President calls for shift to make legal system efficient | Sunday Observer

President calls for shift to make legal system efficient

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa called on the legal fraternity to strive to work together with the other sectors to push the system of justice to greater heights and make a paradigm shift, making it more public friendly, efficient and effective.

Speaking at the Annual Conference organised by the Sri Lanka Bar Association at Jetwing Blue Hotel in Negombo on Friday, he said the independence of the judiciary is the cornerstone of the rule of law, without which the rule of law will inevitably fail. He added, however, the independence of the judiciary alone cannot make the legal system on par with the best legal systems in the world.

“The system of justice will also have to be complemented with an efficient, effective and an affordable process to provide a meaningful avenue for the ordinary citizens of the country to resolve their disputes expeditiously and in a convenient and affordable manner,” the President said.

Excerpts of the speech of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa:

At a time we are realigning our strategies to reach goals that would ensure prosperity for the people, as the country’s President, I am indeed happy to share my vision with you, at this important conference. The theme of your conference - “Sri Lanka Financial and Commercial Hub: Vistas, Challenges and Opportunities” - is particularly relevant, considering the journey we must make, as a nation, together.

We must increase the opportunities available for domestic entrepreneurs and foreign investors to create new businesses in this country. Unnecessary bureaucracy, red tape, and prohibitive regulations must be eliminated so that there are simple, efficient and streamlined structures through which business activity can be facilitated. This is an area in which most of you, as members of the legal profession, can be of particular assistance.

The main challenge we face today concerns the acceleration of our economic development. Almost all the significant issues the people face today stem from the lack of economic growth.

The primary focus of my Government is to rapidly develop the country, eradicate poverty, and uplift the standard of living of all the people.

It is essential to improve our systems so that the ease of doing business could be increased, while at the same time maintaining safeguards to prevent abuses and irregularities. The facilities and human resources available for more efficient and effective methods of dispute resolution such as adjudication and arbitration also need to be enhanced, and our regional standing in this space must be improved. We also need to ensure better patent protection and more representation in the global intellectual property rights mechanisms so that our inventors, creators, and entrepreneurs can be encouraged, while at the same time increasing investor confidence.

The legal fraternity is familiar with the phrase ‘justice delayed is justice denied’. A common complaint that we hear from the public is that their legal battles get dragged on for many years. This has made the process less effective for innocent litigants and conducive for interested parties to frustrate the administration of justice. Therefore, it is time for all stakeholders including the judiciary, the Government and the legal fraternity to come up with a holistic solution to make the Sri Lankan legal system to be among the world’s best.

Maintaining the separation of powers between the three branches of government is critical to this. There can be considerable harm to democracy if the legal process and the courts are interfered with by the executive or the legislative. Similarly, it is important that the judiciary does not interfere needlessly in the functioning of the executive and legislative branches of the Government.

Both, the executive and the legislative branches are elected by the people through a democratic process, and the executive in particular has a mandate to act to fulfil the requirements of the people. It is therefore important that the judiciary does not obstruct the development efforts undertaken by the executive to ensure the wellbeing and prosperity of the people.

Any system is a reflection of the participating stakeholders. This is true even in the case of the executive, legislature, judiciary, business or any other domain. While all stakeholders within the domain of justice can be proud of the Sri Lankan judicial system, particularly the milestone it has reached over a period of time, it is also time for us to reflect on whether the Sri Lankan system of justice had been able to work as an efficient and an effective mechanism to provide redress for the problems faced by the people.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has estimated that by 2030, Asia will be home to 64% of the global middle-class and account for well over 40% of middle-class consumption. This fast growing middle-class with considerable spending power in countries such as India, China, and Japan, and regions such as ASEAN and the Middle East represents a tremendous opportunity for Sri Lanka, given its unique geo-strategic location in the Indian Ocean.

Achieving rapid economic development through the broad opportunities afforded to us by these two trends of rapid technological change and the emergence of Asia as the world’s most significant marketplace demands novel approaches. We need short-term, medium-term and long-term strategies at a national level as well as sector-specific levels to make maximum use of these opportunities. These strategies need to be supported by significant changes to underlying enablers such as education, the legal and regulatory framework, the financial system, and infrastructure.

As we strive to create a better and more prosperous future for our future generations, I urge you as members of the legal community of the country to contribute to your fullest capacity in this process. This is a historic challenge. However, I am confident that we will succeed in achieving a future endowed with splendour and prosperity, by working together as true Sri Lankans for Sri Lanka.