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Monday, 10 December 2012

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POLITICISING THE IMPEACHMENT

It is 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 concluding impeachment.

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 Kangaroo courts.

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 imaginable …

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!

IN THE DEMOCRATIC U.S THEY CALLED CLINTON IMPEACHMENT A WITCH-HUNT!

Today, in some circles, the impeachment of Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake (now more or less a fait accompli after the Parliamentary Select Committee found her guilty on three counts) is being criticized as a witch-hunt -- or as an ill thought out, hurried and undemocratic exercise.

Full Story

THE TRILLIUM DISASTER AND JUSTICE GONE WILD

The main charge on which the Chief Justice was found guilty was the misdoing with regard to the Trillium Housing scheme residence. Basically she has used a Special Power of Attorney to purchase a house from Trillium residencies, when it was known that properties could not be alienated from Trillium, which belonged to the Ceylinco group which was caught up in the Golden Key case.

Full Story

Clinton scandal a farce: impeaching a President for lying about sex …

It’s been exactly ten years since the end of the Senate impeachment trial of William Jefferson Clinton. On Feb. 12, 1999, the Republican bid to prematurely terminate Clinton’s second term ended with an even party-line vote -- far short of the two-thirds majority required to force out of office the 42nd President of the United States.

Full Story

 

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