Let us not be unduly disturbed: Let us move on

| by Hana Ibrahim

( January 7, 2013, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The Supreme Court on Thursday delivered its determination that the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) which probed the charges in the impeachment motion against Chief Justice Dr. Shirani Bandaranayake was unconstitutional.

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The decision coming from the highest Court in the land settles once and for all, the drama that has been going on for the last few months; and everyone in the country is bound to abide by its decision just like all other decisions made by that august body before.

Unfortunately, persons whose egos have been hurt by the historic decision have been publicly voicing their dissent against the determination which, under normal circumstances, would have been considered as contempt of court.

Justifying the action taken by the government in this matter, Prof. G.L. Peiris at a meeting with the diplomatic community in Colombo recently is reported to have said, the tenure of judges was secured until they reached the age of retirement which, in the case of judges of the Supreme Court, was 65 years and that there was no provision to remove a judge of the Supreme Court or the Court of Appeal without a motion being approved by a majority in Parliament on grounds of misbehaviour or incapacity which was to stress the point that the power of impeachment clearly lays with the Parliament.

The learned Professor in this instance has been explaining to the diplomatic corps about the procedure involved in the removal of judges which the government for all visible purposes has adhered to the last letter.

This was also the position taken up by Minister Anura Priyadharshana Yapa, the Chairman of the PSC, which was to convince the people that proper procedure has been followed in impeaching the CJ. But the recent revelation, that the impeachment motion first originated as a list of signatures on a blank sheet of paper and that the charges were put in later, comes as a shock to the people of this country.

Prof. G.L.Peiris, conveying Sri Lanka’s response to the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Gabriela Knual’s letter which expressed serious concern about the impeachment proceedings and the intimidation and attacks against judges and lawyers, has said, the impeachment of the CJ was undertaken according to the correct domestic procedures, which makes a mockery of all procedures followed in Sri Lanka. Such a statement emanating from a person of the stature of Prof. Peiris, a professor of law, is something to be despised.

That the charges against the CJ were not known to the 117 Members of Parliament when they signed on a blank sheet of paper shows that these legislators who were put into power by the people were either acting irresponsibly or were lured into this damning exercise by coercion or promise of rewards is a matter for conjecture; and that 80% of the legislators have not even had a casual glance of the contents of the report of the PSC even after two weeks of it being distributed to them is indeed a matter for surprise.

At a media briefing held recently, Minister Susil Premajayantha saying, that there was no necessity to prove the charges against the CJ as the inquiry by the PSC was only a legislative process and not a legal probe sounds really farcical and goes beyond all tenets of natural justice. It is in this situation that the PSC has summoned witnesses to testify against her ex parte after she had walked out of the inquiry, and then issuing a report, finding her guilty of three out of the five charges inquired into, all go to prove prejudice and revenge.

The report of the PSC is to be taken up in Parliament for debate in the next few days and it is doubtful that a proper debate would take place other than rile the CJ for the Supreme Court having taken an independent stance on matters that came up before it in recent times.

Despite whatever that has been said before, it would be wise for the President to act as a statesman in the face of the Supreme Court determination, and let the motion lapse by proroguing Parliament, so that everyone would come out of it unscathed.

( The writer is the editor, Ceylon Today, a daily based in Colombo, where this piece originally appeared)

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