Feb 07, Colombo: Speaker of Sri Lanka's parliament Karu Jayasuriya Thursday defended the Constitutional Council and independent commissions against allegations made by the President Maithripala Sirisena yesterday in parliament.
Responding to the President's allegation that the Constitutional Council was not recognizing seniority of judges and dismissed his recommendations for appointing judges, the Speaker said the President's statement is misleading.
Jayasuriya said the seniority was not the only criteria followed when Constitutional Council approve President's nominations for judges.
"In the letter dated 02.01.2019 I sent to His Excellency the President, I have explained the methodology that we have followed in selecting suitable persons. In the speech he made in Parliament yesterday, the statement that "CC does not recognize the seniority at all" is wrong. We said the seniority alone is not the sole criteria."
The Speaker further pointed out that every name the CC approved is from the list the President has recommended and the CC did not recommend any name on its own or from outside.
"Therefore, I note that no injustice was done in the selection of suitable persons from the names sent by him. We also do not see any fault here," he said.
"If seniority is the only criteria, you don't need a Constitutional Council to decide on the nominations made by the president," Jayasuriya said.
The Speaker said the President's statement that the CC rejected 12 names recommended by him to the superior courts is also unsubstantiated.
"When 3 or 4 names sent for one vacancy only one is chosen. Calling such occasions as rejections is unfair to the Constitutional Council," he explained.
"Our task is to select the qualified person without any influence as per 19th Amendment of the Constitution. We believe that it was done well. As we noted earlier, the Constitutional Council is represented by recognized political parties. One party does not have a majority. When names are approved, there has never been any influence. Members have the opportunity to express their will independently."
"From the time the CC was established till present all our decisions have been taken unanimously," the Speaker said adding that except for few, a majority of President's recommendations has been approved.
He clarified that the CC did not approve the names of those who were brought before the Bribery Commission or accused of other charges, or the Chief Justice's recommendation was not favorable.
Jayasuriya further said the CC was also blamed for the appointments of primary, magistrate and district judges but the Council only supervise the appointments of judges to the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal. The Judicial Service Commission is responsible for lower courts and therefore, those allegations are not justified.
The Speaker pointed out that due to the Independent Commissions created by the Constitutional Council the country has received immense respect.
"Our judicial system has been commended by the whole world. The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) has been recognized by the UN as a Commission of Excellence. Our Right to Information Act has been accepted by the world community as the best. It has already been stated that the progress we have achieved in these areas will be a strength to counter the allegations made at the HRC summit in Geneva in March."
The Speaker rejecting the President's criticism of the Human Rights Commission said the CC has instructed the HRCSL to clarify the President's allegations to the public.
The President yesterday told parliament that the HRCSL was delaying issuing the mandatory clearance certificates to Sri Lankan soldiers chosen to participate in United Nations Peace Keeping missions and the deaths of two Sri Lankan UN peacekeepers in Mali could have been avoided if the HRC had expedited reinforcements to Mali for the Sri Lanka army to carry out a turnaround of troops.
The Speaker responding to the President's allegations said the recall of soldiers sent to the Mali was delayed due to a decision taken by UN, the tri-forces, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Human Rights Commission all in agreement.
He said the representative of the United Nations has informed them that only the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka has the sole responsibility for selecting the officers for peacekeeping missions in the world at present.
"This confirms the trust the world community has placed in the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka and therefore it is important that criticisms and accusations to be fair," the Speaker said.
Speaker Jayasuriya said the Constitutional Council in several occasions has expressed willingness to meet with the President and clarify these issues if needed and pointed out that accusing independent commissions is harmful to the country in the long run.