Bar brawls over CJ, exchanges blows after meeting ends

by Maheen Senanayake

Yesterday’s meeting of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka saw contending factions for and against the Chief Justice exchanging hot words with the majority backing BASL President Wijedasa Rajapakse, PC, adopting three resolutions:

* urging the president to re-consider the impeachment motion;

* alternatively urging that if the signatories want to proceed with it, to regulate procedure for the removal of superior court judges adhering to principles of natural justice and ensuring fair trial before any further steps are taken against the incumbent CJ

* in the event the president appointing a new CJ without giving the incumbent the opportunity of a fair trial, for the BASL to refrain from welcoming the new CJ as is customary at the ceremonial first sitting of the new CJ.

Mr. Wijedasa Rajapakse said "the three resolution I put forward encapsulated the crux of other resolutions that had been presented." He said that these had been unanimously adopted by about 3,000 members who had participated at the meeting.

But BASL Vice President Anoma Goonethilake insisted that the resolution was not put to the vote. She said that the due process of circulating any resolution to be put to the house had not been followed.

" I only heard of the resolutions when Mr. Rajapakse took the chair and announced that there was one resolution signed by around 400 members and three others including one signed by around 300 members. He only took one resolution for debate defending this action saying that this may have been because the resolutions were not submitted in time."

Goonethilake also accused Rajapakse of being very liberal with the time granted to three members supporting the resolution but less so with others who spoke against it.

She alleged that the resolutions were not put to the vote with Rajapkse merely announcing that they were unanimously adopted and walking out. "This is what cause the dispute and the resulting commotion," she said.

No sooner had Rajapakse left the meeting, there was a brawl with several lawyers scuffling and the venue at the District Courts complex turning into a small battle ground with the two sides exchanging blows.

Asked for his comments, Rajapakse said: ``We had a meeting and we left. I was not aware of this development which I am beginning to now hear about from other parties."

Goonethilake said that she had announced her resignation from her position of Vice President of the BASL which she would submit to the Bar Council which elected her. She expected the matter to be taken up at the next meeting of the council on the last Saturday of the month.

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