Former President Chandrika Kumaratunga
Retired Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake
- Former CJ pays tribute to Chandrika Kumaratunga for enduring judicial independence during her tenure
- Stresses former President stood steadfast by her principles
- Says disheartening to see many young ones leave country
- Insists time to give back to country without asking what country can give us
Retired Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake paid tribute to former President Chandrika Kumaratunga saying the latter had ensured independence for the Judiciary during her term in office as well as stood steadfast to the principles she believed in.
Speaking during the launch of a book titled “Chandrika” by Tharindu Totawatta, Bandaranayake who was removed from the office of Chief Justice by a highly disputed impeachment process in January 2013, said Kumaratunga had taken the historic step of appointing a woman to the Supreme Court bench of the first time during her tenure and remained committed to the independence of the Judiciary.
Bandaranayake was reinstated as Chief Justice in January 2015 and retired shortly afterwards.
“I have met the former President only a few times and all these were at official events. There are only a few people in this country who I respect and she is among them,” Bandaranayake said.
The former Chief Justice who was the guest speaker at the book launch said that the events of January 2013 (when she was impeached) heightened the appreciation of President Kumaratunga and the manner in which she ensured judicial independence while she was in office.
Bandaranayake said that while a great deal has been written on the former President, this book deals with the formidable character that is Chandrika and not her public face as the President.
“The books deal with different stages of her life, its ups and downs and not only touches on her successes but also the failures. The unique role of the Bandaranaike family in post-independence Sri Lanka was carried to the future by her and she had to make many sacrifices in the process,” Bandaranayake said.
She said one unique characteristic of the former President was her ability to take the correct decision at the correct time and cited an extract from the book dealing with the bomb attack on her on 18 December 1990, where she sustained serious injuries.
“While the President was being taken to hospital, she had queried from her security personnel where they were taking her and was told it was to the national hospital. She had directed them to take her to Nawaloka Hospital saying that in the event of a second attack, it is likely to be near the national hospital. This clearly shows that even in such a trying situation, she made the right decision.”
Bandaranayake also referred to the difficult times the country is going through due to the COVID-19 pandemic and said it is disheartening to see many young people leave the country leading to the loss of valuable human resources.
She said it is time for people to think of what they can do for the country and not what the country can do for them.
“President Kumaratunga showed a great interest in putting the education system in the country on the right path which is vital for the development of the country. We need to have education policies that are in keeping with today’s realities and are not changed each time there is a change in Government,” she said.
Bandaranayake said that while ignorance of the law is not an excuse before the law, failure to teach basic law to school children is a drawback. “For 13 years children are in school and come out without a basic knowledge of the law. This has to be changed,” she said. (CK)