President of Sri Lanka Dismisses Chief Justice – NYT
By GARDINER HARRIS
NEW DELHI — President Mahinda Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka removed the nation’s chief justice from office on Sunday in the culmination of a widely criticized impeachment process that has crippled the nation’s courts and may precipitate a constitutional crisis.
Mr. Rajapaksa’s decision to sign a decree dismissing Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake came two days after Parliament, packed with Rajapaksa loyalists, voted to impeach her in defiance of a Court of Appeals ruling. The court had nullified the verdict of a parliamentary panel that had found the chief justice guilty of financial irregularities. Separately, the Supreme Court had ruled that the impeachment process was illegal.
Religious leaders, pro-democracy activists and lawyers groups have denounced the impeachment process as a naked power grab by Mr. Rajapaksa and members of his family who serve in his government. Lawyers across Sri Lanka boycotted courts on Thursday and Friday in protest.
Many lawyers have vowed to oppose anyone appointed to fill the chief justice’s post. Ms. Bandaranayake was seen as a Rajapaksa loyalist until she ruled in September that Mr. Rajapaksa’s younger brother, Basil Rajapaksa, needed to submit a $600 million development bill to the nation’s nine provincial councils before it could be approved.
In November, the governing party filed impeachment motions against her, and in December a parliamentary panel appointed by another of the president’s brothers found her guilty.
The United States government has repeatedly expressed concern about the impeachment process. Ms. Bandaranayake has yet to announce whether she will accept the president’s decision to remove her from office. She had earlier protested the rapidity of the parliamentary proceedings and her inability to confront or cross-examine her accusers.
President Rajapaksa and his government ended one of the world’s longest and bloodiest civil wars in 2009 by defeating the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, bringing stability to much of the country and increasing opportunities for tourism. But he and his brothers have been accused of being involved in unlawful killings of civilians, and a United Nations panel ruled that accusations of war crimes against the Sri Lankan government were credible and should be investigated.
Sri Lankan president dismisses nation’s first female chief justice – LA Times
By Mark Magnier
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa sacked the nation’s first female chief justice Sunday despite protests by lawyers, human rights groups and clergy members, including some concerned over the growing clout of the president and his family.
Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake’s dismissal, effective immediately, occurred when Rajapaksa ratified a Friday parliamentary vote to impeach her on corruption charges. She has denied the charges made by a parliament dominated by Rajapaksa supporters.
The president’s ratification follows a standoff between the judiciary and the government over Bandaranayake, 54, who in recent months has issued rulings against the government. Most notable of these was her ruling in September that a development bill proposed by the president’s brother, economic development minister Basil Raja, face approval by local councils. The government has denied the impeachment is related to her rulings against the government.
Sri Lanka’s Supreme and Appeals courts ruled last month that her impeachment was unconstitutional.
The United States and the U.N. have voiced concern for the integrity of justice in the country in light of the case.
The three charges leveled by parliament against Bandaranayake in December, of the 14 originally considered, were related to financial impropriety based on non-declaration of assets and conflict of interest involving a case over a failed investment company.
Bandaranayake did not comment initially on her dismissal Sunday.
On several occasions, the government has encouraged thousands of its supporters to demonstrate publicly against Bandaranayake. “The president has said … that he was in agreement with the request for the removal of the chief justice from office,” Rajapaksa’s office said Sunday in a statement.
Some analysts have warned that Bandaranayake’s dismissal could spark a constitutional standoff and leave the courts largely inoperable. Lawyers boycotted court proceedings Thursday and Friday over the impeachment issue.
Some Sri Lankan attorneys, including members of Lawyers Collective, a judiciary activist group, have urged judges and lawyers not to recognize Bandaranayake’s replacement, who will be named by the president.
“The politically motivated process of removal of the chief justice was nothing but a misuse and abuse of constitutional provisions,” the lawyers collective said Sunday in a statement.
Rajapaksa, elected in 2005, and his brothers have enjoyed strong domestic support after they brought to an end a civil war that lasted nearly a quarter of a century by defeating the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or Tamil Tigers.
But they’ve been accused of overseeing toward the end of the war the unlawful killing of civilians by security forces and paramilitary groups allied with the government, charges the government has strongly denied. A United Nations panel has said that war crimes accusations against the Sri Lankan government were credible and should be investigated.
Sri Lankan president ratifies chief justice’s dismissal in impeachment standoff with judiciary – Washington Post
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka’s president on Sunday signed a decree to dismiss the country’s chief justice, the official government website said. The move came after Parliament voted overwhelmingly to remove the chief justice in a widely criticized impeachment process.
It was the final step to dismiss Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake by the government following a bitter dispute with the judiciary.
Jurists and activists have said the impeachment is illegal and that any attempt to appoint a new chief justice could precipitate a constitutional crisis. They consider the impeachment process a move by the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa to ensure a servile judiciary.
A parliamentary committee last month found Bandaranayake guilty of amassing unexplained wealth and misuse of power. Bandaranayake walked out of the proceeding, saying she was not given a fair hearing.
An appeals court quashed the committee’s guilty verdict against Bandaranayake after the Supreme Court declared that the inquiry committee had no legal powers to investigate Bandaranayake. Activists say Parliament had violated the constitution when they voted to approve the guilty verdict on Friday.
Many senior lawyers have asked Supreme Court judges not to sit with a new chief justice saying the appointment would be illegal.