The removal of Chief Justice – ShiraniB & Mohan Pieris & hypocrisy of NGOs & civil society!





We have had 2 Chief Justices removed in the recent past. There was much fanfare over the removal of the first on the premise of unfair removal while the removal of the second was met with virtually complete silence. Let us take both these examples to highlight some of the hypocrisies that prevail. A country’s chief justice is the 4th citizen of the nation & the 1st non-political citizen.

Anyone who says the impeachment or removal of CJ Shirani is illegal definitely has to explain the logic behind the removal of CJ Mohan Peiris. The only explanation given by both President & Prime Minister was that the impeachment of CJ Shirani was illegal therefore there was no appointment of CJ Mohan Peiris. If CJ Mohan didn’t exist, both President & PM must explain who was the ghost making judgements as CJ from 2013 to 2015.

It is the Speaker & not the President who has the authority to determine & certify that Parliament has followed due procedure & his ruling cannot be questioned in any court of law. Even JR assigned the removal of CJ Neville Samarakoon to Parliament but a precedence was created by President Sirisena in the manner he removed CJ Mohan. The logic used continues to baffle us no less than the silence of all the supposed to be beacons & virtuous authorities speaking for & working towards good governance. If they took up the case of ShiraniB as victim, why have they not taken up the case of MOhanP as victim too.

In the case of ShiraniB there were a series of steps that was followed. In the case of MohanP he was simply declared not having been appointed as CJ even to be removed. Surely, this calls for some people in position to come forward in his defence.

Let us be clear here that we are taking the case of 2 individuals & the manner they were appointed & removed & the justice & fair play in these removals. It should not matter who appointed them or who removed them. What matters is whether they were removed following a process – in the case of ShiraniB, a process was followed but in the case of MohanP no such process was followed. So who really is the real victim?

What is even more ironic was that President Sirisena was the general secretary of the SLFP the key coalition partner of the UPFA government which impeached CJ Shirani B. In fact Maithripala Sirisena was a speaker at the debate & justified the removal of CJ Shirani & even voted for her impeachment. He was one of the 155 MPs that voted in favor of CJ Shirani’s removal. Also voting in favor of her removal were Minsiters Champaka Ranawaka & Rajitha Senaratne who was even a member of the Parliamentary Select Committee selected to investigate 14 charges against CJ ShiraniB.

All the drum beaters of good governance, transparency & preachers of impartial justice please explain why a government should feel forced to remove a CJ simply because some groups since 12 January 2015 had been organizing mass protests demanding a person’s removal? The BASL President is on record for stating that following discussions with lawyers & the PM on 25 January 2015 the President had agreed to remove CJ Peiris. Sovereignty is certainly inalienable & with the people but certainly not in organized street protests where any one can be paid to protest & hold placards & chant slogans. Is this the good governance that people voted for? The media also carried various versions of bargaining for diplomatic postings in exchange for stepping down another method deviously used to bring down the integrity of the judiciary for the PM has no authority to force a CJ to step down by offering diplomatic postings!

Let’s look at the chain of events

  • 8 January 2015 – Presidential Elections
  • 9 January 2015 – President-elect Maithripala Sirisena takes oath as President NOT before of the Chief Justice as is customary but Justice K Sripavan the next most senior judge of the Supreme Court.
  • 17 January 2015 – BASL called for the resignation of Chief Justice Mohan Pieris in order to preserve the honour and integrity of the Judiciary
  • 22 January 2015 – CID for the first time grills CJ Mohan Peiris over a complaint filed by Mangala Samaraweera about an alleged plot to hold power by force on election night by the defeated Rajapaksa regime. The first time a sitting CJ is questioned by the police!
  • 28 January 2015 – President Sirisena reinstates CJ Shirani Bandaranayake by revoking Mohan Pieris’s appointment as Chief Justice on the basis that Bandaranayake’s removal was unlawful. If this is the case, then every judgement delivered by Mohan Peiris as Chief Justice from January 2013 to January 2015 would have to be considered as unlawful? Why has no one taken up such a serious matter?
  • 28 January 2015 – BASL organizes protest against CJ Mohan Peiris following letter sent by President Sirisena that his appointment was considered null & void as the removal of CJ Bandaranayake was null & void. CJ Bandaranayake arrived to greetings of garlands & cheers.
  • 28 January 2015 – Chief Justice Mohan peiris has been threatened by former Deputy Mayor of Colombo and Muslim Tamil Unity Alliance Leader Azath Salley
  • 29 January 2015 – CJ Shirani enjoying just 24hours back in office resigns! Why would she resign when she had over 8 years more to retire?
  • 30 January 2015 – Justice Shri Pavan takes oaths as 44th Chief Justice of Sri Lanka.
  • 31 January 2015 – CJ Mohan Peiris issues statement I have not retired, resigned or vacated my office of Chief Justice, but, due to exertions by external forces reinforced by an extra judicial chain of events, find myself displaced from office by an unconstitutional process having functioned continuously in my appointment for over two years.”
  • Prime Minister Wickremesinghe’s logic is the same. He says CJ Shirani was never removed therefore CJ Mohan was never appointed! Then what about the judgments CJ Mohann made from 2013 to 2015?

Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake (CJ 43)

Shirani Bandaranayake was appointed 43rd Chief Justice of Sri Lanka o 18 May 2011.

In 1996 (30 Oct) she was controversially appointed by President Chandrika Bandaranaike to the Supreme Court becoming the first female judge (she was a qualified lawyer but had never practiced law & she had never served as a judge)

In January 2013 she was impeached as Chief Justice.

In January 2015 (28th) her impeachment was declared unlawful while her successor Mohan Peiris’s appointment was declared void Ab Initio.

She was reappointed on 29th January 2015 & resigned the same day!

1 November 2012 – an impeachment motion against CJ ShiraniB was signed by 117 UPFA MPs with 14 charges

An 11 member Parliament Select Committee consisting 7 ruling UPFA MPs (RajithaS, Nimal Siripala, Dilan Perera, Wimal Weerawansa, Neomal Perera, Anura Priyadarshana Yahapa, Susil Premajayantha) & 4 Opposition MPs (Johan Amaratunga, Lakshman Kiriella)

Impeachment hearings were held on 23 Nov 2012, 4 December 2012, 6 December 2012.

The Parliament Steering Committee report was presented to Parliament on 8 December 2012 declaring 3 of the 5 charges found her guilty & warranted removal from office.

The impeachment motion was debated by Parliament on 10-11 January 2013 & motion was passed with 155 MPs voting for & 49 MPs voting against it. Any MP who is one of the 155 MPs that voted in favor of the impeachment have no right to contest the validity of the impeachment.

President Rajapakse ratified the impeachment motion passed by Parliament

Chief Justice Mohan Peiris (CJ 44)

Mohan Peiris was called to the bar on 19 June 1975. In 1978 he became a Solicitor of the Courts of England & Wales.

In 1981 he joined the Attorney General’s Department in Sri Lanka as a State Counsel.

18 December 2008 appointed Attorney General.

15 January 2013 appointed Chief Justice following impeachment of CJ ShiraniB

It is interesting that the good governance government & all the 50 civil society groups that campaigned to bring them to power did not wish to continue with ShiraniB as CJ after using her for their campaign against the previous government.

If it is a Rajapakase appointee” the whole world clamors to denounce him/her but if it the appointee is anti-Rajapakse” everything is honky dory. This was clearly seen by the manner that the former UNHRC head Pillay denounced the appointment of CJ MohanP but kept mum on the manner he was removed. The International Commission of Jurists condemned Peiris’ appointment too, describing it as a “further assault on the independence of the judiciary”. But why did the International Commission of Jurists not condemn the manner Peiris was removed?

This is very strange actions coming from individuals who are paid handsomely to be unbiased!

When CJ Bandaranayake was impeached Lawyers, accountants, engineers, architects and various other professionals slammed the Rajapakse government claiming the impeachment unfair. BT Options even ran a poll with 90% claiming she did not get a fair trial.

Now the question is, if lawyers, accountants, engineers, architects etc claimed CJ ShiraniB did not have a fair trial are they saying that CJ Mohan Peiris got a fair trial?

In the case of ShiraniB the previous government followed a process before impeaching her (whether it is right or wrong) but in the case of Mohan Peiris he was simply not allowed to enter his chambers and there was no BT poll organized to ask from the people whether this action was right? Was the removal of CJ Mohan Peiris following a due process or procedure because from 2013 to 2015 he was after all the Chief Justice of Sri Lanka!

Why is it that the entities that took the side of CJ Shirani claiming her to be unfairly dismissed not do the same for CJ Mohan Pieris because his removal was one of the most bizarre removals in judicial history, for he was simply not allowed to enter his Chambers & that was the end of his tenure of CJ. Not a buzz came from all the NGOs, international rights groups that wailed about the need to have transparency & good governance.

Can these NGOs, rights groups & civil society decide who is a victim & who is not? Shouldn’t a victim be a victim if unfairly treated. Should it matter whether it is ShiraniB or MohanP? If either was unfairly treated shouldn’t these unbiased & unpartisan NGOs, civil society & rights groups take up both their cases EQUALLY? Why did they take to the streets for ShiraniB and not for MohanP?

It’s not a question of whether Article 125, Article 107 or Standing Order 78A was followed because while it was so in the case of CJ ShiraniB (for right or wrong) nothing of the sort was followed in the removal of CJ Mohan Peiris. If those who claimed the removal of CJ Shirani B to be wrong, shouldn’t they have set an example & applied the legal due process for the removal of CJ Mohan Peiris to show the world that they were after all following the good governance principles that brought them to power?

Over to you for your thoughts & opinion!

Shenali D Waduge

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