Attack on the Chief Justice


Is there a public opinion in this country? Does the opinion of the public matter? Or, is the opinion of the government the only opinion? Any opinion, whether it is about war or peace, devolution or no devolution. federal unitary, united or indivisible state, does not matter. What matters is what Mahinda Rajapaksa thinks about it. The government band wagon echoes his thoughts and the opposition rambles and mumbles some opinion. Ranil Wickremasinghe adds spice to it and the whole controversy is forgotten as they concentrate on the foolish or the jocular remarks made by Ranil when he is attacked by the state-run and other media, while the President’s message is acted upon. But, quite contrary to the jester in Ranil, when the attack on the judiciary took place, he became very serious and poured his heart out. He claimed that the attack on ‘Manjula’ was similar to the stay orders issued by courts against him. If anyone has any doubt about the facile dictator in him, they can be laid to rest as he believes, more than any one else, that the judiciary should give orders in his favour, irrespective of the merits or demerits of the case. This clearly shows the trait in his family. An ideal example is JRJ impeaching his old buddy Neville Samarakoon, for not using the judicial officer to further strengthen his dictatorial regime.

The most controversial decision taken by the government has landed it in what can be termed a ‘Judicial imbroglio’. Beginning with the attack on the Mannar Magistrate’s Court, followed by the Attack on Secretary to the Judicial Service Commission Manjula Thilekeratna, the government has decided to take on the Chief Justice by handing over an impeachment motion against her to the Speaker.

Whether there is an opinion or not and the people, especially in the rural areas, are concerned with the Judiciary or not, Internationally, the opinion against the government is crystallizing and would combust the already waning international public opinion.

It is the most unpopular move yet taken by the government. It would attack the very credibility of the government and the oaths taken by them to defend the Constitution. Other than and sycophants, the legal profession is wholly against this utterly unwise move. Most moderate Ministers, specially the pure Sri Lanka Freedom Party members and Ministers, have privately condemned this action now being sponsored by political converts for personal gain. Let us observe what the international opinion is. The International Bar Association is a formidable group of International lawyers, of which our own Desmond Fernando, PC, was Chairman. The present Chairman Baroness Helena Kennedy, QC, made the following statement to the BBC Sandeshaya:

Human Rights Institute of the International Bar Association (IBAHRI) says that the reported attempt by the Sri Lanka government to impeach the Chief Justice is perceived as a politically motivated move to curtail the independence of the judiciary.

IBAHRI co-chair Baroness Helena Kennedy, QC, has told BBC Sandeshaya that IBAHRI regards the recent physical assault on JSC Secretary Manjula Thilakarathne, the constitutional challenge against Divineguma Bill and the attempts to impeach the Chief Justice as events that are linked to each other.

Elaborating further, she has said that although any government has a right to take action against the senior judges, under the current circumstances in Sri Lank,a in which the judiciary has come under increasing threats and intimidation, whatever action taken by the government against the judiciary will be perceived as politically motivated.

At a time when the President and the Chief Justice are at loggerheads it might be perceived as an attempt to remove the Chief Justice as the government does not like what the judiciary is doing, she said.

IBAHRI sincerely hopes, she said, that President Mahinda Rajapaksa will take serious note of the concerns raised by the world body representing lawyers worldwide.

She said although the Sri Lankan government has initiated investigations against Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake’s husband’s alleged financial mishandling, the CJ’s conduct and that of her husband are unrelated affairs.

In a confidential letter sent to Sri Lanka’s President last week, IBAHRI had expressed serious concern over the threats and intimidation against the judiciary in the island.

Asian Human Rights Commission, which had been fighting a lone battle, when Sarath N. Silva was Chief Justice, to address issues concerning dictatorship and Judicial terrorism, said:

"The Mahinda Rajapaksa regime has resorted to the ugliest attack in Sri Lankan judicial history on the Supreme Court and the Chief Justice this week by using the state media as a slander machine and through employing the state media to introduce deliberately manufactured slanderous letters to the parliament solely with the purpose of abusing parliamentary privilege for biased purposes. The government has within its ranks, schemers of the lowest quality who have little scruple in manufacturing any lie to suit their purpose and thereafter using others to introduce and propagate such lies in the highest legislative assembly of the country, namely Sri Lanka’s parliament."

It is now upto to good members of the Bar Association, led by the COPE crusader, to shed their political and other agendas and like the good knights of King Arthur intervene and settle this matter. They would do well to end any real or perceived hostility amongst themselves and settle this dispute immediately before the international agendas of other agencies could come to the fore with the cry for a regime change. The voices of these miscreants in the wilderness should be defeated for the common good of the country.

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