POLITICISING THE IMPEACHMENT
salutary that the long draw out impeachment drama seems finally
to be at an end, and that the people of this country would be
able to expect their elected government to deliver on the issues
that really matter to them – such as jobs, education, better
health care for all – and the economy.
However, there still are those elements which seem to want
this unproductive drama to go on unabated, to serve their own
petty partisan political agendas -- and what is new about that?
It has been a pattern than heroes attempt to emerge, out of the
dross of unfortunate but necessary situations such as the now
To recap, the Chief Justice of this country has been found
guilty on three charges by the Parliamentary Select Committee
that was constituted as per standing orders of the House to
investigate charges of misbehavior contained in the impeachment
motion. The CJ was given ample opportunity to defend herself
before this Committee and was given the facility of bringing her
team of lawyers to appear for her, but she chose instead to flee
the Committee sessions citing reasons ranging from ‘inadequate
documentation’ to ‘disrespectfulness.’
Those who are speaking on behalf of her and terming the
proceedings a disgrace, have the audacity to say that she was
mistreated, and that the PSC process and all that it entailed,
was a witch hunt. This is akin to saying that those litigants
who appear in the courts of law, including the Supreme Court of
this country where the CJ often presides, are tried unfairly in
Courts of law, and particularly courts of law of standing
such as the Supreme Court have never been respecters of persons.
People of this country would recall instances in which the then
Chief Justice summarily sentenced various persons on contempt
charges. Therese persons never had a fair chance to defend
themselves, and as most intellectuals and jurist writing in
recent times have observed, in the absence of codified contempt
laws, what passes off for a contempt hearing in our courts is
basically a one sided hearing that pillories and then crucifies
the accused. S B Dissanayake, now a Minister and then a
parliamentarian was sentenced to two years in prison on contempt
charges, and he was not treated with kid gloves from a Bench
which finally served sentence on him summarily …
However, he did not have the luxury of walking out citing the
fact that the Bench ‘disrespected’ a person of his stature,
after all a parliamentarian.
Senior lawyer S L Gunasekera has written to the President of
the Bar Association regarding the impeachment and what he
insists are the undue pressures aimed at the Judiciary. He seems
to collude in the view expressed in some NGO quarters, and the
out on limb civil society fringe, that the impeachment effort
was a ‘witch hunt.’
We carry today in these pages, two articles, which we may say
are from ‘unimpeachable sources’ (which are given) about the
impeachment drama surrounding the then president of the United
States, Bill Clinton.
That impeachment was totally constitutional and everybody
should keep in mind that the President of the US was tried by
the two Houses of Congress acting as a ‘judicial body.’’ This
was after a highly partial special prosecutor had given his
report to the two Houses! The articles we carry here in these
pages today, refer to that impeachment process against Bill
Clinton as a witch hunt, a farce and a travesty.
It could therefore be seen that there is always the political
interpretation of a perfectly constitutional process by various
commentators in civil society, some of them very respected ones.
The impeachment of Bill Clinton by one house was called
‘disgraceful’ and a witch hunt and all the other pejoratives
But any of that did not make the process any less
constitutional in what is being held up today among our civil
society experts as the most mature democracy of our times, the
democracy we should emulate.
This is what is happening in Sri Lanka today. A perfectly
constitutional process is being derided in some quarters as ‘a
witch hunt’ but that is for political purposes. Still others may
be saying the same thing the politically partisan are saying,
after a fashion. But as in the Clinton situation, that does not
make the impeachment any less constitutional or improper!