Lankan PM Says It Was Wrong to Have Suspended Rule of Law During War
“From 1983, for 20 years, while we fought terrorism, we ensured that the Rule of Law was observed. But this was forgotten thereafter,” the state-owned Daily News quoted the Prime Minister as saying in his address at a conference of South East Asian Attorneys General here on Monday.
“It was said that the Rule of Law should be forgotten if terrorism was to be crushed. Terrorism meant that there was no Rule of Law,” Wickrmesinghe recalled.
But urging adherence to the Rule of Law even during wars, he referred to the celebrated Liversidge and Anderson case in the UK in 1941, in which the dissenting judge had declared that “law cannot be silent amidst the clash of arms”.
The Prime Minister pointed out that the Rule of Law remained suspended even after Eelam War IV, and referred to the jailing of Army Chief Gen.Sarath Fonseka and the sacking of the Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake through questionable and summary proceedings.
On the on-going UN investigation into war crimes allegedly committed by the Lankan armed forces during Eelam War IV, Wickremesinghe said that there is no question of submitting to an external judicial process because Lanka is not a signatory to the Statue of Rome which set up the International Criminal Court (ICC).
“Nevertheless, we will engage with the UN Human Rights Council and concerned members in a positive manner, and hope to come to a settlement on the outstanding issues of human rights,” he added.
Slew of Laws
To ensure human rights, the Justice Ministry is working on a slew of legislations, such the 19 th. Constitutional Amendment to restore Independent Commissions to oversee the working of the principal arms of the State; a Freedom of Information Bill, a Witness Protection Bill, a National Auditing bill and a bill to abolish the death penalty, Wickremesinghe said.