The Power Tus­sle

The tus­sle be­tween Pres­i­dent Ra­japaksa’s government and the Ju­di­ciary could have a detri­men­tal ef­fect on Sri Lanka’s po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity.

Southasia - - Sri lanka - By Muham­mad Asad

The Sri Lankan government re­cently at­tempted to im­peach the coun­try’s Chief Jus­tice, ac­cus­ing her of vi­o­lat­ing her lim­its in a con­flict be­tween the ju­di­ciary and the government. The impeachment mo­tion from the government emerged af­ter the court chal­lenged the rul­ing party of Sri Lanka for en­joy­ing ab­so­lute author­ity. In a re­ac­tion to such an ac­cu­sa­tion, Pres­i­dent Ra­japaksa put for­ward an impeachment com­plaint in the Par­lia­ment, ac­cus­ing the Chief Jus­tice of un­ex­plained wealth and mis­use of power.

In­de­pen­dent an­a­lysts claim that this is a vile at­tempt by the Sri Lankan Pres­i­dent to make a mock­ery of the ju­di­ciary and re­main in power. The charges filed against C.J Dr. Shi­rani Ban­daranayake in­clude fail­ing to de­clare for­eign cur­rency, pro­vid­ing du­bi­ous de­tails of more than 20 bank ac­counts, dis­re­gard­ing the con­sti­tu­tion, ha­rass­ing a fe­male mag­is­trate which deem her un­suit­able to con­tinue as chair­per­son of the Ju­di­cial Ser­vices Com­mis­sion.

Me­dia and In­for­ma­tion Mi­nis- ter of Sri Lanka, Ke­he­liya Ram­buk­wella, did not how­ever spec­ify the charges against C.J Ban­daranayake but said in­stead that the pro­posal to im­peach her has re­ceived the ap­proval of more than 75 law­mak­ers, as re­quired. The Ra­japaksa government al­tered the con­sti­tu­tion in 2011, which em­pow­ered the Pres­i­dent to ap­point the Chief Jus­tice, Po­lice Chief and the Elec­tions Com­mis­sioner: a move seen largely as an at­tempt to limit their au­ton­omy.

The impeachment mo­tion fol­lows months of power strug­gles be­tween the ju­di­ciary and par­lia­ment. It also fol­lows a re­cent Supreme Court de­ci­sion that a spe­cific government bill, at­tempt­ing to di­vert power from pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments to the na­tional government, con­tra­dicted the con­sti­tu­tion. If this bill is ap­proved, it could have detri­men­tal ef­fects on ru­ral devel­op­ment projects, amongst other things, halt­ing devel­op­ment progress due to te­dious bu­reau­cracy.

Po­lit­i­cal an­a­lysts strongly be­lieve that this at­tempt has posed a di­rect threat to the au­ton­omy of the ju­di­ciary and ob­structed the path to democ­racy. In a bid to se­cure his power, the Pres­i­dent is ex­pand­ing his wish list by at­tempt­ing to ap­point like-minded of­fi­cials to dole out his party in­ter­est from all gov­ern­men­tal spheres. Should the Pres­i­dent reign supreme, he will feel em­bold­ened to take up com­plex and con­tro­ver- sial is­sues with the ju­di­ciary and ex­er­cise his supreme ver­dict while steer­ing mat­ters of hu­man rights con­cerns with the UN.

The United Na­tional Party (UNP), lead­ing op­po­si­tion in par­lia­ment, has formed a com­mit­tee to in­ves­ti­gate the impeachment mo­tion against the Chief Jus­tice, brought forth by the government. Op­po­si­tion leader, Amaratunga as­serted that the UNP’s pol­icy is to en­sure the in­de­pen­dence of the ju­di­ciary and the party will do its max­i­mum to fight and se­cure that au­tonomous func­tion­ing. A check and bal­ances sys­tem of the Ex­ec­u­tive, Leg­is­la­tor and the Ju­di­ciary re­mains crit­i­cal for all demo­cratic pur­suits. Amaratunga fur­ther added that if the

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