By Ashwin Hemmathagama
Refusing to back down on his stance to carry out the death penalty, President Maithripala Sirisena yesterday criticised the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka for what he termed as interference in Government decisions to establish law and order, and the Constitutional Council for disregarding his recommendations on promotions of judges.
Sirisena, addressing the Parliament, criticised the human rights institution for standing up for the rights of the prisoners and the criminals with drug convictions. Commending the Special Task Force of the Sri Lanka Police, which is under the President, Sirisena attacked the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) for questioning the deployment of STF in the Angunakolapelessa prison.
“The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka is appearing for whom? Special Task Force is a highly capable unit. So, we have extended the tenure of the STF Commandant, Senior Deputy Inspector General M. R. Latheef by a year. I am happy the Cabinet stood together to make this unanimous decision. STF supports us taking action against the drugs and the underworld. But the Human Rights Commission is questioning us why we have used the STF in the Angunakolapelessa Prison, sending us a long list of questions,” he said.
He also passed the blame for the two Sri Lankan army personnel killed recently in Mali while serving the United Nations peacekeeping mission to HRCSL.
“The Human Rights Commission delays our police and the tri-forces from going abroad for training and also taking part in the United Nation’s peacekeeping missions. I am sad the death of the two servicemen who died in Mali during the UN peacekeeping mission was also due to the delay at the Human Rights Commission. Those two Sri Lankans were to return to the island six months ago. The Human Rights Commission will not allow us to change the groups by finding background details of the servicemen. The Human Rights Commission objects to sending our servicemen based on their investigations results. If the Human Rights Commission didn’t bother us and allowed to proceed with the exchange, we would have easily avoided the death of the Major and the Private,” said President Sirisena.
According to the President, the death penalty should be brought back, and it is the only tool required to discipline the country. “The death penalty is active in most parts of the world, and leading countries use it. Small people like us are threatened to enforce rules and regulations. The human rights organisations should allow us to discipline the country, without appearing on behalf of the criminals. I request them all not to put forward human rights to protect those who commit crimes.”
Touching on the rejected promotions of 12 judges the President has nominated, Sirisena slammed the Constitutional Council and its head, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya for not following his orders. According to the President, the promotions should be given based on the seniority, but not on the merits and commitment of the respective judges.
“Last but not least, I should explain the situation in promoting the judges. The Chief Justice sends me the suitable names and I send those names to the Constitutional Council. For the first time in history, the Constitutional Council has rejected judges. Reason for rejection is not informed to the respective judges or me. This has led to upset the judges in all courts starting from the Magistrates Court. Their promotions get rejected without a reason, regardless of their commitment and the best behaviour. Based on a comment I have made with this regard, the Speaker Karu Jayasuriya has sent me a letter which runs into four pages. But what is the yardstick used by the Constitutional Council to assess the abilities, capabilities, and commitment? According to this letter, the seniority is not considered in promoting the judges but the abilities, capabilities, and the commitment is assessed by the Constitutional Council.”
Touching upon the role of the independent Committees appointed as per the provisions of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, the President held that none of the Commissions have standard operating procedures.
“The entire judiciary of this country will be at a crisis if the promotions are refused based on the judgements given before by these judges. If we are to protect the independence of the Judiciary as expected by the country and the world, we should be reasonable. The Chief Justice or I should be informed in case a person is not suitable for the promotion with the reason. In the absence of such notification, all those who got rejected catch me. They are unable to access the Chief Justice of the Constitutional Council, but I am available even on the road. They meet me and bring their grievances to my attention. So, I get them to appeal. Sometimes I forward these appeals a few times to the Constitutional Council. Have no personal reason to forward these appeals, but left with no option but to forward them again and again for reconsideration,” said President.
According to President Sirisena, the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) has concluded their investigations on the alleged assassination attempt on him and former Secretary of Defence Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. President, taking the credit for the CID’s investigation report, which was concluded within a short period of time, said: “The investigations have speeded after I took over the Police Department. The investigations came to an end, what was pending was a statement from me. I have given my statement to the CID a few days ago, and the investigations concluded. Within the next two weeks, the entire country will get to know the results of the investigations. The CID will first present the report to the Attorney General who will proceed with the findings of the report.”