By Colombo Telegraph –
Citing a lack of faith in the process and reiterating that a fair trial was not possible under these conditions, Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake and her six member legal team walked out of sittings of the legislative committee set up to probe the impeachment motion against her today.
Consistently, the Committee probing the impeachment has refused to grant the Chief Justice and her lawyers time to file responses or laid out the procedure being followed during the trial by parliament.
Bandaranayake appeared before the Committee at 2:30 p.m. local time today and heated proceedings continued till nearly 6 p.m. before the Chief Justice informed her legal team that there was no point in continuing to engage in a process in which she had absolutely no faith she would receive a fair hearing.
The 11 member committee in which the Government is represented by seven MPs, continuously refused requests by the Chief Justice’s lawyers. During the previous sitting, lawyers for the Chief Justice had objected to the presence of Government Ministers Wimal Weerawansa and Rajitha Dissanayake on the committee since Bandaranayake had given rulings from the bench against both ministers and it constituted a conflict of interest. However at the beginning of proceedings Committee Chairman Anura Priyadarshana Yapa rejected this objection saying both Ministers could continue to sit on the committee. This ruling raised a ruckus with members of the opposition represented in the PSC objecting to the fact that the issue had not been deliberated on at all during Wednesday’s sittings of the committee, at which the Chief Justice was not present. Ministers Dilan Perera and Wimal Weerawansa repeatedly heckled and disturbed submissions by Romesh De Silva PC, the head of Bandaranayake’s legal team. Both Government MPs also repeatedly insulted the Chief Justice, calling her ‘baby’ and ‘nona’ and generally demeaning her.
Informed sources told Colombo Telegraph that Bandaranayake’s lawyers had requested a list of documents and a list of witnesses from the PSC to support the impeachment charges against her but the Committee had no major witness list to present. A big sheaf of documents were however handed over to the Chief Justice’s legal team although enough time was not permitted to peruse the documents which some lawyers said amounted to hundreds of pages. They said the PSC had also refused to allow Bandaranayake’s lawyers a chance to cross examine the witnesses cited in the documents. Instead the Committee Chairman requested the Chief Justice and her lawyers to appear before the PSC again at 1:30 p.m. tomorrow and respond to Charges 1 and 2 of the impeachment motion pertaining to alleged financial misconduct.
Senior lawyers said that refusal to allocate a defendant sufficient time to prepare a defence was a grotesque violation of the laws of natural justice.
The PSC will reconvene again at 1:30 p.m. tomorrow. If the Chief Justice does not appear before the committee, a decision on that issue will be made about what action to take, according to Deputy Speaker Chandimal Weerakoddy. Meanwhile, UNP representative on the PSC John Amaratunge told the media that the lack of procedure was hampering the process but said the UNP was not going to quit the committee since they should be there to fight till the end. However, there is no decision on whether to quit the Committee by DNA MP Vijitha Herath or TNA representative, R. Sampanthan. The opposition will make a decision on the matter tomorrow Colombo Telegraph learns.
There is speculation that the process to find the Chief Justice guilty of the first three charges is already in place. President Mahinda Rajapaksa last night called PSC Chairman Yapa and informed him that the judgment was ready and asked him to lead proceedings from today onwards. Yapa was informed that the verdict would hold the Chief Justice guilty on the first three charges on the impeachment motion which contains 14 charges against Bandaranayake. The PSC report – filed by the majority membership in the Committee, with or without the sanction of the opposition members is reportedly being readied for submission to the Speaker on Saturday (8).
Chief Justice Has To Respond 1000 Pages By 1.30pm Tomorrow: ‘I’m Willing To Face Any Impartial And Lawful Tribunal’ – CJ