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COLOMBO: Sri Lankan opposition lawmakers walked out of an impeachment hearing of the country’s top judge yesterday, leaving the process in disarray amid allegations the chief justice had been personally insulted.
Lawyers for Judge Shirani Bandaranayake said she had been called a “mad woman” on Thursday by two government lawmakers on the 11-member parliamentary committee hearing the case, which has been criticised as politically motivated.
“The opposition MPs felt that the government was merely humiliating her and did not have a proper process to try her case and ensure a fair trial,” an opposition legislator on the committee, who declined to be named, said.
“The opposition will no longer take part in this farce.”
On Thursday, Bandaranayake had herself stormed out of the behind-closed-doors hearing in parliament into 14 charges of financial and professional misconduct.
“At various stages of the proceedings... two (ruling party) members hurled abuse such as ‘mad woman’ at the chief justice,” her lawyers said in a statement.
The move to impeach the country’s first female chief justice came after she scuttled several bills, including one that gave more powers to President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s youngest brother Basil, the economic development minister.
Her case has raised fears among the international community that Sri Lanka’s regime was trying to control the judiciary after crushing Tamil rebels in May 2009 and consolidating its hold on power.
The US embassy in the capital Colombo said it was “very concerned” about the impeachment process of the government and demanded that Colombo follow the rule of law.
“We urge that the government of Sri Lanka and the parliamentary select committee (PSC) investigating the chief justice ensure any investigation be conducted transparently, guarantee due process, and is conducted in accordance with the rule of law,” the US embassy said in a statement.
The main Sri Lankan lawyers’ associations, which represent thousands of lawyers, united yesterday to express solidarity with Bandaranayake, saying she had taken a “brave and courageous” step to uphold the dignity of the judiciary.