25 January 2015

Sirisena-Ranil doing a 'Mahinda' on the Chief Justice?

Not too long ago the ‘international community’ was up in arms when Mahinda Rajapaksa moved to oust the then Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake.  The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) lent its vociferous and self-righteous voice to these objections and went as far as desecrating the supposedly sacred high chamber of justice in the country by turning it into a picketing ground. 

Now, in post-Rajapaksa Sri Lanka these objectors are calling for the removal of the ‘Rajapaksa-appointee,’ the incumbent Chief Justice, Mohan Peiris.  One would have thought that those who howled over ‘improper procedure’ in the ousting of Bandaranayake would use ‘proper’ mechanisms for this, for example drawing from the Latimer Principles which were bandied about during Maithripala Sirisena’s presidential campaign.  What we are hearing of, though, are all kinds of behind-the-scenes moves which include negotiations over ‘give and take’, none of which cover either the CJ or the negotiators with glory. 

Mohan Peiris is accused of being part of an alleged coup attempt aimed at overturning the decision of the people.  We have the unprecedented situation of a sitting CJ being questioned by the Police.  One would imagine that this could be followed by the Attorney General instituting legal proceedings against the CJ, a process that would have to take place in the latter’s own house with the accused, in effect, sitting in judgment! 

We have also a bizarre situation where the CJ has appointed a spokesperson who happens to be a lawyer.  ‘Conflict of interest?’ is a question that is so glaring here that it is astounding that the CJ appears to have missed it. 

BASL President and well-known UNP politician Upul Jayasuriya claims that in a meeting with the CJ the latter had ‘agreed to step down if he’s compensated with a diplomatic post’.  If this is true then the office of the Chief Justice has become something that can be bought and sold, up for purchase, amenable to barter etc.   The situation does not paint Jayasuriya in positive light either, one observes, because this self-righteous objector to the eviction of Bandaranayake on grounds of improper procedure has no business to cut deals with the CJ.  There’s no evidence that he was offering the CJ a bribe but he was most certainly requesting him to step-down.  Where he found this ‘mechanism’ in the Latimer Principle one just cannot fathom! 

But then again, Jayasuriya was one among many lawyers who at one time vowed not to appear before Peiris but later happily represented clients before him and in other courts, all of which come under his purview.  Only one of the prominent objectors made good on this promise, the inimitable S.L. Gunesekara who ironically passed away the day Maithripala Sirisena was elected President following a clean-up promise as well as a pledge to institute good governance. 

Thus any argument on the lines of Peiris’ appointment being illegal and amoral and therefore he doesn’t have the right to demand the courtesies warranted by the office just fly out of the window.  That’s no ‘out’ for Jayasuriya.  His moves call to question the entire movement to oppose the impeachment of Bandaranayake.  It was not about the dignity of the justice system, the primacy of the law, separation of powers or any of the lovely things the objectors said they were fighting for. 

If someone said ‘justice stinks’ then Jayasuriya, the යහපාලනය (yahapaalanaya or ‘good governance’) politicians he has represented in this surreptitious move and the Chief Justice himself (assuming he did, as Jayasuriya claims, attempt to cut a deal) have provided ample evidence to justify the proposition. 

Jayasuriya is but a pawn here.  He could not have been acting on his own initiative.  It is the movers and shakers of the new Government that talked of a coup attempt and dragged in Peiris’ name as a suspected accessory after the fact.  They, not Jayasuriya, have to make good on the good-governance promise. They have to and can rehearse the Latimer Principles in any move that seeks to oust the CJ. 

Impeach the man if impeachment is warranted, we say.  Stop this childish hora-police (cops and robbers) game.  Right now you people are tripping over good governance rhetoric and its bad, bad precedence that’s oozing out of your preferred-procedural knees.  If that which came before was ugly, rest assured that you people are giving your predecessors a good run for their money in the ugliness department for this amounts to just one thing: digging a grave for good governance. 



lefroy said...

Thank goodness you're not a politician. If you were Ranil or Maithree, we won't get anything done.

Liberal One said...

Yahapalanaya is turning out to be a posh version of Mahinda palanaya. This is sick.

Malinda Seneviratne said...

So...end justifies means, lefroy? :)

Naveen Herath said...

Question: Does the Latimer House principles or an impeachment process apply to an illegally/unlawfully appointed CJ in the first place? Moreover, in my opinion, since the process of impeaching CJ43 was unlawful itself, it would be sufficient to merely revoke the order made by the former President asking for the removal of Dr. Bandaranayake, by the incumbent President. Just a thought.

Malinda Seneviratne said...

how does one establish 'illegality' though? it can't be 'we think so' right? the 'removal' was not by 'order' alone (technically speaking). in any event the legality of this CJ has been affirmed by members of the BASL (Jayasuriya included) by appearing in court. BASL doesn't have the moral authority. i am just worried about bad precedent being followed by as bad or worse practices.

Anonymous said...

I feel you are biased against Maithri and Ranil.You are a well known Mahinda stooge.

Malinda Seneviratne said...

comment is free, insults cheap, mr/ms anonymous. :)

mocam said...

Try to convince the Cheap Justice to do the right thing by resigning when the makority think he is illegally appointed,then you can vindicate yourself from being Mahinda's lackey

Malinda Seneviratne said...

you conducted a referendum, mocam? look, if you are illiterate or selective in reading, i really can't help you. strongly suggest that you get back to school. :)

sajic said...

I feel there's an inherent desire to follow 'the rule of law' here; a desire to prove that the end does not justify the means. Perhaps that's the reason for delay in action.I hope the interim cabinet follows the rules.
It doesnt help of course to see the so-called CJ bargaining for position!