Mohan Peiris courted favour from President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and former President Chandrika Kumaratunga in a bid to retain his position as the Chief Justice after the new government came to power, Parliament was told yesterday.
Those included unscheduled visit by Peiris accompanied by his wife to President Sirisena on the night of January 21 only to be turned away, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said, making a special statement in response to a query raised by Leader of the Opposition Nimal Siripala de Silva and MEP Leader Dinesh Gunawardena the previous day.
The Prime Minister in a lengthy statement to the House explaining the circumstances that had led to the removal of Peiris and reinstatement of Dr. Shirani Bandaranayake as the Chief Justice said that Peiris had offered to give any judgment in favour of the new government if he was retained as Chief Justice till April this year.
“Then I told him that the Bar Association of Sri Lanka was demanding his removal from the office of Chief Justice. Thereafter, Peiris said that he was ready to step down from the post of Chief Justice if he received a diplomatic posting in a country such as Switzerland. I told him that I first had to consult Foreign Affairs Minister Mangala Samaraweera to check whether any such vacancy was available in the Foreign Service. Then Peiris said that he would step down once he was informed of the details of the diplomatic posting. When I contacted Foreign Minister Samaraweera in this regard, I was told that there were two vacancies for diplomatic postings in Vietnam and Brazil and position of Lankan Ambassador to Italy would fall vacant soon. I coveyed this to Peiris and suggested that he would take the position of Sri Lankan Ambassador to Brazil. He was not satisfied with that offer. Later, I instructed Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe to inform Peiris that Ambassador post in Rome would be vacant in few weeks’ time. Minister Rajapakshe told me that he had conveyed the message to Peiris and he was waiting for Peiris’ response.”
Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said that BASL seniors had pointed out to him that appointing Peiris to the office of the Chief Justice was not legal and he should leave the office forthwith. “They pointed out to me that removal of Shirani Bandaranayake from her office was bad in law and therefore she was still the Chief Justice of the country. The proper method of removing a judge had not been followed when she was removed from office. Since Bandaranayake had not been removed from office following the proper method, the appointment granted to Peiris was null and void.”
Wickremesnghe said that the BASL had been concerned about the presence of Peiris at Temple Trees during the wee hours of January 9, 2015. “Senior lawyers and the BASl told me that presence of chief justice at the house of a presidential candidate while votes were being counted was unbecoming. The CID is currently carrying out an investigation following a complaint lodged by Minister Samaraweera in this regard. The name of Mohan Peiris is associated with several companies. He not only served as a director at Rakna Lanka Private Company, Lanka Logistics Company but also still a major shareholder.”
The Premier said that Peiris holding the office of Chief Justice had paved way for a conflict between lawyers and courts. “His conduct plunged the country’s judicial system into a crisis. His unconstitutional appointment and conduct have ruined the good name of the office of Chief Justice. After consulting the Solicitor General, the National Executive Council decided that correct action to be taken was by informing Peiris that his appointment was null and void. The President accepted that decision and conveyed that message to Peiris and informed Bandaranayke to resume duties at the office of Chief Justice as she was still the legally appointed Chief Justice of the country. I would like to remind that the BASL had been fighting against the removal of Bandaranayake from her office and did not accept Peiris as the Chief Justice for the past two years.”
By Saman Indrajith / The Island