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Sri Lanka moves to impeach chief justice

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s government said yesterday that it had started the process to impeach the country’s chief justice, accusing her of overstepping her limits in the culmination of a drawn-out conflict between the judiciary and the government.
Official spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella said the papers to impeach Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake were handed to the speaker of the Parliament yesterday.
Rambukwella did not specify the charges against Bandaranayake, but said the proposal had received the approval of more than 75 lawmakers as required.
The move comes as the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa is accused of tightening control over the media, police and election officials, as well as carrying out political vendettas against opposition parties.
The government changed the constitution last year, giving the president power to appoint the chief justice, police chief and election commissioner, which is seen as a way to curb their independence.
The dispute also coincides with Sri Lanka’s periodical review at the United Nations, where the country’s human rights record will be discussed. Lawmaker Pavithra Wanniarachi, who was among those handing the motion to the speaker, said the charges against Bandaranayake include “misuse of office and personal misconduct.” She did not elaborate. The main opposition United National Party condemned the move, saying it was a way to frighten the judiciary.
“We are against any interference made to the judiciary or any attempt to make the judiciary a political tool,” said lawmaker Tissa Attanayake, the party’s general secretary.
The impeachment motion requires more than half, or at least 113 votes, in Parliament to be passed.
The government controls two-thirds of the 225-member Parliament, so the motion is expected to pass.
The impeachment motion follows months of power struggles between the judiciary and Parliament. It also follows a recent Supreme Court determination that a government bill contradicted the constitution because it could give back power to the national government from provincial governments, such as for rural development plans.