The Sunday Leader

Rajapaksa Govt’s Credibility Gets Another Beating

  • CJ likely to be faulted on three charges in the impeachment motion
  • Lawyers and judges discuss a boycott if an acting CJ is appointed

Chief Justice Dr Shirani Bandaranayake’s resilience has dealt a blow to the Mahinda Rajapaksa government. The government is now facing a predicament since all has not gone as planned in the impeachment saga.
Dr Bandaranayake’s decision to stage a walk out of the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) probing the impeachment motion against her and the withdrawal of the four opposition members in the Committee has put the Rajapaksa government in great difficulty. The government would now be unable to vouch for the credibility of the recommendations that would be presented by a PSC attended only by seven governing party members.

Mahinda Rajapaksa, Dr Shirani Bandaranayake, Ratnasiri Wickremanayake and R. Sampanthan

The entire drama of the impeachment motion that officially commenced on November 1 has now reached a decisive stage since the governing party members in the PSC would now make its recommendations to Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa based on one-sided evidence.
The PSC was expected to hand over its recommendations to the Speaker on the 8th, the last day of the budget. If the recommendations are handed in on the 8th, it would be taken up for a vote when parliament resumes sittings.
An opposition member who was formerly a member of the PSC said that the Chief Justice was likely to be found guilty on three charges out of the 14 charges in the impeachment motion.
He observed that the PSC had gathered bank account details and assets of the Chief Justice recently. “This means that the charges have been framed without having the proper evidence to back them,” he said, adding that it was the Secretary General of parliament who had gathered the relevant documents.
Copies of bank account details and the asset declaration of the Chief Justice were handed over to members of the PSC last Wednesday.
The day before, on Tuesday, the PSC had commenced its sitting at 10.30 a.m. and the lawyers defending the Chief Justice had repeatedly demanded documentary evidence and the list of witnesses.
No list of documents or witnesses had reportedly been given and the Chief Justice had been told that there would be no oral evidence and therefore no cross examination would be permitted. “When the issue of rules of natural justice was raised, the government members responded that this is not a court and that rules of natural justice is applicable for the people and not for the representatives of the people,” a lawyer said.
However, the Chief Justice was presented with documents containing close to 100 pages when she had appeared before the PSC on Thursday with her lawyers. The Chief Justice had attended the sessions in the afternoon.
The governing party members of the PSC have rejected requests by the Chief Justice’s lawyers for a few additional weeks to respond to the new documents that had been handed over to her. The directive was for the Chief Justice to respond by 1 p.m. the following day, Friday.
Several allegations not based on the charges had also been made at the Chief Justice and upon objection had been told that the PSC could go beyond the allegations.
When the PSC was unable to ensure any acceptable procedure for inquiry and continued with the violation of rules of natural justice and in particular the Chief Justice and Counsel was subjected to intimidation, the Chief Justice and her Counsel walked out of the PSC
Meanwhile, the four opposition members of the PSC, John Amaratunga, Lakshman Kiriella, R. Sampanthan and Vijitha Herath had requested for the sittings of the PSC to be postponed until the end of parliament vacation, which is to commence from the 8th of this month till January 8th.
However, the one month term of the PSC is to end on the 14th and in the event the proceedings are to be suspended, the Committee would have to request for more time from the Speaker.
“It needs to be realized that the impeachment of former Chief Justice Neville Samarakoon took six months to finalize the report since his lawyers were given time to respond,” a senior UNP MP said.
Former Minister Lalith Athulathmudali, who is an Oxford luminary, headed the PSC that probed Samarakoon’s impeachment.
Be that as it may, the governing party head of the PSC also turned down the conditions laid down by the four opposition members in the Committee to continue in it.
The opposition members then staged a walk out from the PSC as well.

Planning a boycott

Meanwhile, lawyers and judges are currently discussing staging a boycott in the event the government moves to appoint an acting Chief Justice to replace Dr Bandaranayake.
The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) was to pass several resolutions on the latest situation on the impeachment of the Chief Justice yesterday.
“If the Chief Justice is removed in an undemocratic manner and an acting Chief Justice is appointed, we will not recognize the appointment and would call upon the international community to also not recognize the appointment,” a senior lawyer said.
The fact that 210 judges out of the 308 judges in the country had extended their support to the Chief Justice and walked out of court with her when she was leaving for parliament sends a strong message to the government.
The meeting in Colombo on the 3rd called by the JSC saw 278 judges participating in it. The Chief Justice had made a brief presentation explaining the current situation of the judiciary and the charges levelled against her and her response to them.
She had then asked the lawyers and judges not to resort to any action since she would be blamed of instigating members of the judiciary.
The judges and lawyers present had said that the impeachment motion against her was more than just a personal attack as it was a threat on the entire judiciary.
The Chief Justice had left the discussion after about 45 minutes. The judges and lawyers have then discussed that stern action needs to be resorted to safeguard the judiciary.

Concerns expressed

The latest incidents on the Chief Justice’s impeachment and the issues faced by the judiciary have once again resulted in concerns being raised by the international community.
The US Embassy in Sri Lanka said it remained very concerned about the state of the Sri Lankan judiciary and the impeachment process of the Chief Justice.
“We urge that the Government of Sri Lanka and the Parliamentary Select Committee investigating the Chief Justice ensure any investigation be conducted transparently, guarantee due process, and is conducted in accordance with the rule of law,” the Embassy said in a statement on Friday. Meanwhile, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) has said the impeachment process against Chief Justice Dr Bandaranayake ignores international standards and practice. The ICJ has urged the government of Sri Lanka to take immediate steps to uphold the independence of the judiciary and adhere to international standards and practice on the removal of judges.
“Parliament is pushing ahead with an impeachment process that fails to adhere to fundamental principles of due process and fair trial,” Sam Zarifi, ICJ Asia Pacific Director has said.
“The Chief Justice’s impeachment is part of a relentless campaign waged by the Rajapaksa Government to weaken the judiciary. An independent judiciary is the principle check on the exercise of executive and legislative powers – vital to the functioning of a healthy democracy.”
As recalled by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers in a statement last month, international standards require that judges be removed only in exceptional circumstances involving incapacity or gross misconduct.
A cornerstone of judicial independence is that the tenure of judges be secure.
Human rights lawyer J. C. Weliamuna noted that while there are best practices when impeaching the higher judiciary, the practice followed by Sri Lanka was the worst.
He explained that India followed a practice of appointing a committee of former judges and jurists to decide on an impeachment on a member of the higher judiciary while some Commonwealth countries appoint an independent committee of Commonwealth judges to examine such a motion.

Briefing envoys

Amidst concerns being raised about the state of the judiciary in the country, the government had made an effort to brief foreign diplomats in Sri Lanka on the reconciliation efforts of the government.
The Defence Secretary had convened the discussion to inform the members of the diplomatic corps of the reconciliation and reconstruction in Sri Lanka.
The Defence Ministry has stated that a delegation comprising Permanent Representatives, Ambassadors, High Commissioners and dignitaries from Japan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Romania, Italy, South Africa, and Brazil had joined the discussion.
The diplomats had been informed of the post war development activities and de-mining process of conflict affected areas and the government’s post conflict achievement under the 5R concept.
“Sri Lanka’s rehabilitation of ex-LTTE cadres has come under international acclaim. It undoubtedly is an extraordinary achievement, which no other country has been able to achieve yet. Sri Lanka has set an example for the world to follow. The government has spent a colossal, Rs. 2.5 billion on rehabilitating these former combatants, providing them with education, industrial and vocational training. This is clear reflection of the generosity, commitment and genuine effort of the government of Sri Lanka in making the reconciliation process a success,” the Ministry has stated.
The government that has been giving priority to many issues, but the reconciliation process is now trying to garner some favour from the international community by putting forward the developments in post war reconciliation.
The government’s love-hate’ relationship with the international community is likely to be more partial towards ;love; in the next few months given the unsavory issues faced by the government at present.

Cabinet re-shuffle

Be that as it may, the Rajapaksa government while campaigning to try to muster the support of external forces is also looking at getting some heads to roll in key ministries.
Government sources say that the talk doing the round currently is that there would be a Cabinet re-shuffle on or around the 15th of this month.
One of the key changes that are likely to take place is a change in the post of Prime Minister.
Premier D. M. Jayaratne who recently returned to the country is expected to resign from his post given his poor health condition.
Jayaratne’s request for leave for three months from parliament was also approved last week.
Jayaratne, who was appointed to parliament through the National List, is expected to eventually resign from his slot to make way for the appointment of his son, Anuruddha Jayaratne to parliament.
Sources close to Jayaratne have however denied that he would resign from his parliamentary slot.
Nevertheless, senior government members have decided on re-appointing former Prime Minister and current Senior Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake as the Prime Minister.
Media reports last week stated that even the security provided to Wickremanayake had been increased following the decision to re-appoint him as the Prime Minister.
It is also learnt that several key ministries are likely to see changes at the top. One of the key ministries that are tipped to see a change is Power and Energy.
However, Power and Energy Minister Champika Ranawaka is considered to be one of the most productive and efficient ministers of the government and his removal would therefore need proper backing.
The decision makers in the government are likely to make the Cabinet reshuffle a time to gain control of any governing party member who is seen not to follow the Rajapaksa dictates while showing “gratitude” to those who have served faithfully.

MR invites the TNA

President Rajapaksa while contemplating a reshuffle of his Cabinet of ministers had last week extended an invitation to the TNA for a discussion.
The fact that the government has three months to gear for the UNHRC sessions in March and the news of the TNA’s planned visit to the US early next year has undoubtedly created an impact with the President.
The Rajapaksa government that has most often resorted to cosmetic solutions to issues, is once again trying show interest in the reconciliation process and a political solution to the ethnic issue that has been in the backburner all this while.
The TNA had been invited for a discussion on the 4th, but the party had declined the invitation since the TNA members had been unable to discuss and reach a consensus on the issues to be raised during the meeting with the President. TNA parliamentarian Selvam Adaikalanathan has said the President had extended the invitation on the 2nd.
However, the TNA while declining the President’s invitation had asked him to give another date for the discussion. The President is likely to give the TNA an appointment for a discussion next week.

14 Comments for “Rajapaksa Govt’s Credibility Gets Another Beating”

  1. laksiri

    what ever ,she has to go,she knows the back door which she came to supreme court .

    • Ranga

      He has to go too, for he too use the back door to come in.

      Remember that the Northern voters and their votes.

    • Shaik Anwar Ahamath

      The Segregation of Powers is paramount for our survival in a civilised society. The Executive should not have had a hand in the appointment of the CJ nor should they be involved in the removal. As they do in successful democracies, an all party committee comprised of constitutional experts should have screened the candidtate before the appointment and if the appointee was found accused of a misdemeanour, it should be this committee to deliberate on the charges and if found guilty, then remove. This will then guarantee a measure of independence in the discharge of duties without favouritism or favour.

    • Gota the hero

      Wijebahu: I have to agree with you on this.

  2. Wijebahu

    MR has bulldozed all his opponents however he does not realized he is on the path of self destruction.

    • Thank you for your sensible comments. This is the begining of the end for MR
      and I am now convinced that Lord Buddha is looking down on Sri Lanka

  3. tony

    It took only 5 weeks to inquire into 14 charges, while so many litigation takes years to begin even a hearing. Very clever indeed

  4. Sarath Silva

    According to common sense, there can be ONE reason out of two possibilities behind walking out CJ from the PSC even if we are in her shoe. That is either;

    1. she is NOT guilty at all for any of the charge levelled against her but members of the PSC were trying to make her guilty exploiting their 4/7 power without giving reasonable and legally acceptable way to prove her non-guiltiness, or
    2. actually she is guilty hence as a strategy of avoiding the case she left from the PSC taking the grant (shielding to it) of the questionable nature of the impeachment procedure mentioned in the constitution it self even prior to call her to the inquiry.

    Since government has shown their confident as she is guilty for 3 out of first 5 charges, probably they will make necessary arrangement to terminate her. We as ordinary citizens cannot stop government’s action but we could request from them to do it in a transparent manner at least now onwards.

    1. Appoint acting CJ, and;
    2. Next appoint a committee comprising 3 retired Supreme Court Judges and
    let them to investigate ONLY 3 charges out of 5 that she became guilty and
    give their report. This will help government to justify their decision and the
    people who think CJ is not guilty could also understand the real outcome.

    NOTE : Some people are asking to inquire the matter with the assistance of
    Commonwealth, but as a sovereign nation I hope we should keep trust on
    our own people than opportunistic movements in the world.
    3. If committee says she is not guilty, government can restate her in the CJ
    position.

    If government is fully confident about their decision, they can follow the said procedure, and then only it will not become an issue. Also, if government can announce said system, all other supportive elements of CJ including SLBA should wait till outcome comes without making unnecessary problems in the country.

  5. Alisten-Australia

    Our Parlmetarians are set of rowdies strating from Karuna, Dogula, Mervin ETC.
    I remeber ranking my lecturer at the Univesity.
    Cannt understand why Peris not obejcting this,because he broguth Sharee into legal system from Univesity. One of the worst Professor than we thought 16 years ago.

  6. Packian

    In no other country of forum,has a judge been personally abused by members of parliament acting as ‘judges’.
    I feel that this was deliberate,to force her to ‘walk out’ and then hold an ex-parte inquiry.

  7. DMR Gunawardene

    Did they have any crediblity all? They are a bunch of uneducated criminals who killed innocent Tamils in their thousands and now doing the same to the rest of the country.

  8. Gota the hero

    Hey Mahinda, why don’t we investigate you and your corrupt family. How much did you and your darling family steal from the country? Lets start with the Tsunami fund……………………………………….oh boy the list is too long.

  9. Richard

    In its attempts to move from an authoritarian regime to a totalitarian (complete control) one, the regime has no qualms about making heroes out of non-heroes.

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