|CJ Shirani Bandaranayake|
December 7, 2012
The United States Embassy remains 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.
Opposition members withdraw from PSC
CJ explains why she walked out
The Chief Justice reiterated that she is innocent of the false charges made against her and is always willing to face any impartial tribunal in order to vindicate herself, a statement issued by Lawyers Collective, an umbrella organization of a numbers of lawyers’ associations and independent lawyers.
Describing the events that led the CJ’s decision to walk out of the PSC, Lawyers Collective stated as follows. The PSC was requested as far back as November 20 to furnish the information required to reply the allegations. This information was never provided. When the PSC commenced sitting on November 23, 2012, her counsel had had requested that a list of witnesses and a list of documents relied upon in support of the allegations be made available.
It is common knowledge that even in a disciplinary inquiry in the public service or a trivial criminal case that a respondent or accused is furnished with a list of witnesses and documents so that they could prepare for the defence, it observed. The PSC failed to meet this basic requirement at any of its sitting. On Thursday, December 6 about 4pm, the PSC had handed over a bundle of documents consisting of approximately 1000 pages and required the chief justice to respond by 1.30 pm tomorrow, i.e. in less than 24 hours. It was obvious that a majority of the members of the PSC had no real intention to give the chief justice a fair hearing.
In addition to the above, at various stages of the proceedings of the PSC, two members hurled abuse at the Chief Justice and her lawyers and it became evident that these members had been mandated to ridicule the head of the judiciary and the legal profession. The Select Committee was requested numerous times to formulate the procedure that it intended to follow. There was no response to this request until today.
On Thursday, when this request was repeated, the Chairman of the PSC stated that no oral evidence would be led to establish the allegations and, consequently no opportunity would be given to cross examine such witnesses making the allegations. Instead it became evident today that the Chief Justice was expected to refute allegations that had not even been supported by evidence. Such an irregular and unlawful procedure would undermine every single independent judge in Sri Lanka. In almost all instances the same members of the PSC, who were in majority, overruled the submissions made on behalf of the Chief Justice without cogent reasons and often without any prior consultation with the other members.
It is for the above reasons that the Counsel for the CJ had requested to waive the secrecy provisions and sought an open and public inquiry and requested for independent observers to watch the proceedings, but this request was also refused by a majority of the PSC. In the face of the above no right thinking person could any longer continue to accept the legitimacy of a body steeped in partiality and hostility towards the head of the judiciary and in this background the chief justice and her counsel had no alternative but to withdraw from participating in the select committee.
The CJ reiterated that she is willing continue to face any impartial and lawful tribunal as is done in other commonwealth countries as was proposed in the draft constitution of August 2000 in order to vindicate herself and she will continue in her efforts to safeguard the independence of the judiciary, which is a heritage of the people of Sri Lanka, who alone are the sovereign of this country.