Impeachment of CJ: TNA, too, favours prorogation

Calls for new law to handle impeachment proceedings


By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) yesterday said that the prorogation of Parliament could be a way out of the simmering dispute between the ruling coalition and an influential section of the judiciary. The prorogation could pave the way for a fresh inquiry into allegations against Chief Justice Dr. Shirani Bandaranayake.

TNA National List MP M.A. Sumanthiran emphasized that a new inquiry would be necessary in the wake of widespread protests against the special Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) which investigated the conduct of Chief Justice Bandaranayake on the basis of some allegations made by a group of 117 members of the UPFA.

The left party alliance comprising ministers D. E. W. Gunasekera, Vasudeva Nanayakkara and Prof. Tissa Vitharana called for the prorogation of Parliament. Their move also received the support of President of the Sri Lanka Bar Association (BASL) Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe,MP Sumanthiran stressed that Opposition members of the 11-member PSC could accept the notification issued by Court of Appeal regardless of the Speaker’s decision to ignore it. Asked whether he was speaking on behalf of TNA leader, R. Sampanthan, who functioned as a member of PSC, MP Sumanthiran said that he was responding to The Island query as an attorney-at-law.

The TNA MP said that that it was very important to know that the Court of Appeal hadn’t issued summons on Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa and members of the PSC. What happened was that the Court of Appeal notified them in respect of the writ application filed by Chief Justice Bandaranayake against the findings of the PSC which found her guilty of misconduct.

Attorney-at-law Sumanthiran stressed that even if all members of the PSC didn’t respond to the Appeal Court notification there wouldn’t be any legal consequences. But it would be much better if they responded to the court notification and state their individual position, the MP said, recommending all parties to the conflict work towards the resolution of the crisis.

The 11-member PSC appointed by Speaker Rajapaksha comprised seven UPFA members (Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, Nimal Siripala de Silva, Susil Premjayanth, Dr. Rajitha Senaratne, Wimal Weerawansa, Dilan Perera and Neomal Perera) and four Opposition members -R. Sampanthan (TNA), John Amaratunga, Lakshman Kiriella (UNP) and Vijitha Herath (JVP).

Commenting on the impeachment motion, MP Sumanthiran said that regardless of the criticism of the investigative process adopted by the government no one could challenge the need to investigate allegations as regards corruption and irregularities against Chief Justice Bandaranayake. ‘No one can say, "Don’t investigate." There shouldn’t be any effort to cover up. The best course of action is to investigate all allegations thoroughly through an independent mechanism,’ MP Sumanthiran said. He faulted the way a section of the PSC had produced its report on a Saturday morning having worked through the night. It was nothing but a joke, the MP alleged emphasizing that it was a mistake on the part of the government to use an apparatus created by the then JRJ administration to impeach Chief Justice Neville Samarakoon knowing well that it was seriously flawed.

MP Sumanthiran recalled how Messrs Dinesh Gunawerdena, the late Anura Bandaranayake and the late Sarath Muththetuwegama had pushed for what they called an authoritarian ruling from the Supreme Court as regards Standing Order 78 A. The then Opposition members wanted to know whether 78 A was consistent with the Constitution, MP Sumanthiran said, adding that the UPFA should seriously consider introducing a new law through an Act of Parliament to spearhead the impeachment process. The Standing Order 78 A, too, should be amended, he said. A new law would be a prerequisite for an independent inquiry.

The attorney-at-law pointed out that Anura Bandaranayake had highlighted the flaws in Standing Order 78 A during the attempt to impeach Chief Justice Sarath Nanda Silva.

UNP MP Karu Jayasuriya, too, said that the prorogation of parliament would give the government an opportunity to rethink and take remedial measures to avert an unprecedented crisis. The former UNP Deputy Leader said that the Chief Justice should be given a chance to defend herself regardless of the circumstances under which the current crisis was caused.

MP Sumanthiran said that the government could also simply drop the CJ issue by not taking it up for debate when Parliament met next.

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