U.S. considers impeachment of Sri Lanka's Chief Justice a move to create captive judiciary
The United States, through its State department spokesperson Victoria Nuland, in a statement referring to the impending impeachment of Sri Lanka's Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake on Friday, was in fact expressing its concern that this South Asian nation's administration is on its way of making the nation's judiciary a captive branch.
In saying "We urge the Government of Sri Lanka to avoid any action that would impede the efficacy and independence of Sri Lanka’s judiciary", the State Department is concerned that the measures taken by the Sri Lanka government erodes or removes the effectiveness of the nation's judiciary.
Following the full statement made by the State Department spokesperson Ms. Nuland: "The United States is concerned by actions taken to impeach Sri Lankan Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake. We also note with concern recent threats to Sri Lankan judicial officials, including the assault last month on a judge who had publicly criticized government pressure on members of the judiciary. We urge the Government of Sri Lanka to avoid any action that would impede the efficacy and independence of Sri Lanka’s judiciary.
"The United States, along with our partners in the international community, continues to urge Sri Lanka to address outstanding issues of the rule of law, democratic governance, accountability and reconciliation."
This is not the first occasion the State Department expressed its concern about the 'erosion' of Sri Lanka's judiciary: The 2011 Country reports on Human Rights Practices on Sri Lanka issued im March this year and forwarded to the U.S. Congress as mandated by the law mentioned about the Executive interfering in the role of the judiciary. Under the sub title 'Denial of Fair Public Trial' the State Department document declared "Following the September 2010 passage of the 18th amendment, executive influence over the judiciary significantly increased.
The 18th Amendment repealed the 17th Amendment and eliminated the Constitutional Council, a multiparty body created to name members of independent judicial, police, human rights, and other commissions. In place of the Constitutional Council, the 18th Amendment established the Parliamentary Council, which submits nonbinding advice on appointments to the president, who has sole authority to make direct appointments to the commissions. The president also directly appoints judges to the Supreme Court, High Court, and courts of appeal."
Whatever cogent arguments the Government of Sri Lanka has in moving to impeach the chief justice of Sri Lanka's supreme Court, overseas the measure has been looked as an assault on the judiciary and the erosion of the rule of law.
The Sri Lanka government is yet to use the basics of public diplomacy and strategic communications to negate the overseas view, especially the United States, that its intention was not to impede the independence of the judiciary or, as the State Department spokesperson interpreted not an attempt to "impede the efficacy of Sri Lanka's judiciary."
As the result of the drawback of Sri Lanka's failure to cogently explain the measures taken in connection with the judiciary using the 101 of public diplomacy and strategic communication, it has played into the hand of its adversaries such as Amnesty International to declare through major international media units to report: "Sri Lanka's lawyers and judges have become the latest targets in the government's continued stifling of dissent three years after the end of its civil war, an international human rights group has said.
"The statement from Amnesty International dated Thursday came as the country's ruling party started a process to impeach the chief justice, a move seen by critics as politically motivated."
Amnesty International said the international community should no longer buy Sri Lanka's promises.
The Associated Press (AP) in a worldwide dispatch made the following announcement to the detriment of Sri Lanka:
(Begin Quote) "Three years after the end of the civil war, the government continues to stifle dissent through threats and harassment and has failed to take steps to end enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions," said Yolanda Foster the IA's expert on Sri Lanka.
Last month, Sri Lanka's Secretary of Judicial Service Commission Manjula Tillakaratne was assaulted by a gang days after he publicly said that the judiciary was being pressurized by powerful people and there was a threat to the lives of judges and their families.
Human rights groups accused Sri Lanka of violently cracking down on its critics during the country's quarter-century civil war with Tamil Tiger rebels which ended in May 2009. A number of journalists critical of the conduct of the war, trade unionists and opposition politicians were arrested, abducted or killed.
A large number of ethnic Tamils suspected of links with the now-defeated Tamil Tigers were disappeared after being abducted, allegedly by government-linked groups. No one has been convicted in the cases.(End Quote)
Meanwhile in Geneva at the session of the Human Rights Commission the United States envoy Ambassador Eileen C. Donahoe addressing the UPR of Sri Lanka did not fail to highlight the 'status of the Judiciary in Sri Lanka'.
She declared:" In the past 30 days, a judge who questioned executive interference in the judiciary was severely beaten in broad daylight by multiple assailants."
She then went on to present the United States recommendation on the issue in saying "Especially in light of today’s news of the efforts to impeach the Chief Justice, strengthen judicial independence by ending government interference with the judicial process, protecting members of the judiciary from attacks, and restoring a fair, independent, and transparent mechanism to oversee judicial appointments. "
Another rights group to which major international players such as the United States and the European Union very closely listen said last year "The Sri Lankan judiciary has faced growing political pressure and the politicization of the judicial process has become a serious impediment to justice. Arbitrary transfer of judges is now common and occurs even in high profile cases. In addition, the 18th amendment to the constitution has increased the power of the President to appoint and control the judicial system."
This adverse publicity worldwide in the absence of Sri Lanka government's failure to cogently explain some of the incidents that have occurred interpreted by rights organizations and the State Department as assaults on the judiciary and its inability to use clear communication which is called strategic communication and the use of the basics of public diplomacy has not only tarnished the image of Sri Lanka overseas but have provided political ammunition to pro-separatist expatriate groups in Western Capitals who have more and effective leverage to power and decision-making centers in those Capitals than Sri Lanka.
Strategic communications are seen to comprise four main components: information operations; psychological operations; public diplomacy; and public affairs. These in turn contain common elements. First is the need to inform, influence and persuade audiences at home and abroad, whether friendly, adversarial or merely a member of the public. Second is the need to promote coordination across government to avoid ‘information fratricide’. Third, the need to communicate strategically is itself dependent on the ability to communicate actions to all affected and interested audiences and to ensure that actions are themselves communicable, i.e. complementary to and supportive of strategic objectives.
This lacuna in Sri Lanka's overseas diplomacy seems to have had a heavy toll on Sri Lanka leading the outcry against this South Asian nation toward the creation of another Kosovo in the Indian Ocean in the vicinity of India.
- Asian Tribune -