Sri Lanka's chief justice walks out of hearing

AP News
Posted: Dec 06, 2012 10:39 AM

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lanka's chief justice walked out of an impeachment hearing Thursday, saying she lacks confidence in the fairness of the committee looking into allegations against her, a her lawyer said.

Lawyer Saliya Peiris did not say why Shirani Bandaranayake lacked confidence in the parliamentary committee.

The development is likely to exacerbate a months-long tussle between the Parliament, controlled by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, and the judiciary. The government has not responded to the walkout and it is unclear what steps it would take.

The government submitted an impeachment motion last month and launched an inquiry against Bandaranayake after accusing her of having unexplained wealth and misusing her power. The hearing has been closed to the media and participants had been advised to maintain secrecy.

Lawyers and opposition parties have called the impeachment an effort to undermine judicial independence and concentrate powers in Rajapaksa's hands.

The United Nations, many human rights groups and countries including the United States have expressed concern over the impeachment.

Bandaranayake began to be heavily criticized by the government after she ruled that legislation giving sweeping powers to the economic development minister violated the constitution. The minister is Rajapaksa's brother.