22 June, 2021

Blog

De-Escalate Impeachment Crisis

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

The process of impeaching Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake has commenced in earnest. The Parliamentary Select Committee to investigate and pass judgment on her has been appointed with a 7-4 government majority and consists of very senior government and opposition members.  It has been very prompt in serving the charges against her.  The Chief Justice was given one week to answer the 14 charges which she appealed against.  According to news reports, this appeal filed by her lawyers was denied, and she was asked to appear in person and request for more time.  Usually government administrative procedures offer those who are charged and have to answer the charges a period of 6 weeks.  But this is not an ordinary case, and so the wheels of justice are moving extraordinarily fast.

Sri Lanka has a government that has shown it can dispose of obstacles to its path without delay.  Once the government has decided on a course of action there is little or nothing that it will permit to stand in its way.  Whether it was the elimination of the LTTE or the cleaning up of Colombo to be one of the most livable cities in Asia, the government has not permitted opposition to stand in its way.  In eliminating the LTTE the government chose to ignore those sections of the international community who urged a negotiated settlement.   The plight of slum dwellers has not stopped the government’s beautification of Colombo.

The improvements taking place in Sri Lanka compare favourably with other post-war countries such as Nepal or the Philippines.  But now an albatross hangs around its neck in the form of international allegations of war crimes that are not going away.  In an interdependent and interconnected world, every action has its reaction, and these cannot be confined to national boundaries. The recently published internal report of the UN on the end phase of the country’s war will add to the international demands for further investigations into what actually happened in Sri Lanka’s war.

On the other hand, this quality of doing what has to be done, or what is deemed to have to be done, has earned the government much praise within the country.  It was not that the government leadership was unaware of the possible consequences of defying the international community in its bid to end the terror of the LTTE.  The government has experts in all forms of law, including international law and local and international relations.  The government would have consulted them prior to deciding to eliminate the LTTE and its leadership at high human cost and dare the consequences.  The fact that the government was able to take this decision has served it well in subsequent elections, particularly going by the electoral verdicts in most parts of the country.

Mounting Opposition

The initial indications are that, the international furor over the end of the war notwithstanding, the government will follow the same strategy of dealing quickly and decisively with the Chief Justice as well, and facing up to the consequences later.  The state media has been utilized to place selective information before the general public.  The state media does not believe in media ethics of providing balanced coverage as a matter of right.  Therefore it has been able to create a political environment in which even punitive actions taken by the government against the Chief Justice will be accepted by the majority of people.  Where poverty and limited resources prevents people from obtaining a well-rounded picture of reality, there is none that can rival the government’s ability to use the state media at its disposal.

In these circumstances the government may be able to politically get away with the impeachment, at least in the short term.  Most of the Sri Lankan people would have seen the charges against her, which were widely publicized in the state media.  Only few would have seen the Chief Justice’s answers to some of the more important charges.  As a result they may feel that what the government is doing is justified. However, there are indicators that the majority of those in the legal profession are deeply perturbed by what is happening to the Chief Justice as they know both sides of the issue, and know that the charges against her are weak ones.  The Bar Association at the national level as well as at the district level have become activated and have expressed their concerns.

The government also has reason to be concerned that the highest religious leaders of both the Buddhist Sangha and the Christian churches have come out strongly against the impeachment.  It is noteworthy that the strongest expressions of disquiet about the government’s decision to impeach the Chief Justice have come from religious and civil society.  The Chief Justice has come to be seen as embodying the values that democratic society stands for, such as separation of powers, checks and balances, independence of state institutions from political interference and personal rectitude in public affairs.  It is also noteworthy that there is no full governmental consensus on the impeachment. The left parties within the government coalition have refused to support the impeachment.

In addition there is a gathering storm of international outrage over the impeachment.  Within a few days of government’s announcement it would impeach the Chief Justice, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of the Judiciary issued a strong statement expressing concern and called on the government to respect the independence of the judiciary.  This has been accompanied by several statements of concern by international legal and human rights organizations.  Ironically, the government declared its intention to impeach the Chief Justice on the very day that Sri Lanka was being discussed at the Universal Periodic Review of the United Nations in Geneva.  This gave the move the maximum international publicity.

Overreaction

The government’s hard line on the issue of the impeachment appears to be an overreaction to what is perceived to be anti government actions by the Supreme Court.  Sections within the government wish to create an ill-motivated impression that the Chief Justice is opposed to the government and that this is part of a larger political conspiracy.  These misgivings began with the unprecedented stone throwing attack on a court house in the north of the country allegedly by a government politician.  This led to an unprecedented strike by the lower judiciary.  This has created the impression of a confrontation between the government and judiciary.  Unfortunately the government has still not taken action against those involved, and the investigation appears to have ground to a halt.

Adding to the government’s fear of being stopped in doing what it believes is the way to move forward, is the fact that one of its proposed laws to concentrate economic development powers in itself was ruled as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.  However, it is not the judiciary that is opposed to the government, but a proposed law (the Divineguma bill) that is opposed to the Constitution.  A dispassionate analysis would indicate that the Sri Lankan judiciary has, by and large, been deferential towards the decisions and plans of the government.  The present Chief Justice can be described as being in that typical mould.

It must be kept in mind that it was a Supreme Court bench headed by her that permitted the removal of the two-term limit on the Presidency without subjecting it to approval at a referendum as hoped for by most democratic civil society activists.  The government has the option of swiftly eliminating this Chief Justice through the impeachment process.  It has a 7-4 majority within the Parliamentary Select Committee that is inquiring into the merits of the charges and the necessary 2/3 majority in Parliament to impeach her.  The government leaders may feel that they have a mandate from the people to do as they please.

However, it is not good governance or the practice of democracy when the government, popular as it is and with a mandate from the people, dismantles the system of checks and balances.  Continuing with the impeachment would be a grave mistake that would harm the country’s democratic system.  It would also erode the government’s credibility with civil society and the international community at a time when the government needs their goodwill.  The government needs to give the highest priority to reconsider this ill conceived impeachment.  The first step in de-escalating the crisis would be for the Chief Justice to be granted the additional time she has requested to reply the charges against her.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 0
    0

    Hope other Govt.Ministers and MP’s will also come out to tell the truth like MP Arundika Fernendo to the people they represent. This is a MARA family dynasty one man dictatorship to rule the country for ever.

  • 0
    0

    All successive Governments have not lived up to our constitutional status of being a Democratic Socialist Republic.
    In the present context of this controversial CJ Impeachment, as suggested by Jehan P, the Government must avoid further eroding of the Democratic System and grant CJ’s plea of additional time to reply the charges instigated.
    The Goverment and CJ should both take into consideration their past drawbacks/lapses, after all they are now “reaping what they sowed”. Trust that “Saner Counsel Prevails”.

    • 0
      0

      Selwyn. I think both CJ and all the people that have rallied behind her are looking for justice. Given the damage caused to her and her family, she has her right to go for the blood of those culprits and she has enough ammo. for it. When a guy who has WOOD in his eye looking at a SPECK in her eye. This is definitely going to escalate and I am 100% sure that CJ will come out as a winner. This is a do or die fight where MR has the serpent in his pocket. He cannot put his hand inside nor could go home with it. I also see this as a power/ pride play between Bandaranaikes VS Rajapakses. Bandaranaike name is world famous and has a proud history both in Sri Lanka and abroad, where as for Rajapakse there is nothing much to say other than winning the war but now with lot of controversies. I can only say is MR could save his face and life if he stops this impeachment. Otherwise he definitely will bury in his own grave.

      • 0
        0

        Winning impeachment is not what matters. Seeking justice with ‘tainted hands’ does.
        MR Corruption & Controversies, B/R power play, etc., etc., etc., etc. Surely there are other methods of eliminating same.
        My comments in this forum concludes.

  • 0
    0

    Th snow-balling effect will go on even if the process is within known rules; e.g the skiping of leading States or change of venue for the
    Commonwealth Summit scheduld for Nov. 2013 etc.

  • 0
    0

    Jehan complains that CJ was given only one week to answer the charges then he says, she was asked to appear in person. He sees all wrongs in the Divi Naguma bill but no wrong by CJ in interpreting it as clash with 13A in her judgement in that case filed by his fellow NGO. One only has to read that judgement to suspect a conspiracy.

    Impeachment may have arisen from that suspicion. Now that the government has moved on with impeachment, it has to convince the public that it is in the right. Public mood is not represented by Buddhist Prelates or Christian Cardinals. Needless to say, so-called IC will growl but has to accept the select committee verdict in the end.

    Jehan wrote, ‘… most of the Sri Lankan people would have seen the charges against her,’ Still, few lines before that he wrote; ‘poverty and limited resources prevents people from obtaining a well-rounded picture of reality.’ Does he not contradicts himself.

    Then he complains for government ignoring IC negotiated settlement and the speed it eliminated LTTE. But he doesn’t utter a word about how LTTE dragged negotiations with UNP and then walked out of it and how LTTE closed the Mavil Aru anicut and deprive water for thousands of people that started LTTE’s end game.

    The man is so irritated; he compares beautification of Colombo that cleared dirty canals and roadside rubbish piles to ‘the plight of slum dwellers’. He is blind to coming up of multi-storey housing units in thousands for slum dwellers to move into.

    Thereafter, he sees that so-called leaked document by the UN on its own short comings as a space for his ilk to drum up pseudo war crimes fire burning. Only positive I see is that the man accepts ‘the electoral verdicts in most parts of the country.’

    I say Jehan is dim witted for he complains ‘state media has been utilized to place selective information before the general public.’ What does he expect? Does not he and his ilk not use all available means to attack the government selectively as he does here?

    Jehan is a paid hand by that clique in the so-called IC. Need I say that they see only their way of justice is right. For them, shooting unarmed Bin Laden in the head and his woman in the leg is right; arming mercenaries and get them to bugger Kaddafi with a knife kill is right; invading Iraq on false pretext is right; Invading Afghanistan and killing civilians by drone attacks is right; using Israel to bomb Gaza to kill civilians is right. But killing terrorists to eradicate a 30 year war is a war crime. Hypocrites!

    You WOGs and your NGO lot can prostrate to neo colonialists and serve their so-called IC, but MR and his government will serve Sri Lankans. And the public will decide who is right at elections.
    Leela

    • 0
      0

      Leela:

      the procedure for the removal of judges of the Supreme Court set
      out in article 107 of the Constitution of Sri Lanka allows the Parliament to exercise considerable control over the judiciary and is therefore incompatible with both the principle of separation of power and article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

      Sri Lanka’s Select Committee is nothing but “Monkey Court” run by polygamist thats the impression given by world bodies. What next?
      Sri Lanka Failed State of rajaporkistan and bent backs like Leeloo.

    • 0
      0

      Go to hell you stupid woman or man!Read what you write to see what rubbihs it is. You must be a complete brainwasher of this Raja to be so blind even at this stage.

      People like you who have no idea of fairplay, the importance of democracy and only like to abuse should be given summary mob justice.

      There are times when I advocate this unhestitatingly.

  • 0
    0

    Astrologers have said thise coming period will be very bad for the uneducated uncultured rascals.

    • 0
      0

      Every day is bad when someone is both uneducated and uncultured. For example lets take ooora (pig) or kukula (fowl). Both have a higher degree ending up on a buffet table.

    • 0
      0

      Yes and Leela is one of these uneducated and uncultured rascals, no doubt!

  • 0
    0

    Govt was able to do what it liked because there were no objections and people kept silent. Now people are begining to speak up and either the Govt heeds their voices or carries on regardless. The former course of action is what democratic govts would follow. However we have people who have become swollen headed with the power of Govt.

    They may carry on regardless and face the consequences as exemplified by similiar dictators throughout history. What is sustainable and what cannot be sustained. The rope is long and untimately the animal gets entangled and snared in it. Living the lie may be possible for a time only.

  • 0
    0

    The audacity of MR knows no bounds.When the middle class demanded a pay rise he made Lambghini ,Aston Martin cars cheaper for the .9% in the social class and three wheelers more expensive. When the Divineguma Bill was reffered for a referendum constitutionaly the solution to escape this is to do away with the Provincial Councils.Can anyone with an iota of intelligence gulp this? CJ ‘s reputation cannot be tarnished by the State Media dogs who are barking for their supper.

  • 0
    0

    Leela,

    My house borders a canal in Colombo. Despite, the recent heavy rains, there was no threat of a flood, because of the imaginative and efficient work done by this government . It is important that men like Jehan, acknowledge the positives, while pointing out and criticising the negatives. I personally find the CJ episode unsavoury. I find most ordinary people I speak find it distasteful.

    There is an ‘ I am the people’ Syndrome beginning to take hold on this government, despite its many achievements. This was manifest with many crucial decisions it made in the aftermath of the war in the north and east, that have come back to haunt it now. The attempts to impose its political will through its proxies in the north and east, took place amidst its many achievements in the post-war north and east.

    The government is taking a bulldozer approach to crucial political issues to national issues as well. What was a drizzle is becoming a storm now. Even, in the recent budget the go ernment has not been forthright with the people. It has not yet confided in the people that it has to pay back the loans and the interest thereof taken to fight the war and keep up appearances of normalcy in the South during the war. The allocation for the MOD bothers a lot of people because they have not been told they are paying price for winning the war!

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

    • 0
      0

      Dr.Rajasingham Narendran,
      I am not against criticizing bad acts by MR and the government. For instant I have never praised or defended in this or any other blog any one of many Mervins in the ruling party. I do accept MR too has his short comings. But when I think of his greatest achievement, I mean eradicating LTTE, I tend to think all his shortcomings are very very minor. What alternative do we have anyway? I am positive I would shiver if I have to think of RanilW.

      For Jehans of cause, everything done by this government is bad. In the village where I live, there are some UNPers with a similar mindset. Still, I did vote for one of them at the last Pradesha Saba election for I thought he was the most suitable man to be the chairman; but the UNP had lost with the MR tide. And that wave is still there because in my opinion, not just winning the war but people have improved their living standards tremendously during the last few years. I suppose, NGO politics doesn’t allow Jehans to recognize it.

      I have never been a politician, but I had the opportunity to associate few top politicians in this country. So, I know it is not an easy job to keep their subordinates contented. MR is the executive president with a two third majority in parliament. But unlike Premadasa, he knows he has to keep Mervins happy if he is to endure. May be, that will be the biggest quandary MR has to face one day.

      In my opinion, a solution to the national question must be found while MR is in power. Any solution by RanilW will be another 13A. If sensible and a realistic men like you are a part of the TNA team, I believe an answer could be found with MR. The problem as I see it; Tamils of the North vote for impractical and unrealistic men as their representatives.
      Leela

  • 0
    0

    As it is we have to deal with war fall out when 2009 could have been a better ending.Imagine if we could have the West behind us too? Can’t say West (and Japan)is broke as their huge corps invest in India,Thailand etc.
    09 is not going to go away,nor will this.
    Myanmar finally changed due dire need of Western funds & recognition.
    It takes a awhile to get pariah status,do we need it?

  • 0
    0

    Is Leela a Man? She sounds like the reincarnation of a Male fascist? But then fascism does not discriminate in terms of male or female thanks to Leela’s flair for fascism?

    Should you consider a career change to the Military by any chance?

  • 0
    0

    I agree, Janaka.

  • 0
    0

    Does anyone disagree with Leela on the below paragraph…???

    Need I say that they see only their way of justice is right. For them, shooting unarmed Bin Laden in the head and his woman in the leg is right; arming mercenaries and get them to bugger Kaddafi with a knife kill is right; invading Iraq on false pretext is right; Invading Afghanistan and killing civilians by drone attacks is right; using Israel to bomb Gaza to kill civilians is right. But killing terrorists to eradicate a 30 year war is a war crime. Hypocrites!

    • 0
      0

      no. no NE, none of these things are right. But that does not mean that what Mahinda is doing in SL is right either. This impeachment is a joke. I agree with people who criticise NGO politics but just clinging on to Mahinda and saying that he is the only one like a mantra ( which is what this Leela does) is plain wrong. It is this attitude which allows him ton get away with blue murder Literally.

    • 0
      0

      The difference is at least these massacres are carried on certain enemies and against outsiders, where as in Sri Lanka these acts like white van abductions, disappearance of reporters, HR personnel, Jail massacre , rapes and killings which are carried out against your own people. Clearly there is a noticeable difference. I won’t approve any injustice against weak..but definitely not against your own people.

    • 0
      0

      NE,
      You are diverting the issue now being discussed which is impeachment of the present CJ, for MR to become a King.

      MR having limited education became an attorney by favouritism.
      He was involved in a murder case and was saved by Ranil when he was Prime Minister.
      The former President did not like MR to become PM and so she was grooming Kadirgamar. For MR’s luck??? Kadir was murdered (conveniently LTTE was accused , but the case has not been completed even to date).

      When MR was Prime Minister, he “Helped Hambathota” using Tsunami donations made by charitable citizens around the world.
      When his turn came to contest for President, he bribed Prabakaren
      to get Tamils boycott that election, and managed to win with a narrow
      margin.
      He broke the existing ceasefire and declared war with LTTE when some external forces decided to eliminate Prabakaran. However even with 20 odd powerful nations (both from West and East) providing arms, intelleigence, and blocking LTTE ships,etc.. MR could not fight a war without killing innocent Tamil civilians.
      {In fact Tamil civilians were killed with a purpose inorder to please his electorate and become more popular}
      At the next election as expected he was re-elected.
      Still he lured opposition MPs rewarding with Cabinet posts- now the Cabinet has more than 101, [which is a world record] and is wasting
      valuable money at the expense of the masses. With a 2/3rd majority
      he got the Amendment 18 to the constitution passed as an URGENT Bill
      preventing a thorough analysis by legal experts. {In that case the CJ was co-operaring with him}.

      Your complaint is why the democratic countries are accusing SL Govt.
      of war crimes. MR does not want to face an independent investigation
      so he is spending millions of rupees in maintaing PR agents overseas.
      He antagonised the West wth whom we had maximum trade and has become a friend of totalitarian countries.
      Currently he is on a visit to Kazakistan (which country no previous
      Sl leader visited) inorder to gain one vote at the UNHRC sessions due in March 2013. Recently he invited a king of a (poor) African country
      never heard of before, probably with the same motive.

  • 0
    0

    The right to abortion issue is raised repeatedly in the US Supreme Court. The US constitution is also subject to new interpretations by the Supreme Court, to align it with the times. It is subject to many debates and much rancour. The presidents, when they get the opportunity, try to appoint judges who reflect their political philosophy. However, the Congress and the Senate have to approve the nominee.

    Politics is brought into the US Supreme Court and its door step all the time. However, the supremacy of the SC as the final arbiter is never challenged and the dignity of the judges almost never degraded. The sanctity attached to due process, prevails even amidst raucous and partisan politics.

    We in Sri Lanka have much to learn yet.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

  • 0
    0

    The country,Sri Lanka, lacks good national leaders to run it in the future. Lot of people in Sri Lanka had hopes in General Sarath Fonseka, to be a intelligent national leader who can solve the iternal various problems and lead the country towards prosperity. Now all the way is clearing for CJ Shirani Bandaranayake to fill up the vacancy tommorrow. However,she has to proceed wisely ,not like SF, to fill up he vacancy, I think.

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 7 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.