01/16/2013, 00.00
SRI LANKA
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Government gets its new chief justice of the Supreme Court

by Melani Manel Perera
Mohan Peiris, a former attorney general, replaces Shirani Bandaranayake, impeached by parliament, a step criticised by the international community as undermining judicial independence.

Colombo (AsiaNews) - Mohan Peiris, a former attorney general who had also represented Sri Lanka on the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, is the new chief justice of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka. He was sworn in before President Mahinda Rajapaksa in replacement of Shirani Bandaranayake after she was impeached by parliament.

In his first statement following the traditional blessing by the country's religious leaders, the new chief justice said, ""We all should keep in mind one thing; that is working for the betterment of the country. We should work on behalf of our country, Sri Lanka".

As for former Chief Justice Dr. Shirani Bandaranayake, the first woman in that office, all that was left for her to do was to vacate her official residence at Wijerama Mawatha in Colombo.

Prevented from speaking to the media amidst heavy police guard, she issued a statement in the evening to say 'thanks' to all her supporters and to the people who were with her in the struggle "for the independence of the judiciary."

National and international reactions came swiftly. Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma expressed deep disappointment at the chief justice's dismissal, saying that he would consider further Commonwealth initiatives on Sri Lanka, a member of the Commonwealth, and responses to situations perceived to constitute violations of core Commonwealth values and principles.

For its part, the United States Department of State warned on Monday that the removal of Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake could impact on Sri Lanka's ability to attract foreign investment.

Mohan Peiris joined the Attorney General's Department as a State Counsel in 1981, later serving as a senior state counsel for over 15 years.

After leaving the Attorney-General's Department he engaged in private practice, specialising in commercial law, administrative law, and criminal law.

During this time he trained at the National Institute of Trial Advocacy at Harvard Law School and at the Centre for Police and Criminal Justice Studies at Jesus College, Cambridge, UK. He was also a visiting lecturer at the Faculty of Law of the University of Colombo.

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