30th July 2012, Colombo, Sri Lanka: The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) views with serious concern, and condemns in the strongest possible terms, the recent incident in which the Mannar courts premises was attacked by a mob, and the Mannar Magistrate and Additional District Judge was reportedly threatened verbally by the Minister of Industries and Commerce, Rishard Bathiudeen. The circumstances of the incident have been widely reported in the media, and have led to statements of condemnation from civil society organisations and the professional bodies of the metropolitan and provincial Bar. Whatever the complexities of the grievances at the heart of the Mannar dispute, under no circumstances can politically motivated attacks on judicial institutions be condoned.
The Court of Appeal has been moved by several senior Attorneys-at-Law to issue show cause notice on Minister Bathiudeen against a possible rule for contempt of court on 26th July, returnable on 5th September 2012. We are pleased that the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) has associated itself with this petition.
It has too often been the case in the recent past that persons holding high executive office, in word and deed, have demonstrated scant regard and respect for the integrity and independence of the judiciary, which is fundamental to the democratic form of government. The perception that the executive arm supersedes any notion of checks and balances must be arrested forthwith.
We also recall that the courts have not hesitated to use the full force of the law relating to contempt of court against lesser transgressions in the recent past. We hope therefore that the proceedings instituted in the Court of Appeal will lead to the perpetrators of the incident being dealt with according to law, and where guilt or liability is established, with the imposition of appropriate and proportionate punishment, so as to restore public confidence in the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary.
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