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Chief Justice faces impeachment

Independent judiciary under threat, say lawyers

Lawyers protesting for an independent judiciary in September (file photo) Lawyers protesting for an independent judiciary in September (file photo)
  • ucanews.com reporter, Colombo
  • Sri Lanka
  • November 2, 2012
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The coalition government moved yesterday to impeach Supreme Court Chief Justice Dr. Shirani Bandaranayeke in what some are calling a clear move to control and intimidate the independent judiciary.

“The the message sent by the government is that the judges cannot go against the ruling regime,” said attorney Lal Wijenayake, an organizer for Lawyers for Democracy.

"This is not an isolated attack on the chief justice, but all the judicial officers in the country," he said.

Last week, the Bribery and Corruption Commission filed a suit against Bandaranayeke’s husband, a former state bank chairman, for alleged corruption in a finance company share transaction deal.

In a report issued Thursday, the International Commission of Jurists, a Geneva-based body that monitors legal matters, said the Sri Lankan government should immediately cease its assault on the independence of the judiciary.

However, the government alleges judicial conduct is damaging the nation. "Improper behavior in the past year had affected the sovereignty of the people," said cabinet spokesman and media minister Keheliya Rambukwella.

Under the constitution, 'improper behavior'  is grounds for impeachment. There have been six accusations so far against the Chief Justice, Rambukwella said, but he did not elaborate on the specific  allegations.

Impeachment requires the support of a third of the members of parliament. The Speaker then has to decide whether he will appoint a parliamentary subcommittee to investigate or hold a debate.

The government currently enjoys a two-thirds majority in parliament.

Father Sarath Iddamalgoda who fights for independent judiciary said: “A politicians’ one and only concern is to remain in power, they are naturally biased. Therefore, they should not be allowed to interfere with the administration of justice,” he said. “The independence and integrity of the judiciary should be kept intact."

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