Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has rebuffed suggestions for a compromise to ward off a legislature-judiciary stand-off later this week.
The Parliament had decided to debate a report to impeach Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake on January 10 and 11, Deputy Speaker of Parliament Chandima Weerakkody said.
“[Mr.] Rajapaksa told inter-religious leaders yesterday [Sunday] that the international community had no basis to criticise constitutional procedures adopted in this exercise,” The Daily Mirror newspaper reported. “The President said the procedure laid down in the Constitution had been followed in conducting inquiries into charges against the Chief Justice, and therefore the international community could not find fault with it,” it added.
Government Ministers on Monday asserted that all rules had been followed in bringing the impeachment motion brought against Ms. Bandaranayake, the first woman Chief Justice of Sri Lanka.
The opposition walked out of an all-party meeting protesting the government’s refusal to accept the January 3 Supreme Court determination — that the PSC had no legal authority to inquire into allegations against a judge. A vote on the impeachment motion will be held on January 11 after the debate.
The government has more than a two-thirds majority in the 225-member legislature.
Court quashes report
Though the government has refused to abide by its rulings on the impeachment issue, the Court of Appeal on Monday quashed the report of the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC), appointed to probe charges in the impeachment motion.
Ms. Bandaranayake, appointed judge with no experience in the Bench or the Bar, was found guilty on three counts by the PSC on December 8. The charges against her included financial irregularities, conflict of interest, and failure to declare her assets.
The Sri Lankan Judicial Services Association and the Bar Association of Sri Lanka have opposed her removal. Lawyers supporting her believe that her ruling last year against a bill proposing the allocation of development funds worth 80 billion Lankan rupees (34 million Indian rupees) to one Ministry is the root cause of the impeachment motion.
Her ruling called for the Divineguma Bill to be approved by all nine provincial councils.
Senior government functionaries dispute this theory, contending that corruption charges against her, unearthed by Members of Parliament, resulted in the impeachment motion.
The Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, has begun an online petition urging the United Nations and the United States to intervene. Already, the U.S., the U.N. and the Commonwealth have raised concerns about the impeachment process. India and China have not commented on the issue. India maintains that the impeachment is an internal matter of Sri Lanka.
“Since the Chief Justice is challenging the legality of her removal from office and the entire process held unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka, the ALRC fears that the Chief Justice will be removed from office by force and a new Chief Justice who is willing to oppose the judgment of the Supreme Court appointed,” said the Asian Legal Resource Centre in a statement. “The resulting chaotic situation will be disastrous to the rule of law and democracy in Sri Lanka,” it added.