The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP)-led National People’s Power (NPP) called into question yesterday the appointment of a Senior State Counsel attached to the Attorney General’s Department as an Additional Legal Secretary to the President’s Office on a part-time basis.
This appointment, which has been made in addition to the State Counsel’s current position as Coordinating Officer to the Attorney General, the NPP said, raises questions of the AG Department’s independence.
“The NPP is of the view that it is a matter of deep concern, as the Attorney General and Attorney General’s Department have to be independent and free of any political influence. Not only should it be free of any influence, but it should also be seen to be so for the people to have faith in the legal process,” the party said in a statement.
It is accepted that the Attorney General is a creature of law and that he is possessed of and is only entitled to exercise powers as have been vested in him by express provisions of the law, the NPP said, adding that though he has no inherent powers, the AG is a repository of wide powers laid down in the Criminal Procedure Code.
“Therefore, we are of the view that it should not be even seen that there is a connection between the Attorney General’s Department and the President’s Office. We call upon the President to see that the independence of the Attorney General Department will be safeguarded,” the party said.
In the same statement, the NPP expressed concern over the recent arrests of Opposition MPs and investigations into their alleged criminal offences.
“The recent high profile incidents of arrests or detentions of persons against whom there is said to be complaints of criminal offences is of concern to us, as we have seen long detentions and questioning of suspects sometimes for many days. Such long detentions and questioning will amount to mental torture which is a violation of a fundamental right enshrined in our constitution,” it said.
Stressing that the investigative process is as important as the judicial process, the party warned that unless investigations are conducted fairly, the due process expected in a democratic society will be hindered.
“It is of serious concern that in certain cases in recent times the complainant is treated as a suspect even before the investigations into these complaints are concluded and the complainant made to face extensive questioning by the Police and being subject to harassment. This seems to be a move to warn people from making complaints made against criminals,”
“Therefore, we call upon the Government to ensure the independence of the Attorney General’s Department, a vital institution in the judicial process and principles of fairness and due process are adhered to in all matters relating to law enforcement,” the statement said.
A telephone call from RepublicNext to the Senior Counsel concerned went unanswered.