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TISL honours Justice Mark Fernando for ‘Lifetime of Integrity’

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By Cheranka Mendis

Justice Mark Fernando was posthumously conferred a ‘Special Award of Excellence for a Lifetime of Integrity’ at Transparency International Sri Lanka’s annual National Integrity Awards held yesterday, while Constitutional Lawyer J.C. Weliamuna received a special citation award.

For the first time since its inception eight years ago, there was no National Integrity Award presented at the awards ceremony. Even though 63 completed nominations were handed over to a three-member judging panel, the committee had unanimously decided to not present the award purely on the absence of a person with quality and as high integrity as the previous recipients.

Member of the Panel of Judges Selvi Tiruichandran stated that the panel was unable to identify a suitable nominee based on the nominations that came forward. She stated that from the 62 nominations, 31 were ruled out at the outset due to the limited impact the nominees have made to society. An encouraging factor, however, was that 29% of the nominations came from the Eastern Province.

Due to this reason the governing body of TISL had decided to instead present a ‘Special Award of Excellence’ to late Justice Mark Fernando for his impeccable integrity and anti corruption efforts and for stretching the narrow confines of the boundaries with creativity and honour.

Known as the longest-standing judge on the bench of Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court, Justice Fernando graced the bench from 1988 until his premature retirement in 2005.

Hailing from a family of judges, Fernando was appointed as a Supreme Court Judge in 1985. With some of his jurisdictions known to be masterpieces of contemporary critical thinking, some of his best judgments were said to be in relation to the interpretation of the fundamental rights provisions of the Sri Lankan Constitution.

Over a long period he is said to have interpreted Constitutional provisions relating to arbitrary arrest and detention and the rights to be free from torture in particular. In later judgments he has often dealt with some of the major problems of the Sri Lankan policing system.

Receiving the award for his father, Suresh Fernando stated that in today’s world, the ruination of society had happened “because of those who do evil or those who refuse to do right”.

He added: “My father never compromised on principles and that is why you award his integrity and not his brilliance.”

Also receiving a Special Citation was Constitutional Lawyer, Human Rights Activist, Eisenhower Fellow and Senior Ashoka Fellow J.C. Weliamuna.

Having embarked on Commercial Law in 1981, Weliamuna moved into Human Rights Law in 1993 when it was at its formative stage. Over the years he has been recognised for his stance against corruption and for integrity. He has also served as Executive Director of TISL for eight years.

Addressing the gathering, Weliamuna said: “Recognition of Mark Fernando at this hour is important because I believe the judiciary is under threat not by external parties but internally. The message should go out to the judges and judiciary so that they too should follow in the footsteps of Justice Fernando.”

The Chief Guest for the event was former UN Under-Secretary General for Disarmament Affairs and former Ambassador of Sri Lanka for USA and to the UN Office in Geneva Jayantha Dhanapala.

He is currently the 11th President of the Nobel Peace Prize winning Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs and member of the Governing Body of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Mannar Women’s Development Foundation Founder Sithara Shreen was also at the event.

The Governance Report 2011 was also launched at the event.

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