The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) is contemplating a change in its structure which is likely to put the organization under the control of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), according to high ranking sources of the Association.
The envisaged restructuring will see the appointment of an Executive Director who will function as the Chief Executive Officer and the Chief Registered Lobbyist. This would severely diminish the discretionary powers of the Secretary, Treasurer and Administrative Secretary.
The project is the brainchild of the USAID which is to provide relevant funds.
The person appointed to the position will have wide powers which include implementing programs regardless of management changes, developing income generating plans and linking the bar with other professionals and organizations. In addition he/she will be involved in education, communication, data base and community through policy, reporting and programming.
He/she will also develop strategic plans and implement the action/operational plan and micro donation strategies, advice on all BASL activities, act as official spokesperson of the bar, represent BASL and supervise day to day operations of the BASL.
The Nation reliably learns that the person ear-marked for the post, Prakalathan Thureisingham alias Prabha, is already playing a key role in BASL activities (although he is not a member nor an employee) courtesy his position as the main handler of USAID operations in the BASL premises and in their programs.
USAID, which first got involved in the BASL through a project to build an auditorium during the tenure of the previous President, Upul Jayasuriya, has through officials stationed in the premises taken control of key day to day operations.
Concerns have been raised in the legal fraternity that given the close relationship that BASL has with the Chief Justice and the Attorney-General, the ‘Executive Director’ envisaged has the potential to be involved in unwarranted and dangerous ways in the affairs of justice. He/she, moreover, will have access to information including personal details and pending cases of the approximately 16,000 members of the Association.
The proposal does not mention eligibility criteria, opening the post to people who are not members of BASL and therefore technically to people who have no understanding of the judicial system of the country, its history and traditions, or the role of the BASL.