Sri Lankan lawmakers move to impeach chief justice

Lawmakers call for country's first woman chief justice to be removed amid misconduct claims

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 November, 2012, 4:16am


Ruling party lawmakers submitted a motion to impeach Sri Lanka's most senior judge yesterday as President Mahinda Rajapakse moved to crush another of his former allies after vanquishing Tamil rebels.

Days after the foreign minister said Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake had flouted the constitution, officials confirmed Rajapakse's United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) had submitted a resolution to have her sacked.

The move marked a dramatic escalation in tensions with the judiciary on the day that a UN committee considered Sri Lanka's rights record.

The head of a watchdog who claimed there was a plot to destroy the courts' independence is currently recovering after being stabbed by unknown attackers last month. The government denies involvement.

There was no immediate reaction from the chief justice, whom ministers said had been guilty of misconduct.

"The allegations against the chief justice relate to her misconduct both in her official and personal capacities," Technology Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi told reporters.

Bandaranayake, a former law professor, was appointed as Sri Lanka's first woman chief justice in May of last year.

The impeachment motion is the latest sign of efforts by the government to tighten its grip after crushing the Tamil Tigers in 2009 at the end of a 37-year conflict, as well as its willingness to pursue one-time allies.

Sarath Fonseka, the army chief regarded as a national hero for overseeing the Tigers' defeat, was jailed after trying to run against Rajapakse in 2010. He was freed in May.

The United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva started its four-yearly review of Sri Lanka yesterday.

It is the first debate on Sri Lanka at the UNHRC since a US-led resolution earlier this year urged Colombo to probe war crimes allegedly committed by its troops, to ensure reconciliation and good governance.