|Sri Lanka president lines up new chief justice
Sri Lanka's president completed the controversial impeachment of the chief justice by choosing a successor, his spokesman said, as lawyers vowed to keep up a battle for judicial independence.
President Mahinda Rajapakse nominated a new chief justice who is expected to be confirmed by a parliamentary panel today, his spokesman Mohan Samaranayake said, AFP reports. Rajapakse selected the successor to Dr Shirani Bandaranayake, the first woman chief justice, after she was removed on Sunday following an impeachment declared illegal and unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
“The president sent his nominee to the parliamentary committee today,'' Samaranayake said. He declined to name the new chief justice, but added: “I can say that it is most likely to be Mr. Mohan Peiris.’’
Peiris retired two years ago as attorney general, but has since been the senior legal adviser to the cabinet of ministers in addition to being a key defender of Sri Lanka's record at UN human rights sessions.
The announcement came hours after the Lawyers' Collective, which includes most of Sri Lanka's 11,000 attorneys, said they would contest through the courts any appointment to replace Bandaranayake after her “purported impeachment.’’
“We will use all legal avenues to challenge this purported impeachment,'' Lawyers' Collective spokesman J. C. Weliamuna said.
Bandaranayake's lawyers said she had no immediate comment.
Rajapakse's office in a statement insisted he had acted in line with the constitution.
The US reiterated its concerns when State Department spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, said: “From our perspective, this impeachment raises serious questions about the separation of powers in Sri Lanka, which is a fundamental tenet of a healthy democracy.’’
Lawmakers found Bandaranayake guilty of tampering with a case involving a company from which her sister bought an apartment, of failing to declare dormant bank accounts, and of staying in office while her husband faced a bribery charge.