Worried over the possibility of a Constitutional breakdown in Sri Lanka, Opposition leaders have requested Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa to call for an all-party meeting to discuss the “Constitutional issue that has arisen”.
A Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC), which probed a series of charges against Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake, held her guilty on three counts, on December 8. The charges included financial irregularities; conflict of interest; and failure to declare her assets. On January 7, the Court of Appeal quashed the PSC report. This followed the January 3 Supreme Court determination that the PSC had no legal authority to inquire into allegations against a judge.
Parliament ignored this decision and set January 10 and 11 as dates for a discussion on an impeachment motion against Ms. Bandaranayake. Opposition protested the decision, quoting former Speaker Anura Bandaranaike and the Judgment of Justice Amaratunga — spelling out the powers of Parliament.
The letter, signed by leaders of the Opposition, including Ranil Wickramasinghe and John Amaratunga (United National Party); Mavai Senathirajah and Suresh Premachandran (Tamil National Alliance); and Anura Kumara Dissanayake and Vijitha Herath (Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna), quoted the former Speaker’s Anura Bandaranaike’s decision: “The right to interpret the Constitution is the province solely of the Supreme Court that must not be disturbed and their learned decisions on interpretation must be treated with great respect. It is the interpretation of the Supreme Court that must stand……I should not make any ruling on this matter in following the Constitution, as it is a territory that is the exclusive preserve of the Supreme Court”.
The leaders contended that “no resolution for the removal of a Judge under Article 107(3) can be proceeded unless and until an independent body of persons is established by law. If the resolution is allowed to be proceeded without adhering to the above, it will amount to a serious violation of the Constitution and a breakdown of the rule of law. In these circumstances we request you to summon a Party Leaders’ Meeting to discuss this constitutional issue that has arisen”.
The ruling UPFA has more than a two-thirds majority in the 225-member legislature. An impeachment motion can be passed with a simple majority.