Speaker prevents UN Special Rapporteur meeting with judges

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By Rose Kenny

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya assured  Parliament yesterday that in future no government official would be allowed to act in a manner that will impact on the sovereignty of the country and judicial independence.

He said that   he had met with the Justice Minister and the Foreign Affairs Ministry Secretary regarding the issue raised in Parliament by Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa, MP Dinesh Gunawardena and MP Wimal Weerawansa yesterday regarding the Chief Justice and High Court judges being asked to meet the visiting UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Freedom of Association and Peaceful Assembly, Clément Nyaletsossi Voule and his delegation.

Accordingly, the Speaker said he had learnt that based on a request by the Foreign Ministry  Additional Secretary Ahmed A Jawad, the Justice Ministry had requested the Judicial Services Commission Secretary to grant a suitable time for the meeting.

He added that in his view the additional secretary of the Foreign Ministry should not have granted such permission to the visiting UN Special Rapporteur to meet the CJ and judges.

“Therefore, I took steps to contact the Justice Minister and the Foreign Ministry Secretary and explain matters to them and requested them to take appropriate action. Accordingly, I learnt that the meeting between the visiting UN Special Rapporteur and the High Court Judges had not taken place. However, in the past there have been instances where such envoys have paid courtesy calls on Chief Justices,” the Speaker pointed out.

Meanwhile, the Justice Minister, Justice Ministry Secretary, the Foreign Affairs Ministry Secretary and several other officials had met with the Speaker.

“I have taken measures to ensure that such incidents do not occur in the future,” the Speaker said.

Several MPs including the Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa raised objections in parliament on Tuesday stating that by allowing UN officials to question judges and judicial procedure the Foreign Ministry officials have acted in a manner inimical to national sovereignty and exerted undue influence on the judiciary.