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.
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.
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 Though outdated they often use the principles of Public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.
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.
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.
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
The writer is a Senior Solicitor, Attorney -at - Law and former
Chairman Consumer Affairs Authority. firstname.lastname@example.org