Sri Lankan chief justice faces impeachment charges



BHARATHA MALLAWARACHI | AP

Published — Tuesday 6 November 2012

Last update 6 November 2012 10:24 pm

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka’s government has accused the country’s chief justice of unexplained wealth and misuse of power in an impeachment complaint submitted to Parliament.
The complaint, included in Parliament’s published agenda Tuesday, says Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake’s actions had “plunged the Supreme Court and the office of chief justice into disrepute.”
It was Parliament’s first meeting since a group of government lawmakers submitted the complaint last Thursday to Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa. The inclusion of the complaint in Parliament’s agenda indicates that it was accepted by the speaker, who is to form a parliamentary committee to investigate the allegations.
Opposition parties and independent analysts say the impeachment process is a politically motivated attempt to stifle the judiciary’s independence as part of a government effort to concentrate power in the hands of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The speaker is his older brother.
The complaint alleges that Bandaranayake did not disclose how she obtained 19 million rupees ($146,000) to pay for a house purchased under power of attorney for another person, and that she took control of several cases filed against the company that sold the property after removing the judges who originally heard them.
It also accuses Bandaranayake of not declaring the contents of 20 bank accounts, including four foreign currency accounts containing the equivalent of 34 million rupees ($260,000).
It also alleges that Bandaranayake misused her position to harass other judges.
If the committee determines that the complaint has merit, an impeachment motion will be voted on and the president will be informed of the outcome for further action. With the ruling coalition controlling more than two-thirds of Parliament’s seats, the motion is expected to be carried easily.
The impeachment attempt follows months of conflict between Parliament, which is controlled by President Rajapaksa, and the judiciary.
The secretary of the Judicial Services Commission, Manjula Thilakaratne, was assaulted last month after he said powerful people were trying to interfere with its work and with judges, and that their families were under threat.
Opposition parties accused the government of involvement in the attack but the government denied responsibility.
Bandaranayake came under strong government criticism after she ruled that a government bill violated the constitution.

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