By Laksiri Fernando –
The timing of the impeachment motion against the Chief Justice coinciding with the Supreme Court verdict on the Divineguma Bill raised serious doubts about the political motives behind the move. By that time hurriedly framed bribery charges against the husband of the CJ have already been initiated. Perhaps with the intension of pressurising her to resign that the President asked her to come with the other members of the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) for a discussion. She rightly refused.
The independence of the judiciary has been a sore point for the Rajapaksa regime for some time. This independence could not be prostituted even by giving the CJ’s husband some political appointments. She had determined to keep her husband’s affairs quite separate from her professional obligations. After all she is not only a judge but also a legal academic with international recognition. She can easily become a professor of law in any international university.
I remember her when I was briefly the Director of the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute (SLFI) in 1995. When the then President, Chandrika Kumaratunga, proposed what came to be known as the Package, the SLFI organized a seminar on devolution and invited Dr Shirani Bandaranayake to deliver a paper on the legal side of the subject. She did it excellently and professionally. There were no political overtones. The seminar took place on the 19th of August and the proceedings were published with all other papers. Perhaps this was the paper cited in the case against her when she was appointed a Supreme Court Judge in 1996. This is also the paper I believe that the impeachment charge 10 attributed as a CPA publication!
I have met her few times during the seminar and after, particularly in the process of editing the papers and she was not a ‘nona’ or a ‘baba’ as some of the PSC members have apparently abused her yesterday. She was dignified, to the point and extremely civilized. When she was appointed a SC judge, I was delighted although I was not in the country by that time, primarily because she was the first woman judge in Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court.
The real reason behind the move to remove her became revealed when the President said she was ‘too big for her shoes’ (tharamata vada iddimila). It is a personal remark and a personal dislike. Perhaps the President regretted her appointment made only a year ago like he regretted many appointments like that of Tilak Karunarathne as the Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission.
She was acting independently. She also has 12 more years to go. That is the worry unashamedly said. She is also a woman. The mindset of the 18th Amendment and the independence of the judiciary were not going along well. In quite an unprecedented public statement, the JSC also had to reveal the pressures and the threats coming towards the judiciary from unnamed high executives. Then the Secretary to the JSC, Manjula Tilakeratne, was mercilessly attacked broad day light and still no one has been arrested for the crime.
The PSC was a farce from the beginning although the opposition members understandably had to sit in the process. They however should have done better to safeguard the rights of the Chief Justice. Their actual role will be revealed soon while the role of the gangsters on behalf of the government is already exposed. There are no rules of procedure for the PSC; they are not interest in them. No ample time was given for the CJ to answer the charges; they are not interested in hearing them either. Suddenly they have given thousands of papers yesterday asking the CJ to answer them by afternoon of today.
The PSC is now exposed of its crooked justice.
It is at this juncture that the CJ and her legal advisors have left the PSC in protest. I believe they left the place in protest and that means that they could again go and counter the charges if they wish. Protest is necessary. Exposing the blatant injustice by other means is also necessary. It is reliably revealed that the ‘verdict’ is already prepared. This is a mockery of justice. The proceedings are a farce. But the ‘verdict’ should not be allowed to go by default in my opinion. But the best judge should be the CJ herself and not anyone of us on whether to continue with the PSC or not.
The whole procedure has been shameless. I don’t see anything wrong in the CJ or anybody else managing their finances effectively keeping the best interests of the family, children and the old age. Everyone has a right to do so within the existing legal limits. I completely believe that she has revealed all her assets properly. What we can see now is the abuse of her personal financial information, breaching privacy, in a manner to prejudice the general public against her. Money is always a matter that can prejudice innocent people. What appeared in the last Sunday Observer is one case of example.
The Speaker has completely disregarded the requests of the Supreme Court to postpone the impeachment proceedings until petitions on constitutionality are heard and interpretation given. The scant respect for the judiciary by the government is again shown. The government apparently wants to complete the saga in a mighty hurry. The reason is obvious. The government is rapidly losing its popularity and an independent judiciary is a thorn in their sinful flesh.
What I can do from a distance is to wish all blessings of the triple gem to the CJ. Bon Courage! People will soon vindicate that you were just and right.