Assisting the repeal of the 17th Amendment that set up independent commissions and sought to de-politicise State services has placed members of the Judiciary back in the vice grip of politicians, the main Opposition UNP charged yesterday.
“It was one thing to remove the term limits of the President. When the 18th Amendment issue came before the courts, they should have acted to safeguard the independent commissions established by the 17th Amendment, that would have safeguarded them from interference too,” UNP MP Lakshman Kiriella said.
At a press conference held yesterday, Kiriella added that while the Independent Commissions set up by the Constitutional Council provided for in the 17th Amendment ensured the separation and balance of power between the Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary, the 18th Amendment had vested in the President final authority over all appointments and dismissals.
Kiriella explained that it was the responsibility of the UNP as the main Opposition to participate in the Parliamentary Select Committee on the proposed impeachment, in order to determine whether the charges against the Chief Justice had merit or were being manufactured by the Government.
“We will see to it that justice is done by the Chief Justice,” Kiriella said, adding that there was a Constitutional flaw pertaining to the impeachment proceedings as highlighted by Somasundaram Nadesan QC in 1984 with Members of Parliament as the complainants also sat in judgment at impeachment proceedings.
“Nadesan QC argued then when an impeachment motion against Chief Justice Neville Samarakoon was being deliberated that in order for Parliament to sit in judgment a Constitutional amendment had to be made since judicial power is exercised through the courts,” Kiriella told reporters.
According to the UNP MP, it was akin to the Attorney General or the police filing a case against an individual and then sitting in judgment of that case. Kiriella also said that the UNP would fully endorse and support any decision made with regard to the impeachment by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka and the Judges Association.
He called for sessions of the Parliamentary Select Committee to be made open and transparent for observation by representatives of the International Bar Association, the International Council of Jurists, representatives of the local Bar and Judges Association, and even the media.
“The independence of the Judiciary is not a domestic issue alone, irrespective of what the Government says. Sri Lanka is signatory to international covenants pledging to protect and uphold the independence of the Judiciary,” he said.