Thursday, November 19, 2015
YAHAPALANAYA – Will happen if we follow these steps (Part Three)
I covered the Police and the Attorney Generals Department, in the two previous blog posts, but it must be said that this also should have included the office of the Bribery Commissioner, who also needs the resources to their job, as they are presented with complaints, that they need a proper mechanism to quickly investigate and pass of small incidents to the magistrates courts for persecution without delay, and for more complicated, and cases involving large frauds, the Commission can do the needful before presenting the case to the AGs office for prosecution.
I note that the Bribery Commissioner wanted more staff, and resources, and whilst not saying to give into all these demands, a unit set up to evaluate the requests and try to improve the efficiency of the department, where the potential problem is graded, and low grade bribery dealt with at least cost, by arbitration and accepting guilt!
The subject here is of the Judiciary. This is a hopelessly paid set of people compared to what lawyers can earn. If a magistrate is selected from a lawyer who has been in practice for 6 years, why would a person join the judiciary if he was any good? A decent provincial lawyer in practice 6 years would have built his own practice and take home Rs500,000 a month!
With apologies to the good magistrates, we have too many incompetent magistrates in our system, and some of the lawyers who defend clients with these magistrates sitting on the bench are aghast at the judgments made by them, which can have serious consequences in cases.
There are recent cases where Avante Garde prosecutions have had a set back due to the incompetence of magistrates ruling against the Govt. stance, due to their ignorance of the case, and lack of common sense in knowing what questions to ask of the prosecuting and defense attorneys. We do not have any proof if their independence was compromised.
Frankly we must pay three times the rates for Magistrates and go all the way up to the Judges of the Supreme Court. We need top judges who can afford to buy a suit for a cocktail party at the US Embassy, rather than be too poor to go out whilst their batch mates have screwed some Multinationals for millions just as appearance fees, and are paying the Judge a bribe to give a future hearing date, so they can charge another appearance fee, which has made foreign investors wary of our legal system. I can tell you personally how heads of legal department of Multinational Mother Country has told me that our President’s Counsel charge the highest fees in the world and don’t give a breakdown!
Until we somehow narrow this gap between the pay of Private Lawyers who scandalously overcharge their clients mainly here in Sri Lanka, and the Judges who hear these cases who are scandalously underpaid, we are going to have weaknesses in our Judiciary.
I recommend a system where in order that the State increases their compensation by more than double, they must be held responsible to request that the cases be cleared up much quicker and find less reason to keep postponing due to minor issues, due to sickness of this one or that some of it which is manufactured!
Any lawyer reading this blog will recognizer yourself in one or other of the situations and I plead with you to act first as a citizen of the Country and not in your capacity as wanting to have your cake and eat it and don’t get into any compromising situations of having to break the code of Good Governance your self in order that we as a country are able to start our good governance crusade from the legal system.
So more judges and magistrate courts being tasked with clearing up minor cases to reduce the load on high court cases. Then we should tackle the aspect of pay in the way I had proposed, and better working conditions, especially for outstation work, as now people are less keen on moving house due to children’s education etc. which was not the case in the past, where kids were sent to boarding schools!
The competence performance and ability to speed cases must be evaluated by the Justice Ministry that pays them. The Judiciary MUST know that the single most important area for FDI into Sri Lanka is a reliable and speedy Justice system, where a civil or for that matter a criminal case is fairly and efficiently dealt with independent of influence peddling!
To recap the three continuous blog entries were an attempt to high light the importance of the Law Enforcement, and Justice System in setting the foundation for a nation, to progress on Good Governance. All the rest of development foreign investment and growth in Sri Lanka simply falls into place if this is done properly and I trust the GOSL to take these pointers in this series to implement a system of urgent action points to deal with the aforesaid and lay the foundation for a permanent state of Good Governance that can be the envy of the world.