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