By Kamal Nissanka –
The controversy regarding the impeachment of the chief justice is strongly debated in many corners and general public is holding the view that the government has messed up everything with this unnecessary manure. The debate is also taking place in the international arena. The Canadian Bar Association has requested the Canadian government to re consider the participation of the Canadian Prime Minister at the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of State Meeting in Sri Lanka. United Nations Special Rapporteur on Independence of judges and Lawyers Ms Gabriela Knaul has requested the Sri Lanka government not to attack the judiciary and the bar. Bar Human rights Committee of England and Wales has also released very strong statement requesting the authorities to obey the Court of Appeal directives.
Starting from the attacks leveled at Mannar Magistrate Court and intimidating the Magistrate, things developed to assault Mr. Manjula Thilakarathne , Secretary to the Judicial Services Commission, with no trace of the culprits by the police or CID ,then threatening two lawyers Mr. Gunarathna Wanninayake and Mr. Wijedasa Rajapaksha also President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka with gun sound ,the authorities have shown the insane nature of their behavior. Then the stooge state media, print and electronic was insanely curry favoring the authorities began their campaigned mudslinging and slandering the judges and lawyers who were vehemently opposing the interference of judiciary and mechanism of rule of law by the excutive and through parliamentarians. Difficult to bear further the onslaught by the corrupt state media, an editor was charged for contempt of court. In the meantime the seven government parliament members who are also part of the prosecuting team started their ‘trial’ requesting the Chief Justice(CJ) to disprove the charges which were even unknown to the 117 signatories of the government parliamentary group. It is reported that two members of the Parliamentary select Committee (PSE) had verbally abused the CJ negating all rules adopted by United Nations and Commonwealth principles regarding the impeachment procedures of superior court judges. Humorous feelings are also not unknown during this whole saga of impeachment as “political and media pundits” including the government members of the PSE have now started to interpret the constitution of Sri Lanka , a job specially restricted to Supreme Court judges. These ‘prosecutors’ and ‘judges’ in the Parliament will soon assume the duties of’ hangman’ to get rid of CJ unless something cannot be predicted happen.
The United National Party leadership lost a golden opportunity to gather public opinion seemed to be in favor of the impeachment by endorsing the unconstitutional standing orders and toeing in line with the government and made a strategic blunder. The Bar Association of Sri Lanka initially dormant and lethargic came forward in the circumstances and at least at a later stage entered the battle initiated by the leading lawyers of repute.
It is no doubt under the prevailing conditions the parliamentary government group is not enjoying its independence of conscience and it seems that it is well controlled by the executive through various means especially through the puppet cabinet. Administrative branch of the government and the Police are highly politicized and already lost its independence and honored prestige. The defense sector is also well under control of the authorities. In Sri Lanka it is only the judiciary was able to maintain some degree of independence from political interference.
It is under this context that the authorities are intending to control the judiciary as they were not satisfied with the two judgments delivered on the “Divinaguma Bill”. With the ‘Divineguma”judgements authorities also feel that the devolution package passed at by the 13th amendment to the constitution is as a roadblock to their real political objectives and want to concentrate more and more power.
On the other side the decisions of ongoing cases at Supreme Court and Appeal Court will give binding decisions regarding all constitutional and natural justice issues surrounding the impeachment. Security of judges giving judgments against the views of the government is at stake and they may be targeted through fake impeachments.
Yet understanding the political dimension of the whole saga the probability is there to see the appearance of a stooge chief justice in the horizon. The would be chief justice may come from the Supreme Court itself, from the Attorney General’s department, or else may be selected from the unofficial bar. We should not forget that Sirima Bandaranaike administration in the seventies appointed an ex member of parliament t as a Supreme Court .Both Neville Samarakoon and Sarath Nanda Silva were political appointees in the beginning though later they had criticized or acted against respective executives.
The second wave of protests to safeguard the independence of judiciary and rule of law will be launched if the government continues to act on the decisions of its “kangaroo court” and later through a “Stooge Chief Justice”