A senior Tamil Judge in the war-torn district of Mullaitivu has resigned from his post and has fled the country fearing for the safety of his life.
Mullaitivu District Judge and Magistrate T. Saravanarajah has said his life is under threat in his letter of resignation sent to the Judicial Services Commission on 23 September.
“I hereby inform you that I resign my post of District Judge, post of Magistrate, post of family court Judge, post of primary court Judge, post of small claims court Judge, post of Juvenile court Judge due to threat of my life and due to lot of stress," he said.
The judge is no more in the country, according to journalists in Vanni. This is the first judge in recent years to flee Sri Lanka, while the country is experiencing a severe brain drain due to economic hardships.
Justice Saravanaraja has been continuously hounded by racist comments and intimidating remarks from hardline Sinhala MPs in particular Sarath Weerasekara from the Sri Lanka Podujana Party led by former president Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Justice Saravanarajah was summoned by the Attorney General to his office on the September 21 and pressurized to amend his judgments regarding Kurunthamalai, say unconfirmed sources from the region familiar with the case.
He had earlier gone on record saying a Buddhist Vihara is being constructed in spite of his judgment and also allowed the Tamils to offer Pongal to the Adhi Sivan Ayyanar deity at the place.
Both Tamils and Sinhalese claim Kurunthamalai to be religiously, historically, and culturally very significant to them.
MP Sarath Weerasekara has criticized his judgments and called him names in the Parliament using his privileges in the house; which was strongly denounced by the Tamil MPs.
He even accused the Judge of suffering from mental illness and warned him that he is living in a Sinhala Buddhist country. MP Weerasekara spewed racist comments against Judge Saravanarajah and went to the extent of saying he is living in a Sinhala Buddhist country. His racist comments include "Mullaitivu magistrate granting permission to Pongal festival at Kurunthamalai is similar to Mt.Lavinia Magistrate giving permission to chant Pirith in a Shiva temple at Wellawatte."
Lawyers in North and East while condemning MP Sarath Weerasekara for his racist comments against the Tamil Judge and misuse of his Parliamentary privileges staged protests against him and even demanded his transfer.
The Bar Association of Sri Lanka also expressed their solidarity with the protesting lawyers and had emphasized the responsibility of the government and all other institutions to respect the independence of the judiciary.
Justice Saravanarajah’s police security was also downgraded recently and was subjected to constant surveillance by the state intelligence services.
Senior Tamil MP from the Tamil National Alliance Sivagnanam Siritharan said, “The resignation of Justice Saravanarajah is a big blow to the judiciary in the country and has shaken the foundations of independence of the judicial system”.
Strongly condemning the insults and intimidation meted out to Justice Saravanarajah, MP Siritharan recalled the assassination attempt against the then Tamil Magistrate in Jaffna Mrs. Sirinithi Nanthasekaran in the middle of the year 2000 and said now yet another attempt to threaten a Tamil Judge has happened openly and that too within the Parliament”.
Adding further the Jaffna district MP said, "if a Judge can be threatened and forced to flee the country what would be the fate of the Tamils living in the North and East?"
“This is an example of religious oppression and how powerful racist elements act in this country. I appeal to the international community to take note of such happenings against the Tamils at least now”.