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Mon, 22 December 2014 00:08:00
Lawyers for Sri Lanka chief justice explain walkout
07 Dec, 2012 12:50:59
Dec 07, 2012 (LBO) - Lawyers for Sri Lanka's chief justice Shirani Bandaranayake has explained why she walked out, after she was called names, was not allowed to cross examine witnesses and was given a large bundle of document which was expected to be answered in a day.
The statement is reproduced below:

Today the Chief Justice of Sri Lanka Dr. Shirani Bandaranayake walked out of the Parliamentary Select Committee in protest in the face of hostile and biased conduct of the government members of the PSC so as to ensure the dignity of the judiciary of Sri Lanka. The Chief Justice reiterates that she is innocent of the false charges made against her and is always willing to face any impartial tribunal in order to vindicate herself. The following are the events which led to the decision of the Chief Justice to walk out of the PSC. The PSC was requested as far back as November 20th to furnish the information required to reply the allegations. This information was never provided.

When the PSC commenced sitting on 23rd November 2012 learned Counsel for the Chief Justice requested that a list of witnesses and a list of documents relied upon in support of the allegations be made available. It is common knowledge that even in a disciplinary inquiry in the public service or a trivial criminal case that a respondent or accused is furnished with a list of witnesses and documents so that they could prepare for the defence.

The PSC failed to meet this basic requirement at any of its sitting. Today at about 4pm, the PSC handed over a bundle of documents consisting of approximately 1000 pages and required the chief justice to respond by 1.30 pm tomorrow, i.e. in less than 24 hours. It was obvious that a majority of the members of the PSC had no real intention to give the chief justice a fair hearing.

In addition to the above, at various stages of the proceedings of the PSC, two members hurled abuse at the Chief Justice (such as Mad Woman) and her lawyers and it became evident that these members had been mandated to ridicule the head of the judiciary and the legal profession. The Opposition MPs requested the Chairman to prevent such remarks and to conduct the inquiry with dignity was ignored.

The Select Committee was requested numerous times to formulate the procedure that it intended to follow. There was no response to this request until today. Today when this request was repeated, the Chairman of the PSC stated that no oral evidence would be led to establish the allegations and, consequently no opportunity would be given to cross examine such witnesses making the allegations. Instead it became evident today that the Chief Justice was expected to refute allegations that had not even been supported by evidence. Such an irregular and unlawful procedure would undermine every single independent judge in Sri Lanka. In almost all instances the same members of the PSC, who were in majority, overruled the submissions made on behalf of the Chief Justice without cogent reasons and often without any prior consultation with the other members. It is for the above reasons that the Chief Justice requested to waive the secrecy provisions and sought an open and public inquiry and requested for independent observers to watch the proceedings, but this request was also refused by a majority of the PSC.

In the face of the above no right thinking person could any longer continue to accept the legitimacy of a body steeped in partiality and hostility towards the head of the judiciary and in this background the chief justice and her counsel had no alternative but to withdraw from participating in the select committee.

The CJ reiterates that she is willing continue to face any impartial and lawful tribunal as is done in other commonwealth countries as was proposed in the draft constitution of August 2000 in order to vindicate herself and she will continue in her efforts to safeguard the independence of the judiciary, which is a heritage of the people of Sri Lanka, who alone are the sovereign of this country.

Lawyers Collective, Colombo, Sri Lanka

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