Crisis because MPs have abdicated their responsibility: DEW

Saturday, 12 January 2013 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Dharisha Bastians

In failing to enact laws to govern the impeachment procedure that would satisfy the accused party that the inquiry was conducted fairly, judicially and ethically for 30 years, Members of Parliament have abdicated their responsibility resulting in this crisis, Senior Minister and Communist Party Leader D.E.W. Gunesekera charged during the debate on the impeachment in Parliament yesterday.

The Minister whose Party is a coalition partner of the ruling UPFA Government said that his Party had instructed him to refrain from voting on the motion of impeachment against Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake.

Citing former Speaker Anura Bandaranaike’s ruling in June 2001, in which he said that “Members of Parliament may give their minds to the need to introduce fresh legislation or amend the existing Standing Orders regarding impeachment against judges of superior courts,” Gunesekera said that 30 years had lapsed since the impeachment motion was moved against former Chief Justice Neville Samarakoon, but “nothing was done” in this respect.

Gunesekera said that the Old Left had tried from the outset to intervene in order to avert a constitutional crisis between the Legislature, the Executive and the judiciary. “Tissa Vitarana, Vasudeva Nanayakkara and myself addressed this issue in writing immediately after the appointment of the Select Committee in respect of the Shirani Bandaranayake impeachment. Had there been a positive response, there would have been no conflict,” he said. The Minister added that even the enactment of a law was not a complicated process.

Gunesekera added that the ‘destructive’ and ‘defective’ nature of the 1978 Constitution had eroded Parliament’s power. “We are no longer Supreme, for we are being bridled both by the Executive and the Legislature,” the Senior Minister charged. “As legislators we do not enjoy the powers we enjoyed under the 1972 Constitution,” he added.

According to Gunesekera, the Communist Party would refrain from voting on the impeachment motion in keeping with the political position adopted by former CP Legislator, Sarath Muththettuwegama, Gunesekera said.

Muththettuwegama was an Opposition Member on the Parliamentary Select Committee chaired by Minister Lalith Athulathmudali that probed the impeachment motion against Justice Samarakoon in 1984. He and his two other Opposition colleagues Dinesh Gunewardane and Anura Bandaranaike told the Committee that a judicial process needed to be established to investigate the impeachment charges.