The Commonwealth Secretariat has released an official statement revealing Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma’s response to an exclusive report by Colombo Telegraph that his office buried legal opinions commissioned by the Secretariat about the Sri Lankan Government’s impeachment of its Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake.
Commonwealth Spokesman Richard Uku said the communications had been provided in confidence to Secretary General Sharma.
In a statement released on the Secretariat’s official website, Uku said that a number of reports and opinions were requested and received about the removal of Bandaranayake.
Uku refers to the impeached Sri Lankan Chief Justice as the “former” CJ of Sri Lanka even though her sacking was declared invalid and illegal by the country’s highest courts of law, making the appointment of her successor unconstitutional.
“It is Commonwealth practice to ensure that the Secretary-General is as well informed as possible when determining the most effective way in which he can assist in politically sensitive situations,” Richard Uku’s statement said.
Communications which are provided in confidence to the Secretary-General are treated as internal documents and protected accordingly,” he explained.
The Commonwealth Spokesman said it would be injurious to the discretion, and ultimately the effectiveness of the Secretary-General if information of this kind were to be released.
Uku does not respond in his statement to criticism against the Secretary General for failing to disclosing those legal opinions even to the powerful Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group that met in April this year and conducted long discussions on Sri Lanka. Canadian High Commissioner in London Gordan Campbell, wrote to Sharma in May, asking to see the documents, which he said were germane to the CMAG’s discussions on Sri Lanka.
Last week Colombo Telegraph exclusively revealed that Secretary General Sharma had commissioned legal opinions on the Sri Lankan impeachment process against Bandaranayake which his office had then hidden, even from CMAG, to the deep disappointment of some of the Foreign Ministers within the grouping. Speculation is rife in London diplomatic circles that Sharma failed to disclose the reports to CMAG because the opinions contained the views that the impeachment process was flawed and did not abide by the Commonwealth principles on ensuring the independence of the judiciary. Sharma has been criticised for soft-peddling the Commonwealth response to Sri Lanka’s human rights and democracy record as the country prepares to host the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in November this year.