By Colombo Telegraph –
The Rajapakse regime has decided to embark on an assault on the Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake, the Colombo Telegraph reliably understands. The regime is unhappy with her for the many recent judgements of the Supreme Court which have gone against the regime, notably the decision on the Divineguma Bill. Also, the Chief Justice and the other two members of the Judicial Service Commission refused to meet the President when they were summoned by him. It is said that Rajapakse wanted to discuss the issue of interdiction of District Judge Aravinda Perera, a close friend of Namal Rajapakse. Thereafter, the Commission issued a public statement to say that it was been pressurized. This is the first time in Sri Lanka’s judicial history that such a statement has been issued by the Judicial Service Commission.
According to government sources, the regime is being advised by Asoka De Silva, former Chief Justice, who is a Legal Advisor to the President- an unprecedented appointment in the judicial history of Sri Lanka. Asoka De Silva was a junior judge of the Appeals Court when Shirani Bandaranayake was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1997. Although she was the most senior judge in the Supreme Court when Chief Justice Sarath Silva retired, she made it known that she was prepared to give way to Asoka De Silva as he was less than 2 years away from the retirement age. Accordingly, he was appointed Chief Justice. However, later he clashed with her in the Judicial Service Commission and became very antagonistic to her. It is said that most senior judges of the Supreme Court were disappointed that Asoka De Silva made his younger brother the Secretary of the Judicial Service Commission.
As the first step in the attack on the Chief Justice, her husband Pradeep Kariyawasam is to be indicted by the Commission on Bribery and Corruption for his alleged role in the highly controversial purchase of a 13% stake of The Finance Company by the National Savings Bank of which he was Chairman, Colombo Telegraph understands. The shares were sold by Raynor Silva, CEO of ABC Broadcasting Corporation, and the Perera brothers Nandadeva and Yogendra. Raynor Silva is the brother of the controversial MP Duminda Silva, a pet of the Rajapakse regime and the prime suspect in the Bharatha Premachandra murder.
Interestingly, the Chairman of the Bribery Commission is former Supreme Court judge Jagath Balapatabendi who is closely related to Asoka De Silva. Asoka De Silva’s daughter Kanishka is married to Jagath Balapatabendi’s son, Isuru. President Rajapakse did a big favour to De Silva and Balapatabendi by appointing Isuru as second secretary of the Sri Lankan embassy in the Netherlands. This was at a time when Kanishka was studying for her LL.M. degree in international law at Leiden University in The Hague. Asoka De Silva was also a judge of the International Tribunal for Rwanda at that time and was given permission by President Rajapakse to continue in that position even after he was appointed Chief Justice. The Rwanda Tribunal held its sittings at The Hague and it was so convenient to the families for which they are no doubt ever grateful to President Rajapakse.
Another interesting family connection is that Attorney General Palitha Fernando is married to Asoka De Silva’s sister. It is said that it was Asoka De Silva who engineered the appointment of former Attorney General Eva Wanasundara to the Supreme Court (which was seen in legal circles as a ‘kick upstairs’) and the replacement by Palitha Fernando. If Kariyawasam is indicted the Attorney General’s Department will prosecute him. Palitha Fernando is viewed in legal circles as an honest officer but whether he will be able to withstand Presidential and family pressure is to be seen.
A few weeks back, Sunday Leader claimed that it has seen documentary evidence that Kariyawasam had acted with the concurrence of the National Savings Bank Board and that the Board did in fact discuss the strategic investment in The Finance Company as they felt there were good synergies with Company. However, trade unions in Bank were up in arms against the purchase of The Finance shares and the Government decided to cancel the transaction. Kariyawasam later resigned. Political gossip has it that the shares were purchsed at the instance of a highly placed Central Bank official who was really acting at the behest of the regime which was trying to help Raynor Silva to raise money to pay Duminda Silva’s hospital bills in Singapore.
Several lawyers who spoke to Colombo Telegraph stated that while they deplored interference with the judiciary, Kariyawasam should not have accepted a political appointment in the first place. He was first appointed as Chairman of Sri Lanka Insurance and later as Chairman of the National Savings Bank. Never in the history of Sri Lanka’s judiciary had a spouse of a judge of a superior Court accepted a political appointment, they stated. “Balloth ekka nidagaththama, makkoth ekka negitinna wenawa” (“when you sleep with dogs, you have to get up with fleas”) a former judicial high up stated.