Anura Yapa, the head of the parliamentary panel which
probed Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake, speaks during a
news conference at parliament in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka's chief justice has been found guilty on three
counts by an impeachment panel, a government minister said, in
a case that has raised international concerns about the
independence of the judiciary.
"We have found her guilty of three charges out of the first
five we have investigated," Nimal Siripala de Silva, minister
of irrigation and a member of the impeachment committee, told
He said the charges against Shirani Bandaranayake included
financial irregularities, conflict of interest, and failure
to declare her assets.
"This is a one-sided political decision," said Vijitha
Herath, one of four opposition legislators who withdrew from
the impeachment panel on Friday, calling it unfair.
A lawyer for Bandaranayake said she had been framed,
describing her as the victim of a "set-up job".
"It's a joke. Obviously the report has been written before
the evidence-giving is finished," the lawyer told Reuters.
Tension has risen between the judiciary and government since
President Mahinda Rajapaksa's party filed a motion against
Bandaranayake, Sri Lanka's first female head of the Supreme
Court, in parliament last month.
Bandaranayake had come under criticism from the government
for ruling against a bill proposing a budget of 80 billion
rupees ($614 million) for development, saying it had to be
approved by nine provincial councils.
The ruling angered the government and its backers, some of
whom accused the judiciary of overstepping its authority.
Under impeachment proceedings launched last month, parliament
speaker Chamal Rajapaksa, the president's elder brother,
appointed a committee of 11 members, seven of them from the
ruling party, to investigate 14 charges against
Bandaranayake, ranging from not disclosing her wealth to
The United States, the United Nations and the Commonwealth
have raised concerns about the process and called on the
government to ensure the independence of the judiciary.
Analysts say the case could add to international scrutiny of
Sri Lanka. It is already under pressure from the United
Nations High Commissioner on Refugees to prosecute soldiers
over the deaths of thousands of civilians during the final
months of a three-decade war with Tamil rebels that ended in
Parliament is expected to vote on the impeachment when it
sits after Jan. 8. Rajapaksa, whose party has a more than
two-thirds majority, needs only 113 votes in the 225-member
legislature to remove the chief justice from her post.