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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

SL enjoys independent Judiciary, Minister Sabry tells parley

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Justice Minister Ali Sabry told the delegates at the World Law Congress Colombia 2021 that the island nation which enjoys the oldest democracy in Asia, strictly adheres to the separation of powers.

Sabry was addressing the two-day conference at Barranquilla, Colombia, on Saturday (4).

“Sri Lanka has the honour of being Asia’s oldest democracy. With the introduction of universal franchise in 1930, elections in our nation have been regular, consistent and has resulted in vibrant governance over the decades,” Sabry noted, pointing out at the 1978 Constitution which was Sri Lanka’s second republican constitution provided for a clear separation of powers with an effective system of checks and balances. “It sets out a clear framework for the governance of the nation and introduced provisions aimed at achieving legal certainty and an independent Judiciary. These two factors are absolutely vital for the prevalence of the rule of law.”

Minister Sabry also said that the Constitution provided for the appointment of judges of the Supreme Court by the Executive whilst the independence of the Judiciary is guaranteed by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), which is entrusted with the administration of the Judiciary. This institution is independent of the Legislature and the Executive and strong legal provisions are present in the Sri Lankan legal system to ensure that the JSC is not influenced politically or in any manner.

The Minister recalled that in 2019 Sri Lanka experienced its first terrorist attack since the end of the war with the LTTE. It was an incident which changed the Sri Lankan approach to national security and the political landscape on which it operated. Terrorism, which as many nations are well aware, is not easy to fight. The tactics and strategies which have traditionally been used to combat threats to a country’s national security are not effective in the fight against terrorism. With it comes the need to rethink national security strategies as well as geopolitical relations, Minister Sabry said.

“The Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) was enacted with the aim of addressing the shortcomings in the law that placed law enforcement at a severe disadvantage in identifying and combatting terrorism. The provisions allowed national security to be preserved, yet legislation such as this has come under criticism even in other jurisdictions as being a direct threat to the rule of law. Therefore, it is important to strike a balance between the interests of national security and the rule of law,” he said.

The Government of Sri Lanka is well aware that these two interests need to be balanced carefully and therefore, it is now revisiting certain provisions of the PTA with the aim of achieving a greater level of transparency and a larger involvement of the Judiciary in the process,” Minister Sabry said.

He said historically Sri Lanka has been liberal in its approach to civil protests. Yet, the pandemic has required placing the interests of health and safety above the right to protest. The word ‘super spreader event’ is commonly used to denote gatherings amongst people that have the potential to cause large spikes in Covid positive cases. The Delta variant with its extremely high transmission rate wreaked havoc on many countries, and it required aggressive strategies by governments to bring it under control. Sri Lanka too had to use a level of movement restriction in the form of curfews and lockdowns in order to bring the situation under control. Yet, despite this clear need to restrict spread there was still groups who continued and still continue to agitate, Minister Sabry said.

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