Colombo slams foreign lawyers over impeachment investigation

February 04, 2013 - 4:18:07 am


COLOMBO: Sri Lanka yesterday accused a London-based group of lawyers of undermining Colombo’s sovereignty and said a four-member team probing judicial independence was barred from entering the island.

The external affairs ministry said it revoked visas issued to members of the International Bar Association (IBA) because they “misrepresented” the objective of their visit to Sri Lanka.

The ministry in a statement said the four-member mission was going to undertake “activity surreptitiously which is of an intrusive nature to the sovereignty of Sri Lanka”.

The IBA on Saturday expressed “serious concern” over the withdrawal of visas for lawyers from its Human Rights Institute who were due to visit Colombo for 10 days starting Friday. 

The panel was going to study Sri Lanka’s sacking of chief justice Shirani Bandaranayake, the first woman to hold the nation’s highest judicial office.

The government dismissed Bandaranayake despite two Sri Lankan court rulings that the impeachment was illegal and unconstitutional. Sri Lanka insists it followed proper legal procedures in firing Bandaranayake, 54, on charges of professional and personal misconduct.

Bandaranayake was dismissed by President Mahinda Rajapakse on January 13, two days after parliament voted to impeach her, despite a chorus of international criticism.

The US has led international calls objecting to the impeachment as an assault on judicial independence and rule of law in the island. Bandaranayake has been replaced by former attorney general Mohan Peiris who had been serving as the government’s chief legal adviser.

The impeachment process was launched in November after court decisions went against the regime of Rajapakse, who has tightened his hold on power since crushing Tamil Tiger rebels in May 2009 to end a decades-long ethnic war.

Lawmakers found Bandaranayake guilty of tampering with a case involving a firm from which her sister bought an apartment, of failing to declare dormant bank accounts and of staying in office while her husband faced a bribery charge.