Legal Community calls for independent probe over Mullaitivu judge resignation
Mullaitivu District Judge T. Saravanaraja
- Stresses importance of conducting a thorough investigation into resignation of judge
- Says it is important to ensure independence and impartiality in the investigation process
- Asks authorities to keep public informed on steps taken and results of the inquiry
The legal fraternity has called the authorities to conduct an independent investigation into the sudden resignation of Mullaitivu District Judge T. Saravanaraja citing threats to his life over the orders issued in connection to the contentious Kurunthamalai case.
In a statement released over the weekend, the Lawyer’s Collective emphasised the importance of conducting a thorough investigation into the matter. They said, “Given the significant implications this has for issues related to the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law, it is imperative that a comprehensive investigation be carried out, ensuring independence and impartiality in the process.”
Last week Saravanaraja hastily left the island. In his resignation, he claimed his decision was prompted by threats to his life, pressures and harassment faced. He has since alleged his security was reduced and he was also trailed by intelligence officials. The judge also accused the Attorney General of attempting to force him to reverse several of his orders over the case.
Accordingly the Collective emphasised the significance of transparency in the proceedings and stressed that the general public should be kept informed about the steps taken and the results of the inquiry.
The statement was signed by several senior counsels including Rienzie Arsecularatne PC, Upul Jayasuriya PC, Dr Jayampathy Wickramaratne PC, Saliya Peiris PC, Geoffrey Alagaratnam PC, Dinal Phillips PC, K.W. Janaranjana, and Upul Kumarapperuma on behalf of all members of the organisation.
Meanwhile, the Young Lawyers Association (YLA) also joined the seniors in calling for an independent probe in connection to the matter. The YLA said the Judge’s resignation has now raised serious concerns regarding the executive’s interference in independent judicial functions after MP Sarath Weerasekara had slammed the judge on several occasions.
“These concerns become further acute in jurisdictions such as the North and the East parts of the island where judges in addition to other political tensions affecting the Island also have to deal with sensitive racial tensions affecting minorities,” it said.
The Association in its statement called on the Judicial Services Commission to conduct an impartial inquiry into Saravanaraja’s allegations against the Government and the Attorney General which has gained traction in the media.
Jaffna University teachers’ union condemns intimidation of judges, administrators
Judges and administrators who refuse to support or connive with the Sinhala-Buddhist agenda face intimidation and come under heavy political duress, the University of Teacher’s Association University of Jaffna has said in a media statement.
Full text of the statement:Judge T. Saravanarajah, District Court Judge of Mullaitivu, has resigned from all his positions in the judicial system and fled the country amidst threats to his life and political pressure from the top. This development has caused shock and despair among those who value justice and democracy. It also demonstrates the extent to which the independence of Sri Lanka’s judicial system has been undermined.
Judge Saravanarajah openly condemned the illegal nature of the archaeological excavation carried out in Kurunthurmalai with the Sinhala-Buddhist nationalist agenda and issued rulings that are considered fair. He also ruled in defense of people’s right to memorialization, whenever there were attempts to abort commemoration events organized by the Tamil community.
Recently, extreme Sinhala nationalist forces in the South launched a hate campaign and issued threats against this judge who is widely perceived as a person of integrity and great courage. Not so long ago, Mr. Sarath Weerasekara, Member of Parliament representing the Colombo district, made vituperative statements against the judge.
Judge Saravanarajah has mentioned in his letter of resignation the threats on his life and the pressure he faced. It is reported in the media that the Attorney General summoned Judge Saravanarajah to his office on the 21st of September 2023 and, in the guise of advising the judge, exerted pressure on him to change his ruling in the Kurnthurmalai issue. If a judge who carried out his responsibilities in line with the law of the land is facing such an unsettling, dangerous situation, what is the predicament of the minority communities who face and resist racism on a daily basis?
The University of Jaffna Teachers’ Association strongly condemns the intimidation and the hate campaign against Judge Saravanarajah and the pressure applied on him to prevent him from discharging his responsibilities in an independent manner. The Association demands that all those who are involved in the hate campaigns and the acts of interference and intimidation against the judge be held accountable.
The Association notes with dismay that the judicial system in the North-East of Sri Lanka is afflicted with intimidation and political interference today. The Sinhala-Buddhist agenda of the state is the root cause of the threats that the judges who serve the courts in the North-East are subjected to. Sinahalizing and Buddhisizing this region where the Tamil and Muslim communities form the majority population and blocking memorialization events of the Tamil community are central to this agenda.
Judges and administrators attached to the public sector who refuse to support or connive with this agenda face intimidation and come under heavy political duress. It is important to recognize that as long as Sinhala-Buddhist chauvinism reigns supreme, the independence of the judicial system and the administrative services in the North-East will be under threat. It is vital that progressive forces on the island rally together across ethnic, religious and regional divides against this chauvinism and work towards ensuring the equal coexistence of all communities.
Mullaitivu Magistrate’s resignation: Lawyers call for probe
By Asiri Fernando
30 Sep 2023 |
- Highlight threats to judicial independence
The legal fraternity yesterday (30 September) called for an impartial investigation into the controversial resignation of Mullaitivu Magistrate T. Saravanarajah, who has cited death threats and intimidation as causes for his notice.
The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL), the Young Lawyers’ Association, and the Lawyers’ Collective issued statements calling on the Government and the Judicial Service Commission to launch an inquiry into the sudden resignation.
Justice Saravanarajah has reportedly left the island after submitting his letter of resignation to the Secretary of the Judicial Service Commission.
Saravanarajah, who recently ruled on two cases relating to a religious site in Kurunthamalai, which is contested by both Buddhist and Hindu groups, and a remembrance event to commemorate a former LTTE member, Thileepan, had drawn strong criticism by some Members of Parliament and others.
Reports of the reduction of the Magistrate’s security detail has also raised concerns.
Attempts to contact Police Spokesman SSP Nihal Thalduwa regarding the alleged reduction in Justice Saravanarajah’s security detail failed.
In his letter of registration dated 29 September, which was widely shared on social media, he claimed that his life was under threat.
“I hereby inform you that I resign my post of District Judge, post of Magistrate, post of Family Court Judge, post of Primary Court Judge, post of Small Claims Court Judge, post of Juvenile Court Judge due to threat to my life and due to a lot of stress. Please accept my resignation,” the letter stated.
The move by the Magistrate, which is a rare occurrence, has again raised strong concerns about judicial independence and judicial interference in Sri Lanka, which has seen threats against the Judiciary in the past.
Issuing a press release signed by its President and Secretary, the BASL expressed its deep concern regarding the resignation and about his decision to step down being purportedly prompted by threats.
“The BASL is committed to upholding the rule of law and ensuring the safety and well-being of all members of the Judiciary. We strongly believe in maintaining an environment where judges can discharge their duties without fear or intimidation. In light of this, the BASL called on the Government to initiate a thorough impartial investigation into the matter. It is crucial to ascertain the veracity of these threats. Such actions, if found to be true, not only undermine the independence of the Judiciary but also erode public trust in the justice system.
“The resignation of Judge T. Saravanarajah may raise serious questions about the safety of judicial officers in Sri Lanka. The BASL vehemently condemns and discourages any type of threats and violence to members of the Judiciary. We believe that safeguarding the Judiciary is essential for the preservation of the rule of law and the protection of the fundamental rights of all citizens,” the BASL stressed.
The Lawyers’ Collective also echoed the thoughts of the BASL, expressing deep concern about reports of the resignation of the Magistrate.
“It is imperative, given the serious implications it has for matters pertaining to the independence of the Judiciary and the rule of law, that the matter be fully investigated with measures to assure independence and impartiality. We believe that transparency is key and that the general public must be informed of measures taken and the outcome of such inquiry without delay,” the group said.
The Lawyers’ Collective statement was signed by President’s Counsels Rienzie Arsecularatne, Upul Jayasuriya, Jayampathy Wickramaratne, Geoffrey Alagaratnam, Dinal Phillips, Dulindra Weerasooriya, Anura Meddegoda, Saliya Pieris, and S.T. Jayanaga, and Attorneys-at-Law Upul Kumarapperuma and K.W. Janaranjana.
The Executive Committee of the Young Lawyers’ Association in its statement cited the alleged claim of intimidation of the Magistrate by the Attorney General over the Kurunthamalai incident.
“If these allegations are true it raises serious concerns regarding the Executive’s interference in independent judicial functions,” it stated, adding: “We urge the Judicial Service Commission to act expeditiously and reveal the truth to the legal community and society in the interest of protecting the Judiciary and judicial functions in the long run.”