Tuesday was yet another busy day in Parliament with the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) that probes charges against Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake meeting again at 10.30 am. The Chief Justice, accompanied by seven lawyers, arrived in the Committee room-1 of the parliamentary complex to participate in sessions. The security arrangements had been made stricter than those on the previous occasion. Right from security check ups at the entrance to the parliamentary complex, to the corridor leading up to the committee room 1 of the first floor, police officers had been stationed. Unlike the last time, journalists were barred even from coming near the committee room where the select committee proceedings were in progress.
The legal battle between the PSC and the lawyers of the Chief Justice really started on Tuesday. The Chief Justice, has asked for a period of five weeks to file a detailed response to the 14 charges mentioned against her in the resolution signed by 117 MPs of the ruling coalition.
The PSC will meet at 2.30 pm today to discuss charges mentioned in the impeachment motion.
CJ refuses to have lunch in Parliament
The proceedings were suspended at 12.30 pm for the day, and the PSC members offered to host the Chief Justice and her lawyers for lunch at the parliament canteen. However, they declined the offer to have their meals inside the parliamentary complex and went out of the premises. Later, the Chief Justice arrived in the House at 2.45 pm to participate in the evening session of the Select Committee. Assistant Serjeant at Arms Kushan Jayaratne received her upon disembarking from her car at the entrance of the parliamentary complex, and escorted her. On her way, she gave a toothy smile to the onlookers. Among the onlookers were government officials who came to Parliament to participate in the committee stage of the budget debate.
The legal wrangle between the Legislature and the Judiciary has become confrontational. For the PSC, the arduous task lying ahead has been to gather documentary evidence to prove charges against the Chief Justice. Besides, the government appears to have assigned its notorious members to launch a campaign to vilify the Chief Justice. When she was on her way to attend the PSC session on Tuesday, a demonstration had been organized at the parliamentary roundabout. Protestors were slandering the Chief Justice with derogatory remarks. Later, it was revealed in Parliament during the budget debate that these protestors were slum dwellers from Peliyagoda. There are photographic and video evidence to prove that each protestor was paid Rs.500 by their organizers. When the currency notes in denomination of Rs.500 were distributed by organizers of the protest, demonstrators were jostling against each other to collect them. Also, ordinary persons were seen dressed in full suites like lawyers.
Such public diatribe against the judiciary would result in people losing their respect for the country’s judicial system. Therefore, the developing situation warrants special attention of civil society, media, professionals and anyone who wishes to uphold democratic principles at this critical juncture. The judiciary, one pillar of governance, is under a verbal harangue by ruling party politicians.
Opposition argues for CJ
The PSC comprises 11 members and four of them are from the opposition. Chief Opposition Whip John Amaratunga and MP Lakshman Kiriella are the two United National Party (UNP) members in it. Besides, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) leader R. Sampanthan and Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) MP Vijitha Herath are also included in it.
The opposition members asked Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa last week to suspend PSC sittings at least for one month. They want 117 members who signed the resolution to appear before the PSC to give evidence. Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa is expected to give his ruling whether the PSC sittings should be postponed or not, on December 7.
Still in the nets
After Tuesday’s PSC process, Mr. Kiriella was walking along the parliamentary corridor when he was approached by Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa.
Minister Rajapaksa asked, “How far have you progressed in the PSC process?
A smiling Kiriella replied, “We are still batting in the nets. We are yet to start batting on the pitch.”
UNP demands bacon to be included in breakfast menu
During the last meeting of the House committee, Chief Opposition Whip John Amaratunga quipped as to why beef and pork were not served in the parliamentary canteen. Mr. Amaratunga said bacon, beef and ham were available in the menu during the times of former Speaker M.H. Mohamad and the late Speaker Bakeer Marker.
“Now, all these items have been excluded from the menu. We do not know why. If an MP wants an English style breakfast, he or she should be provided with that. In fact, I consider this a violation of human rights of MPs. They are unable to eat what they want,” he said.
Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa initially agreed to include such items in the menu for MPs in the parliamentary canteen. Yet, there was stiff opposition by Government MP A.H. M. Azwer for the serving of pork products such as bacon. It is learnt that the Speaker is now having second thought on the reintroduction of these food items in the menu.
Australian bees honey to preserve MP’s beauty?
Meanwhile, a beauty-conscious lady MP has reportedly asked the parliamentary authorities to serve Australian bees honey, golden syrup, and Silver Tips tea in the canteen. On her request, it is learnt that, the parliamentary authorities are now planning to order these high priced food items. A silver tip is a high priced tea variety which is also called Ceylon white tea.
Senior Minister Milroy Fernando, also during his budget speech on Tuesday, stressed the need to serve beef and pork in the parliamentary canteen for members who are willing to consume them.
During the committee stage debate of the Water Supply and Drainage Ministry, Subject Minister Dinesh Gunawardane expressed his deep concerns over the lack of support from the Ministry of Environment to net excessive sand-mining in the main riverbeds such as Gin Ganga and Nilwala Ganga.
“Brackish water flows upstream from the sea in some of these major rivers. That crisis has been triggered by excessive sand mining. Unless we curtail this problem right now, it will be a major disaster. Our natural water resources will be polluted,” Minister Gunawardane said.
Deputy Minister of Environment Abdul Cader, who was present at the moment, remained silent.
Ravi K and Sajith at UNP convention
The UNP convention was conducted on December 1. Incumbent leader Ranil Wickremesinghe was able to consolidate his position in the party, leaving those who rebelled against him in the lurch. Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa, crestfallen, had to say that he would support the candidacy of the present leader at the next presidential election. He even offered to contest in case Mr. Wickremesinghe opts not to vie for it.
However, the political rivalry between Mr. Premadasa and UNP MP Ravi Karunanayake was visible once again. MP Karunanayake took an indirect swipe at Mr. Premadasa at the Convention.
“There is no use of crying for posts in the party. It is not decent to criticize the party and its leadership here and there. One should not demand posts merely because he is the son of an ex-President. We do not need posts to work for the good of the party,” he said.
The attention of the general public was captured mostly by developments related to the PSC and the Chief Justice. While the conflict between the Judiciary and the Legislature simmering, some politicians were even concerned about dietary needs.
The ruling party members of the PSC want to speed up action against the Chief Justice whereas the opposition wants the process to be dragged.
The Speaker’s ruling, expected on December 7, will decide how the process should continue during the remaining period of the year.
Comments - 5
Naman Friday, 07 December 2012 09:55 AM
Judgement in Sri Lanka is predetermined according to the wishes of the Ruling siblings. All Forces are being controlled by GoSL to serve its wishes either legal or illegal.
Naman Friday, 07 December 2012 10:01 AM
Democracy in Sri Lanka is one Dodgy one. Elections are manipulated. Judgement manipulated. Media controlled Dem O'Cracy is dead in the Pearl of the Indian Ocean!
Nadeeka Ariyadasa Thursday, 06 December 2012 12:52 AM
Calistus Jayatilleke Thursday, 06 December 2012 08:09 AM
A very precise analysis by Kelum Bandara. Few points come to mind: It would be fun to see how the 117 members who blindly signed the resolution face the Chief Justice and her lawyers to prove the charges by giving evidence - especially MPs like Paba who obviously dont even know the meaning of the word Impeachment! At last, we now have enough proof to say that all these demonstrations in support of the government are organized by MPs upon payment of money to their supporters and also throwing in a dram of liquor and a cheap packet of lunch. Well, well - Demoracy : what crimes and jokes are done in your name in this country!
yellow-bird Thursday, 06 December 2012 04:18 AM
A great thank-for coming forward to explain the present situation including 3 'B's... ...., Media is the fifth component of 'true democracy' building-blocks . !
Comments will be edited (grammar, spelling and slang) and authorized at the discretion of Daily Mirror online. The website also has the right not to publish selected comments.