26 June, 2022


Impeachment Of The Sri Lankan Chief Justice

By International Crisis Group –

Chief Justice Bandaranayake

The impeachment of the Sri Lankan Chief Justice, Shirani Bandaranayake is possibly a watershed moment in Sri Lankan law and politics. President Rajapaksa’s 13 January decision to ratify the impeachment decided two days earlier by a parliament controlled by his ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance is the latest step in the gradual but systematic dismantling of the rule of law. The move, in violation of the Sri Lankan constitution and basic principles of due process and in disregard of rulings by the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, leaves Sri Lanka’s already battered democracy on life-support.

The decision to impeach the Chief Justice is a direct message that the Rajapaksas will continue to consolidate their power without regard to democracy, the rule of law or human rights.  In that sense, it complements the administration’s disregard of international law in the military actions that resulted in the deaths of some 40,000 or more civilians in 2009 and its refusal to investigate credible allegations of war crimes.

Indeed, the two issues – this assault on the independence of the judiciary and the accusations of war crimes – are interlinked and must be seen as such.  The Sri Lankan government’s insistence that Sri Lanka should be left to investigate and remedy its own shortcomings with regard to the latter looks increasingly (if more evidence were required) implausible as one of the last remaining independent institutions – the court – is so openly dismantled.  Further, without addressing, fully and transparently, the facts of the war’s denouement the seeds of future conflict remain embedded in Sri Lankan society.  Ongoing persecution of Tamils; the shrinking of political space for Sinhalese civil society; and the neutering of the courts creates an alarming trifecta which, if left unaddressed, does not augur well for the country’s future.

Sri Lanka’s international partners need to take note and frame their policies in light of the Sri Lankan government’s persistent rejection of domestic and international law.

The initiation of impeachment proceedings against the Chief Justice, in November 2012, was seen in large part as a politically-motivated response to the Supreme Court’s decision in theDivineguma case. In a judgment signed by the Chief Justice, the court temporarily blocked legislation to establish a new government department that would usurp many provincial powers over welfare and development policy and bring hundreds of millions of dollars worth of government programs under the control of the economic development ministry, headed by the president’s brother, Basil Rajapaksa.

The impeachment proceeded in disregard of basic principles of due process:

  • the eleven-member parliamentary select committee considering the case was composed of a clear majority of government members who had already expressed their belief in the Chief Justice’s guilt;
  • the committee denied the Chief Justice sufficient time and information to prepare her defence, even refusing her access to documents and evidence used by the panel members;
  • the Chief Justice was verbally abused by government members of the committee;
  • after informing the Chief Justice that the panel had no plans to call witnesses to give oral evidence, the committee did just that, summoning witnesses to testify immediately after the chief justice and her lawyers quit the hearings in protest at the lack of due process;
  • the committee’s report, which found the Chief Justice guilty on three charges, was completed within twenty-four hours of concluding its hearings.

Despite rulings earlier this month by the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal that the parliamentary process was not constitutional and nullifying the conviction of the Chief Justice by the parliamentary select committee, the parliament nonetheless voted overwhelmingly on 11 January 2013 to endorse the committee’s finding and impeach the Chief Justice. On 13 January, President Rajapaksa ratified the parliament’s decision.

On 15 January, former Attorney General Mohan Pieris, one of the regime’s most loyal apologists, was sworn in to replace Bandaranayake, who was prevented by the police from going to court and forced to vacate her official residence. Nonetheless, Bandaranayake has defiantly asserted that she remains Chief Justice and retains strong support from lawyers and senior judges.

In addition to the immediate danger of violence against dissenting lawyers and activists and/or illegal detentions and other forms of repression, there is the longer-term damage the impeachment will do to democratic institutions; this in turn will threaten the prospects of sustainable peace in a country that should be seeking to emerge from the ravages of a particularly nasty civil war.

In the coming days and weeks, the international community should speak out against the government’s denial of due process in the case of Ms. Bandaranayake and warn clearly and publicly of international sanctions in the event of the violent repression of dissenting judges, lawyers and civil society activists.

The Commonwealth

The Commonwealth has an important role to play. In light of Sri Lanka’s clear and repeated violation of Commonwealth principles, and following his recent welcome expressions of concern about the impeachment, the Commonwealth Secretary-General should refer Sri Lanka to the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG). Already the Canadian government has called on CMAG to put Sri Lanka on its agenda – other Commonwealth governments should endorse this position and insist that CMAG acts. Unless the impeachment is reversed, the Commonwealth should shift the location of its next heads of government meeting, currently scheduled to take place in Colombo in November 2013.

The UN Human Rights Council

Member states of the Human Rights Council (HRC), which begins its next session on 25 February, should work for strong follow-up to their resolution of March 2012. The impeachment of the Chief Justice is only the most obvious and important example of the Sri Lankan government’s refusal to respond positively to the HRC’s many useful recommendations. Despite government claims to have implemented significant portions of the recommendations of its own Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) reporting on the civil war’s final months, in fact there has been next to no progress, and none with respect to accountability. On every major category listed in the HRC resolution, the Sri Lankan government has failed to take effective action:

  • there have been no credible investigations into war crimes, disappearances or other serious human rights violations;
  • no independent institutions for investigation or accountability have been established; instead the regime has dismantled the last traces of judicial independence through its assault on the chief justice;
  • rather than moving towards a lasting and fair constitutional settlement of the ethnic conflict through meaningful power-sharing, the President and his brothers have expressed their intention to repeal or weaken the already limited provincial powers granted under the 13th Amendment. (For details see Crisis Group’s November 2012 report, Sri Lanka: Tamil Politics and the Quest for a Political Solution);
  • despite the council and many others calling for the demilitarisation of the Tamil-majority northern province, the Sri Lankan military continues to control virtually all aspects of life in the north, with the civil administration intimidated and sidelined;
  • the government has cracked down hard on Tamil protest in the north, with peaceful demonstrations disrupted by the military, students arrested on groundless charges of working with the LTTE and other forms of dissent denied;
  • dissent among Sinhalese in the south is also under attack, with recent anti-impeachment protests attacked by government thugs while the police looked on and did nothing.

The HRC should note the failure by the government to implement last year’s recommendations and call for an independent investigation into all credible allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity, whose broad outlines were laid out in the April 2011 report of the UN Secretary-General’s panel of experts looking at the civil conflict’s conclusion.

Other responses

All of Sri Lanka’s international partners – both bilateral and multilateral – need to determine measures to be taken in response to the Rajapaksa government’s clear contempt for constitutional values and the rule of law.

All those providing bi-lateral and multilateral development assistance – especially the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and International Monetary Fund – should review their programs in light of the political attacks by the Rajapaksa government on the rule of law and its continued failure to address accountability issues stemming from the killing of thousands of non-combatants in 2009.

Read the Sinhala translation here

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Latest comments

  • 0

    An economist of repute Anila Bandaranaike posed said at the Instituition of Charterd Accounts IS VANITY STUPIDITY AND REALITY THE NEED OF THE HOUR when the lap dog Cabraal was licking the boots of the master.Its Cabraal and also shameless Mohan Peiris who went to the Caribbean Islands spending over 200 million dollars with a plane load to bid for the Commonwealth Games.Providence saved us and the Vanity of the man whom names anything and everything after him while he is alive was damaged.Rememnber the slum dog Premadasa did not name the stadium he built after him till a greateful nation did after he was felled by the LTTE.This dictator used the same forum as the head of state to say APE MINIHEK TO THE HUSBAND OF THE CJ AND SAY EKA SHAPE KARA. This shows clearly its only if you play ball that you can survive as his poodle the drug Lord Mervyn is.
    The Commonwealth must take firm action and restore the CJ to where she was if Sri Lanka is to continue in the Commonwealth of Nations and then probe the allegations against the CJ and remove her not in the disgaceful uncivilised way but in the way that good order permits.Law and order must get back to acceptable standards.
    The great Commonwealth where Her Majesty the Queen is the Head should not have the next meeting in Sri Lanka and give this THUG DICTATOR a boost to his vain glorious style.
    Sri Lanka a poor country had a world class judiciary till Sarath Silva crept in followed by another who will even sell his mother for his gain Asoka de Silva came in.He was rewarded with a job under him after retirement something that did not happen in this resplendent isle.The present clown is a domestic used to manipulate the judiciary.This is hour for the Commonwealth of Nations to halt this dictators advancement much to the detriment of democracy and good order and not accept him to the company of the respectable civilised lot

  • 0

    My Dear International community: USA,UK,UN,EU,CW, Asian and African Federation member states.

    We Sri Lankans have lost our faith in both tha Ruling Rajapakse Government and the Opposition Parties who give bogus promises until come into power and once in Power use all the country’s resources and wealth for their own selfish greed and power.

    Ever since we got Independence All the ruuling parties as well as the opposition ran the country like a Toddy Tavern ruining the economy,Education, health and social lives of the people
    The uneducated, Uncultured thugs from Both the Ruling and the Opposition Parties ran the Country only to fulfill their selfish ambitions and money greed leaving Citizens to suffer.

    Behadding under age Rizana in Saudi Arabia was due to greedy politiciens looking for foreign exchange started exporting poor and helpless children for slave labor in Middle East.

    Please see Rizana Nafeek’s home in the following web sites.



    It is worse than a cattle farm cottege.
    Seventy percent(70%) of Sri Lankan’s live similar to these houses with tin and Coconut leaf roof houses similar to VEDDA (native) community live sixty (60) years after independence.

    While Politicians treat poor citizens like this, they send their children to all the expensive Colleges in USA and Europe and buying them BMW, Mercedes Benz, and Lamborghini cars and make family foreign pleasure trips wasting valuable foreign exchange these poor people bring to Sri Lanka.

    President and Ministers all have their Foreign Private bank accounts and expensive houses in all over the world using these citizens hard earned foreign exchange, while no effort was made to rescue Rizana from beheading in Saudi Arabia.

    President Mahinda Rajapakse Impeached CJ Dr.Shirani Bandaranayake because she did not allow his brother Basil Rajapakse to steal Divineguma 85 Billion Rupees. Basil Rajapakse has US $ 4.5 Million House in california, USA and definitely he planned to use most of this 85 Billion fund for his personal use, and that’s why CJ Shirani Bandaranayake opposed it.

    As a result of helping us the citizen form allowing President’s Brother to steal, CJ madam Bandaranayake had to sacrifi8ce her Job.

    Now both she and her husband are unemployed while having a son to look after and also now feared for her and her family’s lives.

    Also President Rajapakse Stole Millions of Dollars that International Community sent for Tsunami victims….but due to his friend ex.CJ Sarath N.Silva President got away from that fraud.

    Therefore we Sri Lankans have lost our faith in both Governing Rajapakse Regime and the Opposition parties to help us.


    1)International community should impose travel Ban to President and all the Govt. Ministers and MP’s who voted for CJ Impeachment. Also Isolate Sri Lanka from future conferences like CHOGM,CW,Asian and African Forums and from UN.

    2)Bring President Mahinda Rajapakse for war War Crimes and Tsunami Fraud stealing millions of Dollars of Foreign Donations given to poor homeless people who were effected by 2004 Tsunami.

    3)Terminate USA GSP status, trade and tourism. Let President have his own vacation in Hambantota harbour.

    4)Stop all Aid and Loans given to Sri Lanka by World Bank, IMF, Asian Bank and EU banks.

    5) Freeze all personal foreign bank accounts, personal assets of President’s family (like Basil’s USA 4.5 million dollar house and Gotabaya’s 950,000 dollar house) and other Govt. Ministers and Government officials etc.

    6) use both Internal and external methods and pressure to Change Rajapakse Dictatorial Regime.

    I request this on behalf of all Sri Lankans and you could find their views if you talk to them.


    • 0

      The undeniable evidence must be read over and over again here:
      [Edited out]

      Could you please write what you want instead of posting links – CT

    • 0

      Dear Jayantha,
      Most of the the measures you propose will hurt the poor people of the country.The rich and,the Rajapakse Clan, who have secreted millions abroad, will not be affected.
      As long as there are are NO Free and Fair Elections,the Rajapakse Clan and his sycophants/beneficiaries cannot be got rid of.
      But,strangely,no political party wants a powerful Election Commission!!!!
      Can you explain this?

    • 0

      For Jayantha…
      NOBODY…who is intelligent will listen to your ignorant hatefull “crap”….

      do you seriously believe that other Nations will follow your idiotic rants against Sri Lanka… a Soverign Democratic Nation…

      only nation to defeat terrorism in 21st Century…
      the terrorist group that you support….

  • 0

    The international crisis group is an independent NGO comprising of a host of former diplomats, statesman, leaders etc. CEO is Louise Arbour former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and Chief Prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda. Its members are emminent diplomats like Kofi Anan etc.

    Govt is blundering and bludgeoning its way into disrepute and disgrace. There is no doubt that now it has run out of excuses and lies to deceive the world. It is unfortunate that these problems are not solved internally. Since the govt is so arrogant and does not listen to its own people the international community needs to step in to stem this rot bring justice to those deprived.

  • 0

    I forgot to add he always uses the tamil issue and tries to hoodwink the masses. This lady is a sinhala rural origin lady who rose to the level of CJ as a reputed academic and had 16 years of service as a Supreme Court judge. She no doubt slipped and permitted the the 18th amendment which really should have been handled by Asoka Silva,the fraud that he is he pushed the lady to commit hara kiri,As the saying goes when one sleeps with dogs one wakes up with TICKS a very rirulous and vundictive type if you do not do their bidding.

  • 0

    It is amazing how much time and money these INGOs spend to find faults in a country which has set an example to the whole Developing world how a West supported and financed Terrorist organization could be eliminated, put the country on a path of rapid developmentand and bring the living standards to well above our Economic Super Power Neighbor.

    World Bank , IMF , ADB, and even the UN have ticked all the boxes.

    Pension Funds of the West are queing up to invest in our Sovereign Bonds while their Govts hand out valuable tax payer money to these INGOs.

    You guys should be spending your money and energy where the Crises are unless your aim is to cause International Crisis.

    France and your favorite supporter Cameron’s Turf will be a good starting point right now,before more poor,,rural Malians are bombed out of the land, labelling them as Al Quadians.

    • 0

      YOU KNOW THAT, WE, I R Cs are get feelings like that

      WHY don’t you try for A job as a tour guide from BASIL JARAAPASSA, FOR THE NEXT NEXT MONTH 10 Millionth TOURIST.

      because, those tourist do not have any knowledge of present situation of SRI LANKA, NEITHER YOU.


  • 0

    We need not statements against this undemocratic government, we need constructive action to eliminate this family regime which is corrupt to the core.

  • 0

    We are yet to see PROOF of financial impropriety,’misbehaviour’,and wrong judicial conduct by CJ Shirani B.
    What did the 16 witnesses reveal.
    She should now be charged in a properly constituted Court of Law if parliament thought she was guilty.
    But this is being denied to her.

  • 0

    A welcome reaction from the ICG. All right thinking people in Sri Lanka are grateful to the ICG!

  • 0

    ICG is nothing but a colonial tool and to come and lecture SL is nothing but sheer hypocrisy .. Why not go and ask to dismantle US illegal torture camps?, why not bring US for war crimes that started after WW2 ?

    Quite amazing these so call ICG have balls to go after smaller or weak countries for their problems which most of the time those problems were direct effect from former colonial practices..

    Who was the former ICG head?…..

    Part of this comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy

  • 0

    What else has the WB, ADB and the IMF done for the last several years, except commending and praising the MR governed Economy and continuing to fund unlimited, while MR has been killing Journalists, dissidents, flouting Democracy and wasting govt. funds as on Mihin lanka and allowing duty free Racing Cars to host night Races, when the masses are suffering and the Economy is nose diving. The whole world was witness to the thuggery unleashed on the Lawyers who demonstrated on the Impeachement and now threatening them with death. For what more evidence is the International Body waiting to take appropriate action? The obvious is some of them are hand in glove with the Rajapaksas and are safeguarding MR, for whatever vilainy he commits as MR is their sleuth. The warnings they issue to MR are all for theatrics to bluff the masses. Starting from MR being elected as President, to the War waged with the LTTE are all staged to secure MR as ‘their man, like how MR save the scoundrels here as ‘Apey Miniha’.

  • 0

    The Rajapakshes are hoodwinking the Sri Lankan masses that they are the only Nationalist Patriots who can protect the country from Terrorists and from International conspiracies against the country. They say the US, India, EU, and even the UN are conspiring against Sri Lanka and the others who are plotting against them are the NGOs, INGOs, Islamist groups, Tamil Diaspora, FUTA (Universiity teachers), Black coats (Lawyers), and SF. The masses are told that ONLY the Nationalist/Patriotic Rajapakshes and nobody else can save the country from all these conspirators.

    Who is there to educate the foolish masses of Sri Lanka that in the name of conspiracies these un-patriotic Rajapakshes and their cronies are actually looting the masses left, right and centre and ruining the country even further?

    • 0

      Rajapaksas are going to beat Joseph Goebbels.

  • 0

    World Bank, A.D.B and I.M.F will be the the institutions that will welcome wholeheartedly this action by the Executive. In fact they are the ones who advised the Government to strengthen the executive so that the banks can exploit through big business enterprises people to the maximum. Former C.J. assisted this process very well up to the rejection of the Divineguma Bill when for some unknown reason she refused to approve the Bill. So she had to go. All these banks will now give more and more loans to the Government. We pay the loans by getting more and more loans!

  • 0

    The UN sponsored economic sanctions against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in the 1990’s directly resulted in the deaths of a quarter million children.

    Those sanctions were for Saddam daring to defy the will of the US/UK and had nothing to do with any aggression on his regime’s part, towards the West.
    The thinking was that having weakened Iraq economically (and consequently militarily)it would be ripe for invasion and sequestering its petroleum oil bonanza. The rest is now history.

  • 0

    The Commonwealth must stop supporting third world dictators like Mahinda Rajapakse who should be impeached for corruption! This obsolete colonial remnant has little legitimacy to begin with, and if it goes ahead with the CHOG meeting in Rajapakse territory it will have NO LEGITIMACY AT ALL.
    The Commonwealth Organization has been having a romance with the Rajapakse regime for a while now and this must absolutely stop. The last time the Commonwealth Circus of Parliament met in Colombo the violent regime kept the whole population in a security lock down and displayed its military might on the pretext of providing SECURITY to the Commonwelath jokers.
    Kamalesh Sharma an Indian national who engages in doublespeak called diplomacy is like the Indian Govt – good for nothing!

  • 0

    The prsident needs a CJ who will support the president’s objectives for developing our Sinhala Buddhist country – Leela

    • 0

      Leela – agreed, but not when one sets “a thief to catch a thief” ?
      You can see the evidence here:

      [Edited out]

      Could you please write what you want instead of posting links – CT

    • 0

      Dear Leela,
      As long as people like you think of this nation as a “sinhala buddhist country”,we will never progress.
      Why dont you demand the Rule of Law and Equal Rights for all instead?

      • 0

        Leela is represending not sinhala buddhists but ones who got isolated both in the UK and SRILANKA. Elderly person is just wasting his or her spare times thinking her or his remarks could be worth. But every right thinking would feel that Leela is Leela – and some cant even understand why he she behaves in this way… being on a country where the legitimate CJ is asking for help to protect her family – not facing any attacks… guys,.. this call is not from anyone else, but from country´s CHIEF JUSTICE… MORE WE DONT NEED TO EXPLAIN TO THE WORLD to make them clear how we the many feel in the country today.

    • 0

      Sinhala Buddhist country??? My Foot!!!

      One Nation can have two or more countries but two Nations can never have one country. You can have your Sinhala-Buddhist Sri Lanka but NOT our Tamil Eelam. The International conspiracies against Sri Lanka will continue untill we get our homeland back from the occupied forces.

    • 0

      Please tell Leela not to provoke, antagonize, or try to incite, problems between the many religions here.
      Trying to laud one religion and it’s rights over others, and causing strife in a country that has already
      gone though hell, is the lowest thing one can do. There are brainless people who are paid to do this, just
      to cause internal strife in this country. Shalom.

  • 0

    Seriousness of the impeachment that we expericenced in the last week
    you will hear more about


  • 0

    This is the reality as the opposition sees in current day srilanka.


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