Sri Lanka monks urge stop to impeaching of judge
Colombo: Sri Lanka's influential Buddhist monks on Thursday urged President Mahinda Rajapaksa to withdraw an impeachment motion that accuses the country's chief justice of misusing power and having unexplained wealth.
A letter signed by monks heading the four organisations that cover all the Buddhist monks in the country urged the government to safeguard judicial independence, saying the majority of the public think the impeachment motion "will lead to disenchantment about all branches of the judiciary."
The motion filed by lawmakers of Rajapsaka's ruling coalition levels 14 charges against Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake who has denied any wrongdoing.
Opposition parties and independent analysts say the impeachment attempt is aimed at stifling judiciary independence and concentrating power with Rajapaksa.
The letter, which was given to a news agency and published in local newspapers, said "....It is not proper to resort to actions which will generate an apprehension with regard to the judiciary and the judges. It will be harmful than beneficial."
Buddhism is the major religion in Sri Lanka and monks are influential over the public and government. About 74 per cent of Sri Lanka's 20 million people are Sinhalese, who are mostly Buddhists. About 18 per cent are Tamils, who are predominantly Hindus or Christians, and 7 per cent are Muslims.
The impeachment motion was submitted a month ago calling for a Parliament Select Committee to investigate 14 charges and remove Bandaranayake. It alleged her actions had "plunged the Supreme Court and the office of chief justice into disrepute."
Parliamentary Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa, who is the president's brother, announced the setting up of the committee last week.
Bandaranayake has said she "can easily refute" the allegations.
The complaint alleges Bandaranayake did not disclose how she obtained USD 146,000 (19 million rupees) to pay for a house purchased under power of attorney for another person. It also alleges that she took control of several cases filed against the company that sold the property after removing the judges who originally heard them.
It also accuses Bandaranayake of not declaring the contents of 20 bank accounts, including four foreign currency accounts containing the equivalent of USD 260,000 (34 million rupees), and alleges that she misused her position to harass other judges.
If the committee determines that the complaint has merit, an impeachment motion will be voted on and forwarded to President Rajapaksa for further action. With his ruling coalition controlling more than two-thirds of Parliament's seats, such a motion is expected to be carried easily.