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Lakbima NewsProf. Rajiva Wijesinha, national list MP from the ruling party speaks to Ranga Jayasuriya of LAKBIMAnEWS about why he refused to sign the resolution that called for the impeachment of the chief justice and how he feels about the erosion of democracy in the country under the very regime he is serving in. 

1. You are one of the government MPs who did not sign the resolution that called for the impeachment of the incumbent chief justice. Why?

In the first place, I was simply asked to come over and sign the impeachment resolution, and told it could not be sent to me to read beforehand. Obviously one should not sign, or commit to sign, what one has not seen.

.. one should not sign, or commit to sign, what one has not seen.

Secondly, as I noted when I was asked, I did not think this a good idea. After I saw the text of the resolution, I felt the more strongly that it was a hasty and inappropriate move.

Thirdly, the President had said very clearly some days earlier that no action should be taken against the Chief Justice, so I was not sure whether this was being done after proper consultation. I am aware that some things are done in his name without him knowing, as had happened for instance when my colleague Malini Fonseka was asked to resign and she later found out that this was not his wish at all.

Unfortunately it would seem that the President had been advised by those who did not have his best interests at heart. While there were certainly problems with the judiciary – and ironically, despite my distaste for the impeachment, I had been pointing these out over the year, since I found they were not concerned with adopting due processes in the interests of our Human Rights Agenda – these should have been solved in terms of long-term reform. There was no need to use a sledge hammer to crack a nut, as I noted in one of the Human Rights Watch articles I have been writing since March.

2. There is definite evidence to suggest that the whole affair of the impeachment was politically motivated. Ex: the composition of the Parliamentary Select Committee; the disrespectful treatment of the chief justice by some PSC members, about which she has now complained to the Speaker; the ruling party organized anti- CJ protests . What is your view?

I don’t think the elements you cite are evidence that the impeachment was politically motivated, though I would agree that the PSC should not have included MPs as to whom it could be alleged that there was a conflict of interest, because of cases involving them the Chief Justice had heard.

With regard to disrespectful treatment, I fear that that has nothing to do with politics, it is part of the culture of Parliament, as I used to find when I attended Parliament for meetings of the Committee on Public Enterprises. The fact that COPE is now a dignified body that public servants are happy to attend, as one very senior public servant informed me some time back, is a tribute to the civilizing effect that a good chairman like D E W Gunasekara can have. In that regard I am told that the change wrought by the present Speaker in Parliament is remarkable compared with what we had before, though unfortunately he has not been able as yet to change the culture as a whole.

The demonstrations that have been organized are also part of what I see as a destructive culture, as are those demonstrations organized by those supporting the Chief Justice, and they make it clear that everything in this country is political.

Unfortunately the sanctions procedures in Parliament, as used against Mrs Bandaranaike and others whose Civil Rights were taken away, as also against former Chief Justices, has been ruthlessly politicized from the start. We need through structural reforms to get rid of this appalling culture that was introduced by President Jayewardene.

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Rajiva Wijesinha

December 2012
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