The four Opposition members in the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) probing the charges mentioned in the impeachment motion against Chief Justice Dr, Shirani Bandaranayake, withdrew from the Committee yesterday, claiming there was no fairness in the manner in which the investigations were being conducted.MPs John Amaratunga and Lakshman Kiriella of the UNP, R. Sampanthan of the TNA and Vijitha Herath of the JVP, addressing a press conference at the Parliamentary Complex, said their request to facilitate the return of the Chief Justice, who had been compelled to walk out of the PSC hearings, because of the insults and intimidation by government members, and ensure her continued presence in the proceedings by granting her additional time, had been dismissed.“We decided to withdraw from the PSC as our request was not heeded. We cannot be a party to a process where there is no natural justice,” MP John Amaratunga said.He said they had all signed and handed over a request to the PSC Chairman yesterday morning, but their request had been rejected.
The request as read out to the media by MP Amaratunga:
In the course of the deliberations of the Committee, the following matters had been raised by us: the absence of a clear direction regarding the procedure to be followed by the Select Committee; whether documents were to be made available to the Chief Justice and her lawyers; the standard of proof which would be required; the need to arrive at a definition of ‘misbehaviour’ and whether sufficient time would be made available to the Chief Justice and her lawyers to study the documents.We have also requested a direction whether the Chief Justice and her lawyers would be given an opportunity to cross-examine the several complainants who had made the charges against her.It was also our position that if and only if a prima facie case had first been made out against the Chief Justice that she can be asked to respond.None of these matters have been addressed by your committee.We also find that we are groping in the dark and proceeding on an ad hoc basis.In addition, we wish to note that over 300 documents were received by the Committee and handed over to the Members only on 5 December 2012 and those were handed over to the Chief Justice only at 4.30 p.m. on 6th December, 2012.We understand that there were several more documents to be produced.The lawyers appearing for the Chief Justice asked for time to study the documents. This was refused.Apart from Chief Justice, we, the Members of the Select Committee, ourselves, will need sufficient time to study these documents.Furthermore, the Chief Justice had not been provided with either a list of documents or a list of witnesses.
The sequence of events can be set down as follows:
When the motion was filed, there were no documents provided with it.
The inquiry started on 14th November 2012 without either a list of witnesses or a list of documents.
After three sittings, the Secretary General was instructed to call for the documents from the banks and other institutions.
What is obvious here is that when the impeachment motion was filed none of the signatories could have seen any of the documents.
It is regrettable that the committee is ignoring salient provisions of the law and requirements of natural justice in the conduct of this inquiry.
Article 12(I) of the Constitution which guarantees equality and equal protection of the Law and Article 13(5) the presumption of innocence.
Article 7 of the Human Rights Declaration guaranteeing equality before the law.
Items 17 and 20 of the United Nations Basic Principles of the Independence of the Judiciary which guarantees to every judge the right to fair hearing and an independent review of removal proceedings.
It is also a matter of note that the Chief Justice has not been afforded the courtesies and privileges due to her office.We have made our position clear regarding these matters. It is duty of Select Committee to maintain the highest standards of fairness in conducting this inquiry.We also regrettably note that during these proceedings, the treatment meted out to the Chief Justice was insulting and intimidatory and the remarks made were clearly indicative of preconceived findings of guilt.We are therefore of the view that the Committee should before proceeding any further lay down the procedure that the Committee intends to follow in this inquiry.Give adequate time to both the Members of the Committee and Chief Justice and her lawyers to study and review the documents that had been tabled.Afford the Chief Justice privileges necessary to uphold the dignity of the office of the Chief Justice while attending proceedings of the Committee.If these matters are attended to, we feel that the Chief Justice should be invited to continue her participation in these proceedings.However, if the Committee is not agreeable to these proposals of ours, we will be compelled to withdraw from the Committee.The request letter addressed to the Chairman of the PSC was signed by all four MPs.