Senior Minister Professor Tissa Vitarana (see here), claims that President Rajapakse appointed The Chief Justice’s husband, Pradeep Kariyawasam as Chairman, National Savings Bank at her specific request.
This disclosure gives rise to more serious allegations against the Head of State, than the Chief Justice.
Very serious questions arise of the following nature, in the wake of the said assertion:
(1) Demands such as appointment of family members are generally made only when partiality exists or is on offer. Justice (Dr.) Shirani Bandaranayake was appointed by President Rajapakse as Chief Justice without an independent mechanism for appointment of Superior Court judges (after the 17th Amendment was disregarded by him and his Government). By doing so, does the President and his Government expect such appointees to act partially?
(2) Has President Rajapakse acted wrongfully by appointing Pradeep Kariyawasam as Chairman, National Savings Bank?
– If such a request was acceded to, has the President acted in a manner that was calculated and/or likely to influence the conduct of the Chief Justice?
(3) Has President Rajapakse acted wrongfully by failing to have timely steps taken against such a corrupt and inappropriate request by a sitting Judge?
– No action was taken against Shirani Bandaranayake until she made certain rulings which were contrary to the ambitions of the Government, especially the making of the Supreme Court Determination on the Constitutionality of the “Divineguma Bill“. In such circumstances, the action towards impeachment cannot be viewed as a clean act.
(4) Why was such a wrongful, judicial independence undermining transaction between the Head of State and the person selected by him to be Head of the Judiciary not made the subject matter of the impeachment motion?
– The Public would expect an elected President to uphold Independence of the Judiciary (and thereby the Constitution). The integrity and suitability to hold high public office of both parties to such a transaction are rendered highly questionable by such conduct.
(5) Has President Rajapakse violated the Sovereignty of the People (and thereby the Constitution) by hiding the fact of such a serious, wrongful request from the citizenry and accommodating it?
– The fact of such a request being made is not disclosed to the Public – especially when such a wrongful request is accommodated. This is quite in contrast to the manner in which the State Media has been deployed to make various allegations and aspersions after the impeachment motion was tendered.
(6) Has President Rajapakse betrayed the People by acting in the manner disclosed by his own senior Minister, Prof. Tissa Vitarana?
(7) Has President Rajapakse acted in a similar manner in relation to other senior judicial officers?
(8) In the given situation, can all judges given post-retirement appointments and/or whose relatives have been granted various high appointments in the past rendered suspect in terms of integrity?
(9) Is this why President Rajapakse is afraid to have suitable steps taken to have an independent judicial body comprising Retired Chief Justices from the Commonwealth go into allegations against Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake as was sought on an earlier occasion when a Motion was submitted for the impeachment of (then Chief Justice) Sarath N. Silva?
The full answers to the above questions are of the utmost importance, in view of the centrality of the Independence of the Judiciary to the Rule of Law and the need for all citizens including the President to respect and uphold the Constitution.
In the meanwhile, amidst all the ambiguity, the following appears clear enough:
(a) If Prof. Tissa Vitaarana, Senior Minister has disclosed the truth, BOTH Mahinda Rajapakse and Shirani Bandaranayake should relinquish their public offices as President and Chief Justice of the Republic.
(b) If the disclosure by Prof. Tissa Vitarana, Senior Minister is untrue, then he should resign from the position of Senior Minister and Member of Parliament, having demonstrated unsuitability to hold such office. In addition, he would be amenable to be tried for contempt of court for uttering such serious untruths in relation to a sitting superior court judge.
The citizens of Sri Lanka have a right to know the answers to the above questions, and to proper action to be taken against all those complicit in wrongdoing that affects judicial independence. It is also most apparent that there is a need for legal mechanisms to ensure judicial independence which at present appear to be negatively affected by the means of appointment, promotion and control of judges of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal.