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Wednesday, 3 January 2013

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KNAUL’S KEEL-OVER

Ms. Gabriella Knaul, the UN rapporteur on the Independence of the Judiciary, in typical UN civil servant style, wants a country to go beyond what’s written in a legally established constitution -- and furthermore does not apparently want countries to abide by UN conventions on corruption. Thereby hangs a tale.

If Gabriella Knaul was sincere, she would have expressed shock at the integrity issues that pertain to the Chief Justice of Sri Lanka, which pose an imminent threat to the independence of the judiciary. No judiciary whose integrity is compromised can be independent, and that is something that is obvious and is enshrined as a cardinal principle in all of the important documents that deal with the subject of judicial independence and autonomy.

But Gabriella Knaul does not say a word about that, probably because she is one track and is most likely being fed by the sections of civil society in Sri Lanka, that have as in the case of Navi Pillai, been feeding already prejudiced minds of UN officials that joined a witch-hunt of sorts that originated from various powerful entities, when Sri Lanka successfully repulsed a terrorist threat from one of the world’s most ruthless terrorist organizations.

One of her predecessors in the office of the UN rapporteur for the independence of the judiciary, Dato Param Coomaraswamy of Malaysia, seemed however to have understood how integrity issues can jeopardize independent judicial institutions. Param Coomaraswamy issued several statements when a previous Chief Justice that headed the judicial branch in Sri Lanka was embroiled in certain integrity issues -- and indeed he supported what would have been the impeachment of that individual, even though it is conceded that this individual may or may not have been removed by Parliament in the end.

That was something that depended on the investigations of the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) that is mandated to go into judge-integrity issues in this country when they concern matters of impeachment. (Parliament was dissolved before the PSC sat, in this instance.)

It is well known how UN rapporteurs these days can be influenced by various lobby groups that have the backing of moneyed vested interests that are fanned out in all parts of the globe. During the hostilities when Sri Lanka was fighting a debilitating terrorist war for instance, there was one UN rapporteur who made the mistake of saying that the Sri Lankan army was inducting child soldiers, something that happened to be the specialty of the LTTE!

This was so ludicrous that there was much immediate hemming and hawing and what amounted to a retraction of that position later, but the fact that such an egregious mistake can be made is testimony that UN rapporteurs are fallible persons who are increasingly subject to the negative inputs of mischievous and sometimes outright venomous lobbyists that want to punish Sri Lanka for getting rid of Prabhakaran and his fascist Tamil Tigers.

Ms. Knaul also says that Sri Lanka has given an assurance earlier to a UN body that PSC decisions on impeachment would be subject to judicial review.

This was on the single occasion of the impeachment of a former Chief Justice and since then the members of parliament both of opposition and government - - successive oppositions and governments really – had ample opportunity to change the process by which Chief Justices or judges of the Supreme Court can be removed, but this was not done – which means that the Legislature in its wisdom thought that the current process is the only one that is reasonable, given that other processes too have their own ramifications and limitations.

For example, the judiciary cannot sit in judgment on the fate of somebody who will eventually turn out to be one of their own, i.e. one of their own colleagues or ex colleagues.

So as it turns out the PSC is the law that prevails in the constitutional document, and it runs a very close parallel to the laws that prevail in the United States for the removal of the judge of the Supreme Court, and moreover, it is the height of absurdity and in fact the height of incredible stupidity to expect the laws to be changed midstream when an impeachment motion has been tabled in Parliament. If that’s what Ms. Knaul wants, she doesn’t know that rapporteurs cannot run countries – people’s representatives do.

Uni education: OUT OF THE BOX

Recent events and happenings in Sri Lanka's tertiary education sector has caused much alarm and consternation. These include the decreasing contribution to Education from the Government Budget, the inability to enhance the emoluments of University academic staff, the unnecessary and inordinate delay in students being admitted to and passing out from Sri Lankan Universities due to strikes and other causes which have amounted to an over four month additional delay in 2012, the University admission list based on the 2011 A/L examination being not yet ready due to the Z score problem, and the consequential Supreme Court decision to enhance the University intake by 25 percent, the delay in release of 2012 A/L results until January etc.

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IN FOCUS

GAS OUT OF ICE; ONLY SRI LANKANS COULD DO IT!

Life Abroad - Part 9:

Students in England had a rough time with finances due to stringent exchange control regulations that existed in Sri Lanka under Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s government. There were a few privileged students, however, who got funds transferred regularly to their UK accounts from parents or guardians who operated Swiss or off-shore bank accounts that helped them to afford comfortable well heated hostel accommodation.

Full Story

‘Karunawai, Karunawai’

It’s December, and the annual pilgrimage season to Sri Pada is on. Traditionally, it starts on the full moon day in December and ends on the Vesak Full Moon Poya day in May.

Full Story

 

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