The Post-Impeachment Future and the Role of the Judiciary
| by Jayantha Dhanapala and Suriya Wickremasinghe
( January 27, 2013, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) In several previous statements the Friday Forum expressed its deep concern about, and its opposition to, the manner in which Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake was impeached. The entire episode deeply offends all sense of decency and fairplay; it has also earned the opprobrium of responsible international bodies.
Citizens no longer can rely on fundamental principles of democratic governance to protect their rights and liberties. The manner in which the ruling political group flouted norms of democratic governance and political decency was unprecedented and unacceptable.
The politically charged nature of the impeachment, the denial of natural justice guarantees to the Chief Justice and the crude manner in which she was addressed during the Parliamentary Select Committee hearings, the manner in which the ruling party blatantly disregarded the constitutional powers of the Supreme Court, the use of police powers to stifle protest and free movement, and the use of goon squads to vilify and drive fear into those opposed to the impeachment process in the presence of police officers who were humiliated by their helplessness, were all blows dealt to the citizenry by the ruling political group. The principle of separation of powers lies in tatters as Parliament, by all appearances, is acting as nothing but an appendage of the Executive.
In this political landscape, it is the resolute actions of the judiciary that gives a glimmer of hope to the people of Sri Lanka. The judiciary did not cave into the wishes of the Executive as did Parliament. The Courts stood their ground despite the pressures under which we presume they had to function during the impeachment. That can be said irrespective of whether one agrees or disagrees with the judicial opinions expressed by the courts on the constitutionality of the impeachment process.
As citizens we take heart that at least one branch of the government has displayed its determination not to succumb to the gravitational pull of the Executive during this crisis. Our hope is that the independence of the judiciary remains strong in the difficult period that awaits us. We do not underestimate the challenges lying ahead. The judiciary now has to contend with a Chief Justice whose appointment is fraught with controversy and whose previous partiality toward the Executive is under scrutiny.
The country relies on the judiciary to uphold the Constitution and to exercise the judicial power it holds in trust for the people without fear or favour. Failure would result in a disaster for the nation that will take generations to put right.