The government today expressed its ‘regret and concern’ over a statement made by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navinethem Pillay regarding the impeachment of former Chief Justice ShiraniBandaranayake and the subsequent appointment of Mohan Peiris to the post
In a strongly worded letter addressed to Ms. Pillay, External Affairs Ministry’s Acting Secretary Kshenuka Senewiratne said that the High Commissioner had made an unwarned comment on a domestic matter of Sri Lanka.
Ms. Senewiratne said, “The Government of Sri Lanka notes, with deep regret and concern, your statement delivered at the OHCHR Press Briefing on 18th January 2013 where reference has been made to Sri Lanka. At the outset, I wish to reject categorically the contents of this statement, as it lacks any semblance of objectivity, steeped as it is in bias, marred by erroneous facts and further compounded by the inappropriate tenor of its language, all of which are indicative of unequal and invidious treatment of Sri Lanka.
To me this is reminiscent of the action taken by MrHannyMegally following the visit of the OHCHR team to Sri Lanka in September 2012, when he deviated from the accepted practice, by de-briefing third parties, even before briefing you, in your capacity as High Commissioner, or the Permanent Representative of the country concerned.
It may also be recalled that when the latter pointed out the impropriety of this unacceptable conduct of Mr. Megally at that juncture, you accepted our Representative’s submission. However, your action in resorting to unwarranted comments with a series of innuendos on an issue which is entirely a domestic matter for Sri Lanka, and that too without first engaging with our Permanent Representative or the delegation of Sri Lanka in Geneva, demonstrates yet again the deviation from established procedure, amounting to blatant interference in an issue of a sovereign country.
With regard to the impeachment of the former Chief Justice, the Government of Sri Lanka as a sovereign country has followed the due procedure that is set out in the Constitution of our country. This procedure is indeed in conformity with principles which govern disciplinary proceedings against judges contained in the Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary endorsed by the UNGA in 1985.
Ms. Senewiratne detailed, in her letter, the procedure adopted to impeach the former Chief Justice through a parliamentary process.
The letter said, “The content of your statement sadly demonstrates that neither you nor your office has the understanding of the provisions of Sri Lanka’s Constitution, and the related procedures for the removal of judges of the superior courts. These provisions have been applied on several occasions in the past. For your information I annex a copy of the speech made by the Minister of External Affairs, Professor G.L. Peiris, on 10th January 2013 in the Parliament of Sri Lanka which sets out the legal framework within which the impeachment process was carried out and responds to opposing views on its legality.
Your assertion that “Sri Lanka has a long history of abuse of executive power” is offensive to this nation, and is clearly beyond your mandate. In this regard, you have transgressed the basic norms which should be observed by a discerning international civil servant, by bringing into question the constitutional governance of a sovereign State.
With regard to your reference to the new Chief Justice Hon Mohan Peiris, you are undoubtedly aware that he has been a member of the Sri Lanka delegation to the Human Rights Council sessions, originally in his official capacity as the Attorney General of the country, to handle legal issues required for our engagement in Geneva, which is not an uncommon practice amongst States. Subsequent to Hon Peiris relinquishing the office of Attorney General, based on his experience and expertise in the field, he was appointed Legal Adviser to the Cabinet of Ministers and therefore continued to serve in the Sri Lanka delegations to Geneva. It was by virtue of the offices he held at the time, which has direct relevance to the issues at hand, which Hon. Peiris served on the Sri Lankan delegation to the Human Rights Council Sessions.(Kelum Bandara)