19 September, 2019

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Constitution Impeached!

By Malinda Seneviratne –

Malinda Seneviratne

It is now official.  The Executive-Judicial clash is heading towards denouement and one that is not hard to call.  We’ll get to that later.

Chief Justice Neville Samarakoon escaped the ignominy of impeachment by resigning.  Chief Justice Sarath N Silva was spared by the Parliament being prorogued first and then dissolved.  In the case of the former, the Executive had sway over the necessary numbers in Parliament.  In the case of the latter, the mover, Ranil Wickremesinghe didn’t have the numbers and didn’t have the support of the Executive, Chandrika Kumaratunga.  When Silva ruled to snub Kumaratunga, she couldn’t think impeachment because she didn’t have impeaching numbers.  Today it is Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake who is in the dock.   In a context where regime popularity is hinged on the popularity of the President and therefore the political fortunes of ruling party MPs are tied to him remaining in power, the Executive has a vice like grip on the legislative branch.  The Executive, moreover, has the numbers that neither Wickremesinghe nor Kumaratunga had.  As such, things look bleak for the Chief Justice.

There are howls of protests of course, but not all the protestors have moral right on their side.  Silva himself had his ups and downs as well as his sideways ways including encroachment on executive territory.  Among those who object to the current moves against the Chief Justice are those who sought to bring down Silva but forgave and forgot the moment Silva fell out with the Executive following the classic ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’ formula.

Many who are shedding tears for the Chief Justice today, howled in protest when she was first appointed to the Supreme Court.  ‘Political appointee!’ was the scream back then.  Morality was cited by the objectors who pointed out that the lady’s husband was a high ranking government servant.  They later even salivated when her husband, who was Chairman of the National Savings Bank, was implicated in a 390 million rupee deal in the stock market.

On the other hand, the current investigation of the husband, following the much publicized Executive-Judicial spat and the subsequent impeachment move, says a lot about selectivity and even revenge-intent.   The message that is not spelled out but is nevertheless clear is, ‘We can just get along, but if we can’t, there’ll be arm-twisting, and if that doesn’t work, well, we have the numbers and the law’.

It doesn’t make it morally right though.  It is morally wrong to subject the Chief Justice to a witch hunt, for that is what is has amounted to.  It may be legal, but still the use of available mechanism to get rid of her without any mention of ‘reason’ or transgression on her part, makes a bad, bad, bad precedent.  The howlers don’t have the moral authority either, given their flip-flopping nature on issues of this kind and the fact that they’ve been consistently motivated by matters of political expediency and not issues of legality and morality.    If indeed, as alleged, the Chief Justice is inept or guilty of wrongdoing, the process that seated her in that august office must be flawed.  If unseating is simply a matter of leveraging numerical edge, that too indicates mechanism-flaw.

Perhaps these developments, in the end, serve only to strip the 1978 Constitution to its iron-like bones, demonstrating that for all the sway and punch of the judicial and legislative arms, the executive can be too a heavy a weight to budge.   It boils down to presidential discretion and that shows constitutional error and poverty.  We can curse the Second Republican Constitution and its architects.  We can find the gripe of its never-envisaged victims (the UNP) amusing.  None of this requires us to cheer the current and principal beneficiary.
Simply, the constitution and by extension, its props and beneficiaries stand impeached.Morally.

*The Nation editorial – Malinda Seneviratne is the Chief Editor of ‘The Nation and his articles can be found at www.malindawords.blogspot.com .

Related posts;

Not Only The Chairman Husband; Chief Justice Wife Must Also Resign! by Uvindu Kurukulasuriya

Chief Justice Or Her Husband Must Resign by Uvindu Kurukalsuriya 

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Latest comments

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    You are extending your privilege out past the atmosphere and that itself is nothing but codswallop -expression of human immaturity.

    When there are contradictions always look in your own home where the answer always lies- Only revolutions have created comprehensive constitutions.

    Nobody in their right sense wastes time in the person but always in the position they hold.

    Perhaps it’s your Hitler oriented village background to highlight poppycock.

    • 0
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      I agree wholeheartedly with Wuliangguobinjiu. This is a load of poppycock with a capital ‘P’.

    • 0
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      Hey buddy

      This writer hails from Colombo , he doesn’t have village background as you say

      • 0
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        As if you knew which family and which place you would be born!;)

        Oxford is yet more expensive than Harvard.Shrub too studied at Harvard and came out with flying colures.Oxford produced bLiar the man who could who could answer without answering. Both international war criminals; alas just one still has diplomatic immunity for life.

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    If proof be needed of this man’s ability to perform every turn and twist in the book of ethical gymnastics, here is yet another example.
    The REAL tragedy, though, is that CT continues to publish the sick outpourings of this Rajapaksa sycophant.

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    The Current Chief Justice Shiranee Bandaranayake has clearly been through a learning curve and hence although tainted is the best we’ve got since anything that is appointed by the dictator after her would be worse! It is indeed Hobson’s choice!
    But the second point is that Novard Cabraa at the Central Bank who has lost Lanka and tax payers billions of rupees and Rajapassa and his brothers need to be impeached first! Right now it is clearly a SEXIST witch hunt and must be stopped.
    And by the way, what are those bloody women’s NGOs who are payed big bucks by donors to globe trot and conference-hop doing? They should be protesting the attack on the country’s first woman CJ!

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    People in important positions get themselves wrapped up in all sorts of dodgy situations that make them vulnerable to abuse by those above them. In this case the Chief Justice’s husband’s corrupt deals exposed her to manipulation by the dastardly Rajapaksa. The whole system of politics in the country, especially under the present regime, has become so perverse that without regime change the country is doomed.

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    Malinda talks about the popularity of the President. Of course, he was popular at one stage. And the President, no doubt, must be under a spell of illusion that he is still popular,cast by the adulation of fawning sycophants and the absence of a charismatic opposition leader to challenge him.

    “The Executive has a vice like grip on the legislative branch,” says Malinda. Is this something to gloat over?

    “Not all the protesters have the moral right on their side,” says Malinda. Speaking about the moral right, some people are known to have attempted to misappropriate Tsunami monies which are really public funds. Have these people the moral right to be the custodians of public funds?

    He says that among those who object to the current moves to impeach the incumbent Chief Justice are people who sought to bring down former CJ Sarath N. Silva. Does the fact that some people wanted the former CJ impeached disqualify them from objecting to the moves to impeach the incumbent CJ? Why doesn’t he accept the position that people who wanted the former CJ impeached could have have had valid reasons to support that move just as they must be having similar valid reasons to have strong reservations about impeaching the incumbent President?

    “Many who are shedding tears for the Chief Justice howled protests when she was appointed to the Supreme Court,” says Malinda. But were their protests against the appointment at that stage not justifiable? She is a political appointee. People had a right to register their protest. Now their objection to the attempt at impeaching her is based on a different premise.

    Many may agree with Malinda when he says that ” it is morally wrong to subject the Chief Justice to a witch hunt.” And his comment on the second republican Constitution is equally welcome for he adds referring to the subsequent developments that “none of which requires us to cheer the current and principal beneficiary.”

    It is a pity that Malinda had to preface his commentary with a few snipes at the critics of the move to impeach the Chief Justice as insurance against a possible harsh judgment from the ” current and principal beneficiary” in case he took offense at his euphemistic summing up.

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