Cross Section of Public Opinion on Parliamentary Select Committee Proceedings Against Chief Justice

(Following the conclusion of the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) proceedings, a cross-section of civil society members, trade unionists and political party members had this to say about the decision. The responses were Compiled by Ifam Nizam, Umesh Moramudali, Vyshnavy Velrajh and Amila Jayasinghe for “Ceylon Today”)

A trial on Parliament

The trial has been on Parliament and not on the Chief Justice, said former Executive Director of Transparency International, Senior Attorney-at-Law, J.C. Weliamuna.

Weliamuna said any civilized country would bring the basic application for fair trial, adding that rushing the process itself indicates political witch-hunt against the Chief Justice and that allegations should be investigated through proper channels rather than making defamatory remarks against the Chief Justice in the media.

“Such decisions cannot be accepted in the legal profession. Earlier they said evidence would not be called, when the Chief Justice and the Opposition left they called for witnesses, which looks like a conspiracy,” he added.

May be a breach of privileges

President’s Counsel, Hemantha Waranakulasuriya said whatever comments expressed on the matter may be a breach of parliamentary privileges. He went to say that one has to be careful when commenting on such matters.

However, he said that personally from the beginning he didn’t like the developments.

NFF refuses to comment

National Freedom Front (NFF) Kalutara District parliamentarian, Piyasiri Wijenayake did not want to comment on the subject.

It should be a free and fair trial

Director Communications of Transparency International Sri Lanka, Shan Wijetunge, said from the beginning they had asked all parties involved in the impeachment motion against Chief Justice Dr. Shirani Bandaranayake to provide a fair trial.

“We think that according to Parliament procedures the Chief Justice will not be provided a fair chance or trial with regard to the impeachment motion,” he added.

He also said they suggested that even though an independent panel has been set up to investigate the impeachment motion, other systems should also be available to carry on the investigations, if the panel fails, as was done in Singapore.

“We have requested the President and the government to provide a fair trial to the Chief Justice. However, we have not taken any stand on the current controversy with regard to the impeachment motion. We will be meeting tomorrow to discuss the current situation.” he added.

He went on says that they still stand by what they had requested from the beginning, which is a free and fair trial should be provided to the Chief Justice.

Proceedings not systematic

Sunil Jayasekera of the Free Media Movement (FMM), said the impeachment motion against the Chief Justice has not been done systematically.

The Chief Justice, who is holding an important position in the country, should be given more prominence than this, he said.

“There was no procedure in doing so and the time granted to the Chief Justice to take the decision was less than 24 hours. This motion was brought by the same people who reported the case against her and ended up hearing the case as well,” he added.

He also said that no longer can the citizens of this country rely on the independency of the Judiciary to speak on behalf of the people’s rights and democracy.

Judiciary has been destroyed

Convener of the Socialist Youth Union (SYU), Bimal Ratnayake said President Mahinda Rajapaksa has interfered into almost all of the main institutions in the country including Parliament, the police and the three forces, and has brought them under his rule.

He is trying to trample the Judiciary and bring in a dictatorial rule. Even to impeach the Chief Justice and remove her from her position, there should be a standard method, but there had been no such process.

The United National Party (UNP) members also removed themselves from the PSC, which shows the state of it all. The Judiciary has being destroyed. All of this is paving the road for imperial countries to make their way into Sri Lanka.

The whole process is politicized

President of the Health Services Trade Union Alliance (HSTUA), Saman Ratnapriya said the government elected a PSC to decide on the impeachment motion against the Chief Justice, which was then handed over to Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa.

The whole process is politicized. This impeachment motion was brought in so that the governments can take over the Judiciary.

He said they want independency in the Judiciary. If the government takes over the Judiciary, people will lose their freedoms. “We are completely against this. If there are accusations against the Chief Justice what the government should have done is let the decision be passed on through a judgment from a committee of the Judiciary and the police where then the nation can also decide on whether she is guilty as charged and not suitable for her position. But, the government did not follow any such procedure and instead elected their own people to decide on it. We ask the government to take back the decision on the impeachment motion.”

Violation of due process

Mahim Mendis, Media spokesman of the Federation of University Teachers’ Association (FUTA) said, “We vehemently condemn the government’s interference into the Judiciary. We vehemently condemn the way Parliament Select Committee (PSC) acts regarding the charges against Chief Justice also. This will draw a very bad picture of Sri Lanka in front of the international community. We request the government not to tear the Sri Lanka’s image in front of the world. We as FUTA is totally in line with the statement issued by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) saying that hearing ignores international standards and violates due process.”

Heading towards a dictatorship

Sumatipala Manawadu, General Secretary of the All Ceylon General Railway Employees Union (ACRGEU) said: “This country is heading towards a dictatorship. Any person, any organization which comes against their journey they suppress somehow. Interfering into the Judiciary is also a part of it. If we take this impeachment hearing against the CJ; first they accused the CJ, then they investigated and they gave the decision also. All of the people’s conscitious know that this is a wrong thing.”

This is a Kekille decision

Joseph Stalin, General Secretary of the Ceylon Teachers Union (CTU), said: “People in Sri Lanka will not accept this decision. This is a Kekille decision. Government politicians brought charges against the CJ and they themselves gave the report as well. We would get involved in a massive struggle with the support of other trade unions to force the government to retract the impeachment against the CJ.

“Interfering into the independency of the Judiciary is very harmful to a country. As trade unions we also got some unfavorable decision from the court. But the Judiciary is there to protect the people’s rights. For example, if there was no involvement from the Judiciary, thousands of students would have faced injustice due to the Z-score crisis. I request from the public to come together to protect the independency of Judiciary.”

JHU refuses to comment

Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) Kalutara District Parliamentarian Ven. Athuraliye Ratana Thera said he refrain from commenting regarding the impeachment moved against Chief Justice.

Guilty must be punished

Rohana Perera, Secretary of the Joint Three-Wheeler Drivers’ Association (JTDA), said: “All are equal before the law. But, anyone who is guilty needs to be punished. His or her position does not need to be considered and it has been proved today. As three-wheeler drivers, we do not know much about the law, but we think the Parliament Select Committee has acted according to the Constitution.”

No transparency in PSC

Anjana Priyanjith, General Secretary of the All Island Private Bus Owners’ Federation: “We cannot accept this decision. There were people who have charges against them within the Parliament Select Committee (PSC). The ratio between the opposition members and the government members are four and seven respectively. That clearly showed that there was no transparency in PSC. Undermining the independency of the Judiciary is not a good thing.”

CP refuses to comment

Raja Collure, President of the Communist Party of Sri Lanka, said: “As Communist Party of Sri Lanka we stated earlier that we will be staying away from the impeachment. Therefore, we can’t give any comment on this.”

PSC was unfair

John Amaratunga, United National Party (UNP), PSC member, said: “The way the Parliament Select Committee (PSC) was appointed to investigate the charges against the Chief Justice was unfair. That is why the opposition members resigned. We will start our fight when there is a vote on the impeachment. The Speaker said he would give a 10-day debate on the impeachment moved against the Chief Justice.”

Govt. members acted arbitrarily

Vijitha Herath, Democratic National Alliance (DNA) – PSC member, said: “We do not accept this decision. This is a completely unfair and unjust decision. This is a one-sided decision of only seven members of the government. All the people in the country know that this decision is unfair. The government members acted arbitrarily since the setting up of the PSC. To turn back this decision, public needs to come together.COURTESY:CEYLON TODAY