Parliament to debate report voided by court

Sri Lanka is headed towards a Constitutional breakdown after its parliament decided to go ahead with a debate on January 10, on a report declared null and void by a Court.

The report, prepared by a Parliament Select Committee (PSC) which enquired into the allegations against Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake, held her guilty to a few of the 14 listed charges. Last week, the Sri Lankan Supreme Court determined that a PSC had “no legal authority” to declare guilty or pronounce a decision affecting the rights of the judge. Based on this, a Court of Appeal quashed the PSC report.

“The debate [in parliament] is unconstitutional,” said J.C.Weliamuna, lawyer, and a senior leader of Lawyers Collective, an organisation that stands for protecting the independence of the judiciary. “The highest court has decided that the impeachment is unlawful...A contempt of court can be filed anytime, up to 20 years from now since this is a criminal case,” he warned.

The Lawyers Collective said the entire legal system would collapse if Parliament went ahead with the debate. But the silver-lining, it said, was that this “illegal decision” could be reversed “one day”. The Collective is organising a march on January 10 to impress upon the government the need to refrain from precipitating the issue further.

Lawyers strike

“The Bar Association has decided to call for all its members [in 78 Branch Associations] to refrain from attending to any professional duty in protest on the 10th and 11th of January 2013 to express our deplorable condemnation,” said Sanjaya Gamag, secretary, Bar Association of Sri Lanka.

Meanwhile, Ms. Bandaranayake's lawyers told the press that she was willing to face “any independent enquiry”, and detailed why the charges against the CJ did not hold water.

Saliya Peiris, senior lawyer who is part of the CJ’s legal team said: “In the eyes of law there is no report.” Asked if contempt proceedings will be initiated against the PSC members, he said this would be decided in due course.

At the other end of the spectrum, an ex-servicemen collective held a press conference to tell the people that the hard-fought victory of May 2009 (against the Tamil Tigers) was being squandered away. They contended that Ms. Bandaranayake was wrong and that President Mahinda Rajapaksa was right.

Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, was quoted in the media as saying efforts were being made through the judiciary to destabilise Sri Lanka.

More In: International | News