BT Poll on removal of the Chief Justice Unlimited presidential terms, a leader who behaves like a dictator and a government ‘caring a damn’ about international opinion over the impeachment of Shirani Bandaranayake, who says she is still the chief justice, were among the many comments the Business Times received in this week’s email poll. [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Public outrage over ‘unfair’ trial for Shirani Bandaranayake


BT Poll on removal of the Chief Justice

Unlimited presidential terms, a leader who behaves like a dictator and a government ‘caring a damn’ about international opinion over the impeachment of Shirani Bandaranayake, who says she is still the chief justice, were among the many comments the Business Times received in this week’s email poll.

Shirani Bandaranayake leaves her official residence

The poll was on the removal of the chief justice through an impeachment motion. (See Page 1 for results of the poll)
Here are excerpts of the comments.

On the procedure adopted in the impeachment:

-The procedure according to the 1978 Constitution was in order. However the argument by the legislature that the Standing Orders of Parliament is above the law is not in line with the supreme powers of the people particularly after the Supreme Court which is assigned by the Constitution to interpret the Constitution (which is supreme) and the Court of Appeal squashed the report of the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) and declared the PSC as an illegal body. The legislature with its steamroller majority can now act dictatorially and completely destroy its political opponents. This is the first step towards a dictatorial regime. The opposition in Parliament has lost its clout to debate any controversial issue such as this impeachment, in the future. The legislature that upholds the unalienable powers of the people is also skewed due to the fact that at the 2010 General Election, UPFA parliamentarians came to power on the back of defeating the LTTE, and after imprisoning the former Army Commander who is the major architect of the victory, and also giving false promises.

It is not fair for the Speaker to blame the 1978 Constitution but to accept that the UPFA used its steam roller majority to impeach the Chief Justice for political reasons. Everyone knows that this same Chief Justice did not object to the passing of the draconian 18 Amendment to the Constitution and as a favour the husband of the Chief Justice was first appointed to the Insurance Corporation and subsequently as Chairman of the National Savings Bank. The question that any intelligent person should ask is why the Chief Justice, appointed by the President under the 18 Amendment on 18 May 2011, fell into disrepute within a matter of 18 months to call for her impeachment?

The only conclusion anyone can come to is that this unconstitutional act was politically motivated and if the Chief Justice was found to be corrupt, action should have been taken earlier. It is disgusting that the Chairman of the PSC visited depositors who had invested in the failed Golden Key company and had camped out at the former Chief Justice’s residence for days demanding her removal. He celebrated the removal and even ate kiribath with the protestors. This proves how viciously and with impunity, revenge and hatred this Government will act if anyone goes against its wishes.

-The procedure was correct but everybody knows the first step was in the complaint made to Bribery Commission against her husband so that everything can be connected to it.

-I haven’t studied the Constitution but from all that has been said and written, the Constitution appears to have been interpreted to suit the Government’s needs.

On whether she received a fair trial:

-She did not fully participate at the PSC hearings to assess whether she got a fair trial or not.

-The CJ had been called to answer 17 charges. However, within a matter of days it was clear the PSC represented by 7 UPFA members including two biased members – barring however the opposition members – was out for revenge. The un-parliamentary language used on the CJ is shocking and completely unbecoming of parliamentarians who are the representatives of the people. The Speaker did not take any action and this too clearly proved that the PSC was determined to get its pound of flesh from the CJ .Any person who thinks rationally will definitely conclude that the former CJ was not given a fair trial. The main objective of the Government was to remove the CJ before the Divi Niguma Bill was passed with its steam roller majority in Parliament.

-At least in the case of Gen. Sarath Fonseka there was a resemblance of a trial. No one also had access to the PSC sittings.

-Not all accusations were investigated properly with evidence and proof. The PSC rushed the proceedings and she was not given a fair trial.

-The former CJ passed the 18th which was then used against her. You reap what you sow.

-Everyone us has the right to have a fair and free trial. It is sad that Sri Lanka’s first woman CJ has to be impeached. The right thing would have been for the CJ to step down instead of going through this nasty episode.

-Other externalities also has vested interest in unsettling the country’s status quo.

On whether the decision would have grave consequences for Sri Lanka:

-This will all be forgotten in less than a month.

-The current regime does not care about the international repercussions and firmly believes that Sri Lanka can live “alone” in the world with the support of a few corrupt regimes. Look at the Supreme Court (of Pakistan) judgment given this week to arrest the Prime Minister of Pakistan. That is how the judiciary should prevail. But with the 18th amendment of the Constitution, (which was ironically “not looked at seriously” by the Supreme Court) in place, nothing can be done to safeguard an independent judiciary in this country. Sad but true.

-This has grave consequences for citizens of Sri Lanka since the principle of ‘RIGHT IS MIGHT’ has now been established up to the Supreme Court in place of justice.

-We are proving how unlawful we are in a civilized world.

-The decision of the PSC and subsequently by the President will have severe and irreparable consequences. Most of the foreign companies will think twice before investing in Sri Lanka as our country has become a lawless state. A good example is the tourist industry. More than the investments mainly from China, some of the high flying tourists will not visit Sri Lanka. There is also a danger that the conference of Commonwealth Heads of State will be boycotted by some Heads of State and Canada has already indicated its displeasure on the removal of the CJ.

The Secretary General of the Commonwealth Office has also written to the government about the displeasure of the removal of the CJ. Further the International Court of Justice (ICJ) the highest international court established by the UN has indicated its displeasure on the impeachment and this will have wider ramifications under our track record of violation of human rights. The US Embassy has warned that the rash decision of the government will discourage foreign investment. it is very likely that the EU will impose more sanctions and also the former CJ is likely to submit her unlawful removal to the Human Rights Council in Geneva and call for compensation. By the rash and dictatorial decisions of this Government we have turned out to be a rogue, a banana republic and a failed state where justice fairplay and dignity of its people are completely eroded. With the Constitution being blatantly disregarded the Government of Sri Lanka has taken the first step to a ruthless dictatorship and if this trend is not checked by the international community we will have another Idi Amin or even another Gaddafi.

-Why worry when we have friends in China, Iran and Russia?

-At this rate how can an ordinary citizen expect law and order and justice?

-Apart from the domestic factor of the bastions of democracy, there would be an international impact as well an impact on foreign direct investment. If judicial decisions are not upheld there would always be a concern with regard to justice.

-Will the judges and the Bar use the recent events, culminating in the ouster of the CJ, to reassert the independence of the Judiciary? If they buckle under pressure the outcome will be negative.

-This is probably the worst political decision made in contemporary Sri Lanka. You don’t really need constitutional interpretations to understand that this was pre-conceived and carefully deliberated to oust the incumbent to make way for the passage of new laws to govern us which will surely follow. The new appointment is glaring evidence of events to unfold. The trumped up charges were meant only for the purpose of executing the plan. There is no one to effectively educate the public.

-Sri Lanka’s durable growth and prosperity depends on the rule of law and property rights; these are to be ensured through the maintenance of an independent judiciary and investors will take the current developments as inimical to both. Under these circumstances, it is only thieves who will invest because they will find the system very conducive for them.

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