12/07/2012, 00.00
SRI LANKA
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Religious leaders against sham inquiry against Supreme Court justice

by Melani Manel Perera
In its latest hearing, the parliamentary committee investigating Supreme Court Justice Shirani Bandaranayake fails to provide the defendant and her lawyers with a list of witnesses. Charges against her remain vague. In view of this, she walked out of the hearing, saying she would not take part in the unfair process against her. Civic groups and Christian and Buddhist leaders criticise the government's dictatorial approach, which threatens the courts' independence.

Colombo (AsiaNews) - Following an impeachment motion in parliament, Sri Lanka's Supreme Court Justice Shirani Bandaranayake is facing an inquiry but cannot defend herself because she has been denied access to witnesses nor has been told of all the charges against her.

Yesterday, when she appeared before the parliamentary committee conducting the inquiry, she was not given the list of witnesses and was provided with only vague charges such as personal misconduct and financial irregularities.

Since Ms Bandaranayake and her lawyers were not given enough time to examine the prosecution's charges, they walked out saying they would not take part in further hearings because the inquiry was not being conducted fairly. Still, the deputy speaker said the impeachment would continue despite the walk-out.

However, for the supporters of the Supreme Court justice, including civic groups, Christian and Buddhist religious leaders, as well as many judges and lawyers, her decision to walk out of the proceedings is a sign of dignity and her commitment to the courts' independence and the rule of law.

This view is echoed in many others. Speaking during a demonstration in favour of Ms Bandaranayake, Ven Maduluwawe Sobitha Thero said that the impeachment motion is a "grave threat to democracy."

Fr Reid Shelton Fernando, "It is important to be united against the government's dictatorial approach."

Indeed, "The government wants to control the courts," said Fr Sarath Iddamalgoda, from the Christian Solidarity Movement (CSM), "in order to justify its unjust and undemocratic decisions against citizens." This process is political in nature.

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