Open Letter to President on the conduct of Sir Desmond de Silva

04th August, 2015
His Excellency Maithripala Sirisena,
President of Sri Lanka
Your Excellency,

We the undersigned members of Sri Lankan civil society write to you pursuant to credible information made available to us that the Bar Standards Board of the United Kingdom has decided to initiate a formal investigation into the conduct of Sir Desmond de Silva with respect to his role in Sri Lanka. This investigation commenced on 20 July 2015.

In this respect, we unreservedly condemn your government’s continued retention of the Advisory Panel of international lawyers hired by the Rajapaksa government to defend its record. This Panel has further discredited a Commission of Inquiry that has failed to earn the confidence of victims and overburdened it with a mandate that was meant to address the overwhelming cases of missing persons from across Sri Lanka, raising serious questions about the willingness of the government to address the issue of enforced disappearances. We were therefore shocked that your government – several Ministers of which were in the past scathingly critical of the lack of independence of these lawyers and the astronomical fees paid to them – has continued to retain the Advisory Panel chaired by Sir Desmond de Silva.

We understand that Sir Desmond was – prior to being appointed to the Advisory Panel – retained by the Rajapaksa government to provide advice concerning, among others, that government’s own responsibility for international crimes. Upon producing a written opinion to the Rajapaksa government, Sir Desmond was appointed thereafter to chair the Advisory Panel.

Despite this, your government continues to retain him as an advisor to a Commission supposed to provide answers to deeply anguished victims. Your government’s continuation of Rajapaksa administration policies is dangerous and utterly incompatible with a stated commitment to the rule of law and good governance. Sir Desmond’s continued role as Chairman of the Advisory Panel is simply untenable in light of a pending formal investigation being conducted against him by the Bar Standards Board. In light of these serious concerns, we urge you to rescind Sir Desmond’s appointment forthwith and to take steps to ensure the independence and integrity of state institutions.

CC:      Hon. Prime Minister

Hon. Minister of External Affairs
Sir Desmond de Silva
Mr. Maxwell Paranagama
Mr. Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Mr. Pablo de Grieff – United Nations Special Rapporteur on Truth, Justice, Reparations and Guarantees of Non-Recurrence

Signatures:

Individuals

  1. Ameer M. Faaiz – Attorney-at-law
  2. Anthony Jesudasan
  3. Aruni Jayakody
  4. Gowthaman – Attorney-at-law
  5. Bhavani Fonseka – Attorney-at-law
  6. Bishop Duleep de Chickera
  7. Bishop Kumara Illangasinghe
  8. Brito Fernando
  9. Damaris Wickremesekera
  10. A.C. Visvalingam
  11. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu
  12. Philip Setunga
  13. Selvy Thiruchandran
  14. Gajen Mahendra
  15. Gamini Jayaweera
  16. Gamini Viyangoda – Writer & Journalist
  17. Godfrey Yogarajah
  18. Isabelle Lassee
  19. Aingkaran – HRD & Attorney-at-law
  20. S. Ratnavale – Attorney-at-law
  21. Kusal Perera – Journalist
  22. Marisa de Silva
  23. Nalini Ratnarajah
  24. Nichola Emmanuel
  25. Niran Anketell – Attorney-at-law
  26. Arjuna Aluwihare
  27. Jayantha Seneviratne – University of Kelaniya
  28. Savitri Gunesekera
  29. Pulasthi Hewamanna
  30. M.B Senanayake – Retired CCS
  31. Fr. Jeyabalan Croos
  32. Fr. V. Yogeswaran
  33. Rosanna Flamer
  34. Ruki Fernando
  35. Sampath Samarakoon
  36. Shreen Abdul Saroor
  37. Udaya Kalupathirana
  38. Vijaya

Organisations 

  1. Centre for Human Rights and Development (CHRD)
  2. Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA)
  3. Centre for Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (CPPHR), Trincomalee
  4. Committee for Democracy and Justice
  5. Equal Ground
  6. INFORM Human Rights Documentation Centre
  7. Kandy Citizens Front
  8. Religious Liberty Commission
  9. Resource Center for Community Groups
  10. Right to Life (R2L) Human Rights Centre
  11. South Asian Centre for Legal Studies
  12. World Evangelical Alliance

Centre for Policy Alternatives

The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) was formed in 1996 in the firm belief that there is an urgent need to strengthen institution- and capacity-building for good governance and conflict transformation in Sri Lanka and that non-partisan civil society groups have an important and constructive contribution to make to this process. Focusing primarily on issues of governance and conflict resolution, CPA is committed to programmes of research and advocacy through which public policy is critiqued, alternatives identified and disseminated.