Commonwealth Spokesman Richard Uku in his first ever response to a series of articles about the Commonwealth Secretariat in the Colombo Telegraph, says that contrary to our report After Pillay: Sharma to do Damage Control for Lanka, Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma did not meet with External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris during his visit to London last week.
“The Secretary-General was in fact in South Africa attending the Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference for the entire duration of Minister Peiris’s recent visit to the United Kingdom. The two, therefore did not meet,” Uku said in an emailed response to the Colombo Telegraph.
Uku added that Sharma had not advised the Government to reverse judicial orders regarding the impeachment of “the former Chief Justice”. “Nor would he,” the Spokesman said.
“That the Secretary-General said anything on the subject is completely false,” he said. “The separation of powers between the branches of government is a fundamental Commonwealth value. This is clear from the Secretary-General’s earlier public statement. It is inconceivable that any Commonwealth Secretary-General would offer such advice,” the Spokesman wrote.
He added that the Commonwealth Secretary-General has publicly welcomed recognition in Sri Lanka of the need for change following the removal of the former Chief Justice. He has since made available to the government an expert analysis of the practice in all Commonwealth countries relating to the appointment and removal of senior judicial figures, and has offered further Commonwealth assistance, Uku concluded.
Editor’s Note: With reference to the story Richard Uku has responded to, Colombo Telegraph maintains that the article was based on Human Rights Commissioner of Sri Lanka, Prathibha Mahanama’s discussions with a group of lawyers and government officials. These sources reiterate that Secretary General has undertaken to give the Government support to mitigate the effects of Navi Pillay’s closing statement following her visit to Sri Lanka and her oral country report due later this month. Colombo Telegraph is at present unable to obtain information about what kind of expert assistance and analysis of the practice in the Commonwealth countries relating to the appointment and removal of senior judicial figures the Secretariat hopes to grant Sri Lanka. What is available in the public domain is only the suppression of the expert opinions already obtained by the SG from the CMAG. Colombo Telegraph will divulge more information about the meetings and conversations between the Secretary General and the Sri Lankan Minister and authorities as soon as it becomes available.
It is interesting to note that Mr. Uku has responded to Colombo Telegraph in this instance, although questions asked of him repeatedly by Twitter users and CT about other issues repeatedly raised by about the Commonwealth Secretariat’s bona fides and allegations of the Secretariat’s apparent coziness with the ruling regime in Colombo.
Furthermore, Colombo Telegraph wishes to make note of the Commonwealth Spokesman’s reference to the impeached Chief Justice. This is not the first time the Commonwealth Spokesman has referred to Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake as the country’s ‘former’ CJ. As per the decisions by Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court and its Court of Appeal, the highest courts of the country, Shirani Bandaranayake remains the constitutionally legitimate Chief Justice. The appointment of her successor has created an unprecedented constitutional crisis in the country and is being challenged at the Supreme Court now headed by Mohan Pieris who has directly benefited from Bandaranayake’s unlawful sacking from office. Yet as of today, the judgment of the highest of Sri Lanka still stands and Bandaranayake’s impeachment therefore, remains illegal and unconstitutional and therefore, one must question on whose authority and what basis, the Commonwealth Spokesman for Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma refers to the De Jure Chief Justice of Sri Lanka, Dr. Shirani Bandaranayake as “former Chief Justice.” Even in the Sri Lankan independent media that functions under repressive conditions, never refers to Dr. Bandaranayake as ‘former’ Chief Justice, instead, as impeached CJ, CJ 43, or de jure Chief Justice, in deference to the orders by the courts.
Is Mr. Uku attempting to legitimise the appointment of Mohan Pieris, the country’s de facto CJ who will now decide on the judges who shall hear the case against him, in blatant violation of the principles of natural justice that no man shall be a judge in his own case, which in turn runs contrary to the Commonwealth’s stated core values of judicial independence.