services rendered by the Plaintiff the Defence Secretary to the Nation by eliminating Terrorism which had engulfed the 'Nation' for over three decades in a short period of time - two and half years. But the underline feature is clear - they have the right to represent any client in need of professional assistance and to be engaged in political and activism in other areas without fear or hindrance.

The 'Grouse' of the BASL is that the statement made by a lawyer which had been picked by the Defence Website has compromised and undermined the independence of the profession which is a moot question. According to the reply of the Defence Secretary the Bar Association and the Profession has previously been ridiculed and no prompt action or any steps have ever been taken.

This brings up the issue whether the BASL has lived up to the expectations of the members and the great objects to which the leaders/members should adhere to. In the recent past junior lawyers were threatened to remove their 'Black Coats' and many senior lawyers and President Counsels refrained from representing clients in certain courts which is contrary to the great principles the professionals the members are bound to.

Amazingly the BASL was silent on these issues all this time which should have been given priority and no steps taken to activate the draft bill on 'Contempt of Court' into motion in the wider interest of the members, media and the public. These are the services expected by the elected members for the professionals to be free to practice the profession with no fear of being dealt with and jailed. Not only the litigants/public even the lawyers have gone through the most 'terrifying period' in fear for which BASL was slow to act.

We do not understand why BASL is so worried about the word 'Traitor' when five lawyers themselves who are leading professionals and competent has not taken any steps to take legal or any other steps individually or collectively against the lawyer who made this controversial remark.

Five colleagues

There are traitors around us among the citizens employed, retired and active and the parties concerned should be careful. The writer has highest sympathies and concerns about his five colleagues who are concerned about their reputation and safety in the light of adverse yet unnecessary publicity by the media locally and internationally. Without taking the cover of the independent professional body they should take steps legal, activist or otherwise for the words used they claim are unpleasant and out of context. After all their 'Black Coats' are safe and there is no threat of them being jailed for contempt!

The Bar Association should have assisted the group of lawyers to bring this member who made the remark to book if he has undermined the independence instead of creating a rift among the institutions and senior government officers and limbs of the State. Traitor is disloyalty to the Sovereign State which gives a relative harmless meaning of opposition and resentment. When a friend or even a girl friend falls out one party becomes a traitor and this is a matter that should not have taken disproportionally wide to implicate other limbs of the government which leads to unpleasantness and it is time the BASL considers reconciliation with the Defence Secretary who has given us the opportunity to live peacefully in our land today.

We remember the days passed not so long ago in fear of death every second of eternal terror. The most dangerous traitor to the nation was eliminated based on the vision and activism of the Defence Secretary to which the Nation ever indebted and it is our duty to help him and his team to clear the rest undisturbed and interrupted.

Undoubtedly it is a treacherous act to compare Prabhakaran who is responsible to brutal deaths of hundreds of thousands of human beings and destruction of trillions worth of public property and tarnishing of our image in the world family to the person who saved the nation to whom we are indebted for giving the opportunity to lead a normal life with court functions and appearances which is our livelihood.

Hulftsdorp Hills

He has brutally killed a large number of members of our profession and it is gross injustice and unfair to compare him to Defence Secretary on whose commitment and intelligence we are living in peace today where we have free access to Hulftsdorp Hills to practice our profession. BASL belongs to the members who adore independence; respect and steps should be taken after careful considerations and deliberations. Quick decisions in closed doors are disastrous and damaging to the members and the profession in the long run.

They are elected by the members and answerable to the membership in all the dealings. It is time the BASL to come out of the shell and be transparent and aboveboard in all the dealings including decision taking which will lead to disproportionate publicity which damages the relations with the Judiciary, Legislature and the Executive.

This course of action should have been taken by the powerful Sunday Leader with a strong network of NGOs and worldwide journalist network, and not the BASL to be thrown to the arena of adverse publicity and media attention. Steps taken in future should well thought of and be for the wider interest of the members awaiting the best services when the profession is facing challenges and pit falls especially on Legal Education, Laws Delays and delivery of Legal Services including Legal Aid. It is time the BASL concentrates on the objects which they are elected for by the members.

The BASL should not be perturbed on our genuine advice and comments as impartial observers and we are positive they will take these comments on that context.

The Defence Secretary who led the liberation of the Nation from the culture of terror over three decades should be commended and should be left alone to deal with the remaining 'Job' in flushing and clearing the ruminants of terror to avoid the re-occurring this menace.

It is time the BASL assist the nation to get rid of the Barriers of Barriers, Obstructions to Search and other issues which have retarded the flushing and clearance process.

As senior members of the profession we have the duty to point out the issues in the interest of the wider membership and the profession we love so much and hope the office-bearers will take the matters in the correct perspective and take remedial steps to ease the tension and the inflammatory situation.

The writer is a Senior Solicitor, Attorney -at - Law and former Chairman Consumer Affairs Authority. sarath8@hotmail.com

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