The fever and dust has settled on another election to the office of President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka for the year 2021-2022 with the winner being endorsed by a large majority of the Bar.
Yet, this was an election like no previous election. Many criticized the tactics and methods employed in campaigning which was totally unbecoming of any profession leave alone the legal – expected to be a noble profession where men of dignity and stature (it is hoped) comprise it. This is so as the profession discharges a pivotal role in society for the good of society if not the entire country at large. Such is in respecting the fundamentals of the Rule of Law and Democracy.
What we saw was cheap mudslinging, personal vilification and attacks which should not even be tolerated in elections of a purely political nature.
There was widespread publicity orcampaigning based on political party lines where some members have been heard to say that their vote was solely based on a party decision, (irrespective of the suitability and achievements of a candidate as a professional lawyer).
There were also claims that if a particular candidate was elected it will be difficult to administer the country!!! Social media carried reports of candidates treating the press towards soliciting a sustained vilification campaign against a candidate leading up to the date of Elections so as to tarnish the opponent’s image.
There were wide allegations of candidates organizing “side parties,” hijacking official Bar association functions towards treatingmembers and soliciting of votes. Allegations of diaspora, NGO backing for a candidatewere also added for spice by rivals.
This is quite separate from election campaigning being carried out on petty religious and racist lines. The Bar no doubt as a majority did not appear to beinfluenced or motivated to vote on such lines.
The Bar no doubt did in the ultimate vote notwithstanding and despite all the above machinations.
After the results there was also unnecessary vilification of the loser it seems by the supporters of the winner. Such too cannot be condoned. One must learnt to be magnanimous and noble both in victory and defeat.
Further,the Bar has to take stock with that typeof campaigning where such should be a “Never again Situation”lest the Bar slide into an ugly if not filthy morass devoid of basic common decency leave alone ethics. Such is necessary if the Bar is to play its rightful role of rectitude and dignity in being a guiding light to many juniors joining the profession and a flag bearer to society on the basis that the fundamental if not urgent need today in all walks of life is for “Decency and Civility” above the noble quality of respect for the Law and its rule.
Perhaps it is time senior silks of the Bar as well as past Presidents of the Bar formulate some guidelines of dos and don’ts on Election Campaigning to guide the Bar and its members, especially Juniors, as to how a professional body should elect members in a dignified manner .