By Colombo Telegraph –
External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris today morning called up the Colombo based diplomatic corps to brief them on the impeachment process against Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake.
Colombo Telegraph learns that in a highly professorial briefing to the diplomats, Minister Peiris highlighted British and US case law, with regard to impeachment of judges and informed the embassy officials that Sri Lanka was following constitutional procedure to remove the Chief Justice.
A document on several US Supreme Court judgments was distributed to the diplomats, specifically referring to how the impeachment of judges in the US was undertaken by the legislature.
However several diplomatic sources told Colombo Telegraph that it was laughable that the Minister failed to highlight that in the same judgment the court noted that there were two constitutional safeguards in place in the legislative process to impeach a judge in the US – firstly that the impeachment resolution is moved in the lower house and trial and inquiry undertaken by the Senate and secondly that even in the senate, a judge must be found guilty by two thirds of a senate majority. One diplomat quipped that the last time a Supreme Court justice in the US had been impeached was in 1804 and even then, he was found not guilty by the senate and continued on the bench. Britain has never had to remove a judge of the English high court or the court of appeal, although the provisions exist.
The diplomats were also informed that there had been a clamour from the opposition regarding the scandal involving the Chief Justice’s husband, who was Chairman of a state bank that was engaged in a dubious share transaction. Proof of this ‘clamour’ was provided to the embassy officials with newspaper cuttings and Parliamentary Hansard extracts. Several opposition MPs including Dr. Harsha de Silva, Anura Kumara Dissanayake and Dayasiri Jayasekera have been highlighted as those agitating against the Chief Justice’s husband and casting doubt on Bandaranayake’s independence.
In the Rupavahini programme Wedikawa (Platform) Parliamentary Select Committee Member Rajitha Senaratne also highlighted these reports, including one article saying Not Only The Chairman Husband; Chief Justice Wife Must Also Resign!, written by Uvindu Kurukulasuriya. Senaratne said: “This is what my friend Uvindu Kurukulasuriya wrote earlier although he now writes against this.” This article was also highlighted in the Diplomatic briefing by Minister Peiris. Other press statements by opposition members were also highlighted by Minister Senaratne.
Defending the Parliamentary Select Committee process that recently found Bandaranayake guilty on three charges out of 14 in the impeachment motion filed against her, Minister Peiris told diplomats that the Chief Justice had surrendered all her legal rights to be heard when she walked out of the proceedings on December 6, 2012. The Minister also told the diplomatic corps that the PSC was not a place for evidence to be examined in cross examination since the only thing the committee had to ascertain was whether the evidence gathered was true or false, embassy sources told Colombo Telegraph.
Ironically, Minister Peiris was Chief Justice Bandaranayake’s teacher at the Law Faculty of the Colombo University when she was a student at the campus. The Minister identified her as one of the brightest in her batch and was reportedly instrumental in recommending her as a lecturer at the faculty once she graduated. Minister G.L. Peiris as Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs in the Chandrika Kumaratunga Government of 1994-2000, recommended Bandaranayake’s appointment to the Supreme Court bench.
Government sources believe that the Rajapaksa Administration blames Peiris for his role in elevating Bandaranayake to the position of Sri Lanka’s first female Chief Justice. Peiris is believed to have supervised the drafting of the impeachment motion against his former protégé and is now engaged in a massive effort to restore the legitimacy of the Government process undertaken to remove her from office.
Several attempts made to contact Minister Peiris with regard to this matter proved fruitless.