July 20, Colombo: A Sri Lankan government minister is accused of intimidating a judge over a court ruling against a group of recently resettled fishermen in the Mannar district of the northwestern region.
The parties irate over the court ruling had attacked the Mannar court complex and the country's lawyers and judges protesting the attack have boycotted court duties Friday bringing down the judiciary to a halt.
Minister of Traditional Industries and Small Enterprise Rishad Bathiyutheen has been accused of intimidating the Mannar magistrate over the phone to revoke an arrest order which was said to be against his supporters.
The Minister has threatened to instigate violence against the courts if the order is not revoked, the Judicial Service Association of Sri Lanka said in a media release. When the magistrate did not follow the order to revoke his decision a mob has attacked the court complex as the Minister has warned the day before, the Association further said.
Following the threat the Mannar magistrate has lodged a complaint with the police.
The Association said that the Minister has phoned the magistrate after the attack and told him that the court complex sustained the vandalism since the magistrate did not change his ruling.
The Minister has also met the Secretary of the Judicial Services Commission in a futile attempt to transfer the magistrate from Mannar, the Judicial Service Association said.
The Association described the attack as an "organized act challenging the independence of the Judiciary" at the instigation of a government minister although it was portrayed as a public protest.
The Association said the action was a direct interference with the judiciary attempting to bear undue influence on the court and in contempt of court.
The Bar Association of Sri Lanka denounced the attack and urged the authorities to immediately arrest all the suspects linked to the incident.
The government is yet to make a comment on the incident.