Monday, January 7, 2013

Canadian minister biased and ill informed: GL

MONDAY, 07 JANUARY 2013 20:19
External Affairs Minister G.L Peries said the statements made by the visiting Canadian Minister Jason Kenney were “biased and unbalanced”.

“Sri Lankan Government will not conduct its affairs in a way that suits the domestic politics of another country. The government will act in the best interest of our people,” he said.

Minister Kenney, who met Minister Peries on Sunday, said the domestic issues in Sri Lanka were causing an influx of asylum seekers to Canada and Australia.

“This is not at all a balanced view. We are aware of the large Tamil expatriate community in Canada and the visiting minister has drawn this conclusion based on information by people with a partisan political agenda,” Minister Peries said.

He said the Canadian Minister had been briefed on the ongoing process of political reconciliation and government talks with the Tamil National Alliance (TNA).

“He has not based his comments on the information provided to him by the government but instead has made a baseless allegation, which we will like him to substantiate with answers to the question: What are these individuals running away from,” Minister Peries said.

He said as recently as December 4, the government had approached the TNA for talks. However the date was deemed inconvenient by the TNA.

“We will discuss matters with the TNA and later within the Parliamentary Select Committee where all political parties will be allowed to express their views. This information was not taken into account by the visiting minister who has not taken adequate account of the views of the government,” Minister Peries said. (Dianne Silva)

Verdict Against Sri Lanka Chief Justice Quashed

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka January 7, 2013 (AP)
A Sri Lankan appeals court on Monday quashed a guilty verdict reached by lawmakers against the country's chief justice in a much-criticized impeachment hearing, a move that could intensify a monthslong dispute between Parliament and the judiciary.
A parliamentary committee last month found Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake guilty of possession of unexplained wealth and misuse of power and declared her unfit for office. Bandaranayake denied the allegations and challenged the committee's verdict, saying she had not been given a fair hearing.
The ruling by three appeals court judges declared the committee's hearing unlawful and its verdict null, and deemed any further action on the impeachment, including a debate and vote, illegal.
The appeals court's decision followed a Supreme Court ruling last week that said the parliamentary committee did not have the authority to investigate Bandaranayake. Parliament was to start a two-day debate on the committee's verdict on Wednesday, followed by a vote on whether to impeach the chief justice.
The impeachment move was heavily criticized by lawyers, judges and opposition politicians who saw it as the culmination of a long dispute between the judiciary and Parliament, which is effectively controlled by President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The critics viewed the proceeding as an effort to undermine judicial independence and concentrate more powers with the president.
With Rajapaksa's ruling party controlling more than two-thirds of Parliament's 225 seats, it was expected to easily win an impeachment vote.
There was no immediate comment from the government. But any move to disregard Monday's court order and impeach Bandaranayake could plunge the country's governance into chaos because the courts would probably not accept any replacement for the chief justice.
The Bar Association of Sri Lanka has said it would reject any replacement if Bandaranayake is ejected without a fair trial.
Authorities had previously disregarded a Supreme Court request to delay the impeachment hearing until it heard a petition by Bandaranayake asking the court to declare the parliamentary committee illegal.
Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa, a brother of the president, has said that Parliament is not bound by any court order. He is expected to soon announce Parliament's next move.
President Rajapaksa in 2011 appointed Bandaranayake as the country's first female chief justice. But she began to be heavily criticized after she ruled that a proposed law giving vast financial powers to the economic development minister, another brother of the president, was unconstitutional.
The dispute between the administration and the judiciary began after a minister allegedly threatened a judge to alter a decision and later led a mob to attack a court house with stones.
Later a judge who is responsible for transfers and disciplinary action in the judiciary was attacked.
Meanwhile, thousands of people protested in Colombo on Monday demanding that the government to withdraw the impeachment bid, ensure judicial independence and respect court orders.

Minister Kenney Voices Concern for Human Rights in Sri Lanka

January 07, 2013 18:01 ET

COLOMBO, SRI LANKA--(Marketwire - Jan. 7, 2013) - Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney reiterated Canada's strong concerns about human rights, government accountability, and post-war reconciliation in Sri Lanka during his recent visit to Colombo.
"Canada wants to see a successful 2013 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, but as host of the event, Sri Lanka is under close scrutiny for its adherence to Commonwealth values and principles," stated Minister Kenney. "Canada's level of representation at this meeting will depend on real progress on political reconciliation and accountability, including an independent investigation of allegations of human rights violations endured by civilians at the hands of both sides during the civil war," Minister Kenney stated.
During his visit, Minister Kenney met with key interlocutors of the Government of Sri Lanka as well as major opposition parties to convey Canada's concerns, including about the disappointing lack of progress toward reconciliation in post-war Sri Lanka. He also met with members of civil society organizations working on the ground to address humanitarian concerns and advocate improvements in the human rights situation.
Canada continues to be concerned about the human rights situation in Sri Lanka, including the Sri Lankan government's failure to investigate accusations of bombing of hospitals and mass shelling of civilians by the military during the 2009 civil war.
Minister Kenney also voiced concern about the recent impeachment of Shirani Bandaranayake, Chief Justice of Sri Lanka, which does not appear to have followed the established procedures or traditional grounds for judicial impeachment - standards which are necessary to ensure the independence of the judiciary and the protection of rights in Commonwealth nations. He also raised concerns about the harassment of members of the media and non-governmental organizations as well as the recent and ongoing detention of students in Jaffna as troubling indications of a shrinking of democratic space in Sri Lanka.
"Canada will continue to stand up for freedom and political accountability in the world, including in fellow Commonwealth member nations," Minister Kenney said. "We further urge Sri Lanka to demonstrate its commitment to fundamental Commonwealth values and principles, including the importance of fundamental human rights, democracy, and the rule of law."

Rajapaksa rebuffs compromise suggestion

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has rebuffed suggestions for a compromise to ward off a legislature-judiciary stand-off later this week.
The Parliament had decided to debate a report to impeach Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake on January 10 and 11, Deputy Speaker of Parliament Chandima Weerakkody said.
“[Mr.] Rajapaksa told inter-religious leaders yesterday [Sunday] that the international community had no basis to criticise constitutional procedures adopted in this exercise,” The Daily Mirror newspaper reported. “The President said the procedure laid down in the Constitution had been followed in conducting inquiries into charges against the Chief Justice, and therefore the international community could not find fault with it,” it added.
Government Ministers on Monday asserted that all rules had been followed in bringing the impeachment motion brought against Ms. Bandaranayake, the first woman Chief Justice of Sri Lanka.
The opposition walked out of an all-party meeting protesting the government’s refusal to accept the January 3 Supreme Court determination — that the PSC had no legal authority to inquire into allegations against a judge. A vote on the impeachment motion will be held on January 11 after the debate.
The government has more than a two-thirds majority in the 225-member legislature.


Though the government has refused to abide by its rulings on the impeachment issue, the Court of Appeal on Monday quashed the report of the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC), appointed to probe charges in the impeachment motion.
Ms. Bandaranayake, appointed judge with no experience in the Bench or the Bar, was found guilty on three counts by the PSC on December 8. The charges against her included financial irregularities, conflict of interest, and failure to declare her assets.
The Sri Lankan Judicial Services Association and the Bar Association of Sri Lanka have opposed her removal. Lawyers supporting her believe that her ruling last year against a bill proposing the allocation of development funds worth 80 billion Lankan rupees (34 million Indian rupees) to one Ministry is the root cause of the impeachment motion.
Her ruling called for the Divineguma Bill to be approved by all nine provincial councils.
Senior government functionaries dispute this theory, contending that corruption charges against her, unearthed by Members of Parliament, resulted in the impeachment motion.


The Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, has begun an online petition urging the United Nations and the United States to intervene. Already, the U.S., the U.N. and the Commonwealth have raised concerns about the impeachment process. India and China have not commented on the issue. India maintains that the impeachment is an internal matter of Sri Lanka.
“Since the Chief Justice is challenging the legality of her removal from office and the entire process held unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka, the ALRC fears that the Chief Justice will be removed from office by force and a new Chief Justice who is willing to oppose the judgment of the Supreme Court appointed,” said the Asian Legal Resource Centre in a statement. “The resulting chaotic situation will be disastrous to the rule of law and democracy in Sri Lanka,” it added.