Sri Lankan chief justice faces impeachment charges

Updated 06 November 2012
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Sri Lankan chief justice faces impeachment charges

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.


Divided UN council heads to Sweden for farmhouse retreat

Updated 19 April 2018
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Divided UN council heads to Sweden for farmhouse retreat

  • 15 ambassadors will join Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for the secluded getaway in a country setting.
  • The three-day retreat will begin on Friday.

United Nations, United States: After a week of bitter acrimony over Syria, UN Security Council ambassadors are heading to a farmhouse in southern Sweden for a retreat to try to break the deadlock over how to end the war.
US Ambassador Nikki Haley and her Russian counterpart Vassily Nebenzia will be among the 15 ambassadors joining Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for the secluded getaway in a country setting.
The three-day retreat beginning Friday comes after one of the council’s most divisive periods, with the United States and Russia split over the alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma that lead to military action by Washington and its allies against Syria.
The council met five times on Syria last week including on Tuesday when Russia vetoed a US-drafted resolution setting up a chemical weapons probe while two other proposed measures failed to pass.
The Russia-US rivalry prompted Guterres to declare that the Cold War was “back with a vengeance.”
Asked whether he expected awkward moments during the Swedish retreat, Nebenzia told reporters: “I will see how they feel about dealing with me after all that happened.”
“It’s not news to anyone that the council is divided on Syria,” said Sweden’s Deputy UN Ambassador Carl Skau. “There is some need for humility and patience at this moment.”
The council will be staying at Backakra, the summer residence of Dag Hammarskjold, who was the United Nations’ second secretary-general.
The residence located on the southern tip of Sweden, far from Stockholm, is a “fitting and inspiring venue” to reconnect with the power of diplomacy, said Skau.
“It’s a place to roll up our sleeves, take off our jackets and ties and come up with some real and meaningful ways forward,” he said.
The annual brainstorming session usually takes place in upstate New York, but Sweden, which is a non-permanent council member, offered to host this year’s gathering.
Guterres had told council members that the focus of the meeting would be his plan for a “surge of diplomacy” to address conflicts worldwide, but the council’s deadlock over Syria is emerging as the top priority.