Chief Justice Impeachment: A communication gap between US State Department and Sri Lanka?
The United States Department of State has been raising the same question on the issue of impeachment of Sri Lanka's Chief Justice Dr. Shirani Bandaranayake, and Obama administration's overseas diplomatic arm either doesn't understand the analyses and explanations the Government of Sri Lanka has endeavored to justify the impeachment process or the GSL arguments have not been cogent for the state department to comprehend.
The GSL has been using its erudite professor of law who is also its external affairs minister, scores of newspaper articles in the GSL-controlled media and other leading political cum legal luminaries to justify its action.
The message has not either reached Washington through its diplomatic mission in Colombo, or they do not totally understand the GSL position on impeachment or they simply dismiss the GSL explanations.
This was clearly manifested when the State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland on Wednesday, 9 January at the daily media briefing reiterated raising "serious questions about the process and government pressure on the judiciary."
This was not the first occasion the state department took this position. This is the third time. Last December 7 the deputy spokesperson Mark Toner at the state department media briefing declared on the same impeachment issue "disturbing deterioration of democratic norms in Sri Lanka, including infringement on the independence of the judiciary."
Previously, November 2 again at the same media briefing in Washington state department spokesperson Victoria Nuland made the following statement.
(Quote) 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. (Un Quote)
If Sri Lanka's External Affairs Ministry and U.S. State Department do not understand each other, it is a serious situation between the two countries.
This is how Victoria Nuland answered query from the media at Washington briefing this Wednesday January 9.
Question: And on the continued impeachment of the Sri Lankan chief justice, now there’s a confrontation between the Sri Lankan parliament and the court, supreme court. One of the courts have said it’s – the decision taken by Sri Lankan parliament is not valid. How do you see this ongoing confrontation between the various wings of the government?
Ms. Nuland: Well, I understand the parliament is just back from recess and we are, as we said before, we had serious concerns about the actions that were taken to impeach the chief justice and the timing of the impeachment, and that it raised serious questions about the process and government pressure on the judiciary. With regard to what’s been happening today with the parliament back in session, let me see if we have any further comment for you.
Arising out of the briefing given by both Nuland and Toner, there are many questions the U.S. State Department is raising on this impeachment issue:
(a) Threat to judicial officials
(b) Pressure on members of the judiciary
(c) Impeding the efficacy of Sri Lanka’s judiciary
(d) Urging Sri Lanka to address outstanding issues of the rule of law, democratic governance, accountability and reconciliation.
(e) Serious questions about the (impeachment) process and government pressure on the judiciary
(f) Disturbing deterioration of democratic norms in Sri Lanka, including infringement on the independence of the judiciary
(g) Urging the Government of Sri Lanka to guarantee due process, and to ensure that all investigations (on the chief justice) are conducted transparently and in accordance with the rule of law
(h) The State Department consider the development of the impeachment process "as part of a disturbing deterioration of democratic norms in Sri Lanka"
The above are the issues that the Department of State has been concerned of, and it seems that whatever analyses, explanations and arguments coming from the Sri Lankan side have not convinced the American administration hence issues repeatedly raised by the state department.
This writer who has some knowledge about the psyche and the mind set of State Department officials believe that they do not evaluate Mrs. Shirani Bandaranayake's impeachment as an attempt to remove a polluted judiciary official but as an attempt to make one arm of the system, the judiciary, a captive one of the executive.
The issues raised above make it very clear for Sri Lanka to give a fresh look at the governance and rule of law.
- Asian Tribune -