Nothing more fundamental than commitment to the Rule of Law


Speech made by President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka Kalinga Indatissa, PC, welcoming new Chief Justice Jayantha Chandrasiri Jayasuriya, on May 15.

We are gathered here today to ceremonially welcome the 47th Chief Justice of our country, Hon. Jayantha Chandrasiri Jayasuriya, President’s Counsel. I am deeply honoured and privileged to welcome Your Lordship the Chief Justice, on behalf of the Bar, in my capacity as the President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka.

The ceremonial welcome that is accorded to a Chief Justice is the moment of pride for the Bench and the Bar, both. Today, by Your Lordship’s appointment as the 47th Chief Justice of our country, Your Lordship the Chief Justice joins a rich lineage commencing from the appointment of Sir Codrington Edmonton Carrington in 1802 as the 1st Chief Justice of Ceylon.

It is hardly necessary to say that occupying "the middle seat" of the Bench of this honourable Court has been regarded as being of extraordinary significance. Sir Sydney Abraham who was appointed as the Chief Justice of Ceylon in 1936 had this to say at the ceremonial sitting of this honourable Court.

"Certainly, I can say without any modesty that it is the greatest day of my life. It is a dream come true. Every entrant to the Colonial Legal Service dreams that he may one day have the joy of occupying this seat which it is now my privilege to occupy, to administer justice in a beautiful island which has been called the pride of the Colonial service and to be at the head of the judiciary which has been said by the Learned Predecessor to be the finest system of the justice in the British Empire. And that is a finding of fact which I am not every likely to quarrel with…. It is a great and solemn duty that I am called upon to perform, and I realized that I am occupying a seat which has been occupied by a large number of very distinguished lawyers and great lawyers. I think it is a rank which even the vainest of men may approach with a certain amount of diffidence."

Your Lordship the Chief Justice, had Your Lordship’s primary education at Maliyadewa College, Kurunegala, established in 1888 by the Buddhist Theosophical Society led by Colonel Henry Steel Olcott. Your Lordship’s Alma Mater, since then, has produced many a citizen who had made a noteworthy contribution in their chosen fields and professions.

In school, Your Lordship was awarded a special certificate for oriental music, among many other awards Your Lordship received. Your Lordship also functioned as a cadet attached to the Cadet corps of the 4th Battalion and captained Your Lordship’s alma mater in badminton at both, junior and senior levels.

Having successfully completed Your Lordship’s Advanced Level examination, Your Lordship joined the Sri Lanka Law College in 1979 and completed the course of study with a 1st Class Honours pass at the final examination held in 1981.

Thereafter, Your Lordship served the period of pupillage in the Chambers of Mr. Ariya B Rekawa and upon Your Lordship’s call to the Bar, was attached to the Chambers of Mr. Daya Perera PC, Mr. V S A Pullenayagam and Mr. K Vicnaraja. After a short span in the unofficial Bar, Your Lordship joined the Attorney General’s Department on 1st November 1983.

Your Lordship was appointed to this exalted position of Chief Justice after serving the State in the Attorney General’s Department for a period of 36 years. Your Lordship was appointed as Senior State Counsel in February 1996, as Deputy Solicitor General in April 2004, and Additional Solicitor General in September 2011. In recognition of Your Lordship’s contribution to the legal profession in Sri Lanka, Your Lordship was conferred Silk in March 2012. Thereafter, Your Lordship continued to serve the Attorney General’s Department as Additional Solicitor General and was appointed as the 45th Attorney General, on the 10th of February 2016.

Your Lordship’s service in the Attorney General’s Department included prosecutions, special prosecutions, the role of an advisor, consultant to the State, the role of representing Sri Lanka in International forums, among many other roles that Your Lordship was called upon to perform.

From September 2001 to August 2004, Your Lordship functioned as a trial Attorney in the International Criminal Tribunal appointed for the former Yugoslavia. Prior to that, from November 2000 to August 2001, Your Lordship functioned as the trial Attorney in the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. In Your Lordship’s formative years, Your Lordship had the distinction of qualifying as a Solicitor of the Law Society of England and Wales. In 1997, Your Lordship obtained a Master of Philosophy from the University of Hong Kong and in the year 2000, Your Lordship passed the European Certificate on Cyber Crime and Electronic Evidence organized by Cybex in Florence, Italy.

Being a Commonwealth scholar, Your Lordship was awarded the Best Prosecutor’s Award in 2012, by the International Association of Prosecutors. Your Lordship is also an International fellow of the National Attorney General’s Training and Research Institute of Washington, DC.

During the last 3 decades, Your Lordship has made a highly significant contribution to the development of criminal law in this country. Two of the celebrated original criminal trials handled by Your Lordship, the Chief Justice are the Wavulkele Abduction and Murder case and the Sadeepa Lakshan case which was conducted before a Trial- at- Bar. The abduction of G. C. Wickramasinghe, which was an extremely sensational trial, was also another instance where the State heavily depended on Your Lordship’s contribution. Your Lordship, the Chief Justice was the lead Counsel for the State in the famous Royal Park murder case, which dealt with several issues relating to analysis of forensic evidence. The manner in which this evidence was placed before the trial Court is a reflection of Your Lordship’s skill and ability as counsel. The Angulana Police Abduction and Murder, where Your Lordship represented the State from the stage of the Trial, until the conclusion of the Appeal before the Honourable Supreme Court, is another instance where Your Lordship the Chief Justice displayed excellent counselling skills.

Even though Your Lordship commenced Your Lordship’s career in the criminal branch of the Attorney General’s Department, Your Lordship’s contribution was not limited to the development of the criminal jurisprudence only. Your Lordship was a member of the legal team of Counsel representing the State in the celebrated authority of Omalpe Sobhita Thero v Dayananda Dissanayake 2008 2 SLR 121, where the Honourable Supreme Court defined the commencement of the term of office of the President. Your Lordship was the lead Counsel for the State in the Supreme Court hearing on the 20th Amendment to the Constitution.

The instances that Your Lordship the Chief Justice, represented the interest of Sri Lanka are far too many and numerous to mention. In all humility, permit me, My Lord, to mention some such instances.

In 2009, Your Lordship was a member of the Sri Lankan delegation to the International Co-operation Review Group of Financial Action Task Force held in Malaysia. In 2013 and 2014, Your Lordship represented Sri Lanka as a part of our delegation at the Human Rights Council Sessions in Geneva. In the same year 2014, Your Lordship headed Sri Lanka’s delegation on developing a bilateral treaty on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters with the People’s Republic of China. In 2016, Your Lordship headed a similar delegation in respect of Ukraine. In November 2016, Your Lordship headed the Sri Lankan Delegation to review Sri Lanka’s Report before the United Nation’s Committee Against Torture, held in Geneva.

In November 2017, Your Lordship was the head of our delegation to the Global Forum on Asset Recovery held in Washington, USA. It was only last year that Your Lordship had the opportunity of leading the Sri Lankan delegation to the 27th Session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice held in Vienna, Austria.

Apart from representing Sri Lanka’s interest at these International forums, Your Lordship has presented many papers based on which new legislation has been introduced in our country. The topics on which Your Lordship made such presentations are varied. Computer evidence, computer crimes, effective investigation and prosecution in child abuse cases, computer crime investigations and trials, credit card frauds, corruption, expert evidence and International terrorism, are some such areas.

Your Lordship’s contribution to the legal education of this country will be remembered for a long time. Your Lordship was a co-examiner at the Kothalawela Defence Academy and an examiner of the Law of Evidence at the Sri Lanka Law College since 1990. Your Lordship also functioned as a much sought after lecturer in Criminal Law at the Sri Lanka Law College.

My Lord, the above material would demonstrate that Your Lordship’s career in the Attorney General’s Department was a full and complete one. Your Lordship, while imparting knowledge to generations of students, moulded and trained several young members joining the Attorney General’s Department. Your Lordship’s ability to be calm and composed in dealing with the most difficult and challenging issues is an example to all of us and mostly to the young members of the Bar.

As the President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka, it is my duty to place on record, the appreciation of the entire Bar for Your Lordship’s contribution towards the activities of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka. I must thank my predecessor, Mr. U. R. De Silva, President’s Counsel for involving Your Lordship in all seminars, conferences and workshops during the last 2 years and I would thank Your Lordship for the continuous assistance that Your Lordship has provided to the Bar Association of Sri Lanka.

I am certain that Your Lordship’s long service has enabled Your Lordship to identify some of the issues and challenges facing the legal and Judicial systems as at present. My Lord, I humbly seek Your Lordship’s permission to mention a few such issues at this point.

My Lord, the Judiciary is the branch of the State that is expected to administer justice according to Law. The Bar on the other hand, is the other branch which would facilitate the task of administering justice. Both these branches provide a service centred on the concept of Rule of Law. In every civilized legal system, there is nothing more fundamental than a commitment to the Rule of Law. It manifests itself in a strong, expert and fiercely independent legal profession and an expert, fiercely independent and incorruptible judiciary within an accessible civil justice system. Neither the Executive nor any powerful interest, domestic or international would receive special treatment in our Courts.

Expertise and standing of the Judiciary and the Bar is extremely important to the protection of this very important concept – Rule of Law – and the individual rights of the people who seek justice. Expertise and integrity are complemented by a third fact, a willingness to innovate.

During the last few decades several legal systems in the world have surged forward and have introduced legal reforms which are necessary to keep abreast with the changes that are taking place in view of the advancement of technology and many similar reasons. The Penal Code of Sri Lanka, the Civil Procedure Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure Code No.15 of 1979 and Evidence Ordinance are the 4 main items of Legislation that are used in our Courts on a daily basis. The Bar is of the view that the Bench and the Bar should take a relook at the provisions contained in these statutes. Especially, Laws dealing with procedure and evidence. Rules of procedure and rules of evidence needs reform in order to simplify the issues relating to these areas. If a collective effort is made, where both the Bench and the Bar are focused in taking the initiative of identifying uniformity of procedure and simplified methodology relating to procedure and evidence, the issue of "Laws Delays" would be resolved in an effective way. Technology could be used to introduce filing of actions, the relevant pleadings and other documentation in order to introduce the innovative changes which are necessary.

On behalf of the Bar we would humbly request Your Lordship the Chief Justice to lead all of us towards this progressive step. The Bar would extend our maximum support to Your Lordship in this regard.

My Lord, the Bar holds the view that the legal education in this country needs immediate reforms in order to create a more accountable and a responsible profession, mindful of high ethical standards. The Bar, on its part, submitted a comprehensive proposal and we are happy to note that most of these proposals have been recognized and are being implemented by the Council of Legal Education of which Your Lordship has been a member for a long period of time and of which Your Lordship functions as the Chairman as at this moment. The legal education needs changes and some such changes include the necessity to introduce more accountability and responsibility. The practical training program needs to be revamped in order to give real practical training to future generations of our profession. Very soon, the Bar Association of Sri Lanka will present to Your Lordship a set of comprehensive proposals and the Bar hopes that these proposals would receive Your Lordship’s kind attention.

At the last convocation ceremony of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka held in March 2019, Your Lordship’s predecessor briefly referred to the ethical conduct of the members of the profession and referred to the many complaints received by this Honourable Court. Being mindful of this fact, the Bar Association of Sri Lanka is in the process of expediting the inquiries into these complaints so that no injustice would be caused to the accuser or the accused.

My Lord, the Judicial service consists of members from the legal profession. Members of the Bar who opt to serve in the Judicial service go through a lot of hardships during their careers. They are bound by Judicial ethics and their conduct is expected to be exemplary. As much as an inquiry against a member of the profession should be concluded expeditiously, the Bar holds the view that the inquiries in respect of members of the Judicial service also need to conducted in the same manner. Delay in both these instances does not auger well for both branches of our profession. Such delay, would have a serious impact on public confidence of the legal and Judicial systems. The Bar is confident that Your Lordship, the Chief Justice would take immediate measures in this regard.

During Your Lordship’s tenure, another matter that should receive Your Lordship’s consideration would be, the introduction of a regulatory framework for the legal profession. This is even more important in view of the large numbers joining our noble profession annually. A well-regulated profession would be for the benefit of the courts, the profession itself, and the people of this country who are ultimate recipients of justice.

Your Lordship has been well accepted by the Bar during Your Lordship’s entire career. Your Lordship has blended with the Bar at every possible opportunity. Such integration has never been an impediment for Your Lordship to discharge Your Lordship’s duties as a member of the Attorney General’s Department. I must place on record, the swiftness with which Your Lordship assisted the Bar recently. Immediately upon Your Lordship’s appointment, I brought to Your Lordship’s notice an issue relating to the security measures adopted in a suburban Court. Your Lordship’s immediate intervention helped the members of the suburban Bar to receive a solution to the issue faced by them.

The Bar has every confidence that Your Lordship will protect the very concept of the Rule of Law and that Your Lordship would steer the Judiciary to make a more vibrant contribution in the protection of our Constitution and the rights of our people. We have every confidence that Your Lordship would provide a hearing to every party before Your Lordship and that Your Lordship would deliver justice in accordance with the law and according to Your Lordship’s conscience. We have every confidence that Your Lordship would be impartial, independent and fearless.

On behalf of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka, we warmly welcome Your Lordship as the 47th Chief Justice to adorn this exalted position. The sentiments expressed by me are the sentiments of the Bar and my own.

The Bar wishes Your Lordship good health, good luck and courage in the discharge of your duties. I welcome Your Lordship with a warm heart.

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