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One of the saddest aspects of the recent attempt to impeachment the Chief Justice is that it is concerned with punishment rather than reform. This fundamental flaw in our judicial system was diagnosed in the President’s budget speech last year, when he called for reforms that would limit unnecessary remanding and employ rehabilitation rather than retribution for more offenders. But, characteristically, those suggestions were ignored, and so we had regular riots in our prisons during the past year.

I am not of course suggesting that we should try to reform the Chief Justice or seek to rehabilitate her. But we should certainly set in place systems that will prevent the type of abuse that has taken place.

LPSL logoThe abuse has now boiled down to three issues. When the controversy first erupted, the Liberal Party issued a statement which noted that ‘what appear to be the principal and indeed only charges possibly warranting impeachment, those relating to financial misbehaviour, clearly require judicial investigation before any decision can be reached.’ We thought the several charges at the end related to trivial issues and, though the Parliamentary Select Committee report does not quite say this, it makes it clear that there is no need to explore these further.

With regard to the charges relating to financial misbehavior, the first is clearly the most serious. I am not referring to the fact that she bought a house from Trillium, but rather to the fact that she headed the bench looking into Trillium issues. More shockingly, she had removed the bench doing this previously – and doing this swiftly and effectively, I believe – and introduced herself.

That she herself realized this was improper was obvious from the fact that, soon after the charges were brought, she recused herself. This confirms my view that she is a clever person who understands what judicial propriety is, and that in this case she had violated norms.

Whether that is a reason to impeach her is another question. My point here is that no one is addressing the appalling fact that she was able to thus give herself authority over a case in which, if only to a limited extent, she was involved. Equally worrying is the fact that no one raised any questions about this until there seemed reason to impeach her. And I fear government suggested that it was impeachment rather than righting the wrongs that had occurred that was vital, when it brought so many trivial charges, instead of focusing on what might be misconduct, rather than simply bad judgment.

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Rajiva Wijesinha

December 2012
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