Sri Lanka lawyers strike over impeachment of top judge

January 11, 2013 - 5:36:00 am



Sri Lankan lawyers protest against government moves to impeach the chief justice in the capital, yesterday.

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s lawyers staged a strike yesterday to protest the impeachment of the country’s top judge which has raised concern about judicial independence on the previously war-ravaged Indian Ocean island.

Work in court houses came to a stand still as some 11,000 lawyers of the influential Bar Association stayed away and protested in the centre of the capital Colombo after being prevented from marching to parliament.

Police and troops armed with anti-riot gear as well as automatic rifles were out in force to prevent the protesters reaching parliament where lawmakers were due to start a two-day debate yesterday on the impeachment.

The ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance of President Mahinda Rajapaksa decided to go ahead with the debate and take a vote to remove the chief justice despite two court rulings declaring that the impeachment process was illegal.

“We are engaging in a peaceful protest against the impeachment of the Chief Justice (Shirani Bandaranayake),” an organiser of the lawyers told reporters outside the Supreme Court.

The government has said it will take a vote this evening to pass a resolution sacking Bandaranayake, 54, who had angered the ruling party after her recent decisions that went against the government.

President Rajapaksa is widely expected to issue a formal proclamation confirming the decision after the parliamentary vote. 

The government initially filed 14 charges of financial, professional and personal misconduct against Bandaranayake, but convicted her only on three counts.

She was found guilty of tampering with a case involving a company from whom her sister had bought an apartment, not declaring bank accounts, and improper conduct after staying in office while her husband faced a bribery charge.

Rajapaksa has tightened his grip on power after crushing Tamil rebels in 2009 following a major military offensive that has sparked international allegations of rights abuses. AFP

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