The devastating impeachment of the Chief Justice in Sri Lanka

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The devastating impeachment of the Chief Justice in Sri Lanka

By Groundviews

Groundviews interviewed Asanga Welikala, a Senior Researcher at the Centre for Policy Alternatives (the institutional anchor of Groundviews) on the unprecedented constitutional crisis that has gripped Sri Lanka.

For ease of access, engagement and virality on the web, Asanga’s remarkably frank and insightful interview is broken up into segments based on the questions he was asked.

  • Please outline the seriousness of the present constitutional imbroglio regarding the impeachment of the Chief Justice. Why should the ordinary citizen care about what is going on?
  • Many in the South, who consume State media, believe that Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake was corrupt, and therefore feel it is justified she was impeached. What is your response to this widespread perception?
  • Since the announcement of the impeachment proceedings (which I understand is a constitutional and provided for in the law) was there anything that could have been done differently to avoid what we are facing today?
  • Do the fundamental problems arising from and seriousness of the current constitutional crisis require a rewrite of [Political Science] textbooks in school?
  • Given that we are facing an unprecedented constitutional crisis, what options are there for a restoration of faith in the independence of the judiciary?
  • Some of those who oppose the impeachment are arguably compromising the position of Chief Justice by politicking with her, a state of affairs that she, by lack of any distancing, is actively encouraging? Why are no objections on this?
  • A Fundamental Rights petition has been filed by the Centre for Alternatives (CPA) today seeking to restrain the Parliamentary Council from considering the appointment of a new Chief Justice and restrain Mohan Peiris from functioning as the CJ on the basis that there is no vacancy. The Parliamentary Council has approved the nomination of Mohan Peiris as the new CJ. What now?
  • Deputy Speaker Chandima Weerkkody is quoted in the media noting that the appointment of a new Chief Justice would be done by the President and that appointment could not be challenged before a court of law. Deputy Speaker Weerakkody said that when the then President Chandrika Kumaratunga appointed Shirani Bandaranayke, a Supreme Court judge in 1996, some parties had challenged the appointment in the Supreme Court which had given a determination that the Presidential appointments could not be challenged. What is your take on this?
  • On 14 January 2013, the President, after meeting with the Bar Association averred that “The impeachment process was carried out strictly according to the current Constitution. There may be imperfections with our Constitution. No country has a constitution that is perfect, but we have to follow it.” What is your response to this assertion?
  • What to make of the Opposition’s (i.e. the United National Party’s) confused and confusing approach to the impeachment process?
  • Can Sri Lanka legitimately host the Commonwealth Summit if there is no independent judiciary and with a debilitating breakdown in constitutional governance? What are the implications of the present context over 2013 and beyond?

Click here for full interview.


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A legal primer: The impeachment of the Chief Justice in Sri Lanka

By Groundviews

Groundviews interviewed Luwie Ganeshathasan, a Researcher in the Legal and Constitutional Unit of the Centre for Policy Alternatives (the institutional home of this website), on several key issues arising from the impeachment proceedings against the current Chief Justice of Sri Lanka, Shirani Bandaranayake.

Read more here.


The consequences of the Black Friday impeachment will be game changing

By Harsha de Silva Ph.D.

The assumption is that the judiciary would now fall in line with the wishes of the government due to fear of reprisal. While the Black Friday Impeachment is another step towards achieving the objectives of this autocratic government by taking away the freedom and liberties of citizens I have the confidence that the judiciary would have the strength to stand up against the impending juggernaut.

As a member of parliament I am of the firm belief that the legislature has certain powers that it can exercise without the interference of any other institution. However, I am also of the firm belief that the no ruling party must ever use the majority it enjoys in the legislature to undermine the freedom and liberties that citizens of this country are born with. Consequences of the Black Friday Impeachment will certainly be significant and game changing.

Harsha de Sila, Ph.D.
Member of Parliament and Consultant Economist

Read full submission here.

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An unprecedented constitutional crisis in Sri Lanka elicits a yawn

By Groundviews

Sri Lanka’s Parliament debated the impeachment of the country’s Chief Justice over two days last week.

In the course of these debates, and akin to the critical submissions by him during the equally chaotic and pivotal debate on the 18th Amendment in September 2010, Tamil National Alliance MP M.A. Sumanthiran delivered one of the most widely quoted speeches against the impeachment and in particular, the Icarean stance of the President and members of the ruling party that Parliament was above and beyond the purview of the Courts.

After announcing that it would be Sumanthiran’s turn to speak, and in the midst of mindless shouting and general chaos in the Chambers, presiding over one of the most important debates in Parliament ever, what does the Deputy Speaker do?

He yawns.

Read full article here.


Appointment of the new Chief Justice in Sri Lanka: Resistance should continue

By Jude Fernando

In the short term we must continue to reject the new Chief Justice. We must hold to account those who ignored court orders and insulted the judiciary, those who were in contempt of court. The opposition parties should bring a motion of no confidence against the regime for abusing and insulting the supremacy of the Parliament and illegality of the impeachment process.

Our efforts will bear no fruit unless we can educate the public about the gravity of the predicament that the country faces. We must mobilise them into a mass movement if we want to force the government to change its behaviour. Strength of such a movement also requires getting principled support from the international community.

Read more here.

All content published Creative Commons License | | 2013

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