The legal profession is abuzz with rumours that several new President’s Counsel are to be appointed by President Mahinda Rajapakse overlooking many qualified senior lawyers.
Appointing of Presidents Counsel are by the President in terms of the Constitution and they have to be granted to persons who have reached eminence in the profession and achieved high standards of professional rectitude. Among distinguished President’s Counsel appointed in the past have been H.L. Silva, Maureen Senaviratne, B.J. Fernando, Faisz Musthapha, Romesh de Silva and many others. Even in the time of President J.R. Jayawardena and R. Premadasa lawyers who appeared against the government or who were not of the ruling party were appointed by the UNP Presidents. Among them was A. K. Premadasa, Maureen Senevirate, H.L. de Silva and Nimal Senanayake.
This time around the politicization which has crept into the public service is now overwhelming the legal profession when the appointment of President’s Counsel are not on the basis of the respect or eminence or competence in the legal profession but on the basis of their sheer political allegiance and personal allegiance to the ruling family.
Among those whose names are on the list are Kalinga Indatissa who is competent authority for several enterprises taken by an act of Parliament last year and who was named a Respondent by Sarath Fonseka in the Presidential election petition for giving a misleading statement on TV on election day misrepresenting the law, Priyantha Jayawardena (who appears for Basil Rajapakse in several cases), Ali Sabry (lawyer for Gotabhaya Rajapakse and Dilith Jayaweera). Three years ago, President Rajapakse imposed a 30 year limit appointing only those over 30n years in practice.
This time around the limit has been cut almost in half to accommodate the prospective Political Counsel (PC) most of whom were required to mark their appearance in the case against Rishard Badurdeen on September 5th in order to show their loyalty to the ruling clique (as against the judiciary which has stood up to political thuggery.) It is reported that the first list was drawn up and promoted by Indatissa himself. Among those being appointed is one deserving nominee Sanjeewa Jayawardena whose redeeming factor was that he had appeared for the Army in the cases against Sarath Fonseka and was junior lawyer to the Helping Hambanthota case.