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In short, not only should Mrs Bandaranayake not have anything to do with any case involving her husband, but her husband should have been prevented from accepting any government position. Similarly, she should not be eligible for any further government position after she has served on the bench.

In short, not only should Mrs Bandaranayake not have anything to do with any case involving her husband, but her husband should have been prevented from accepting any government position. Similarly, she should not be eligible for any further government position after she has served on the bench.

Of the charges against the Chief Justice, that relating to her husband, seems particularly serious. Given that, during the inquiry into the National Savings Bank conducted by the Parliamentary Committee on Public Enterprises, it transpired that Mr Kariyawasam had acted most irregularly, and might have to face serious charges in Court, it could be argued that his wife should not continue as the head of the Judiciary.

Morally that might be desirable, but unfortunately, as Alfred Doolittle might have said, morality has nothing to do with it. Indeed, in the modern world, it seems old-fashioned to treat members of the same family as responsible for each other’s conduct. Such niceties can only be enforced by rigid rules of conduct. If such rules are not in place, then we cannot expect people in public life to create and live up to their own code of conduct.

I think we are entitled to expect those in authority not to interfere with due process when their kin are under investigation, and were the Chief Justice to pick and choose magistrates to judge her husband, that would I think be misconduct. But I see no evidence of such attempts at manipulation, and I don’t think we can expect her to resign to avoid such an eventuality. Simply recusing herself from decision making in such a situation would be all we could expect – though again, were he to be found guilty, morally it might be desirable for her to resign. To resign beforehand would seem admission of his guilt, and that is something that could not in all fairness be expected of her.

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Rajiva Wijesinha

September 2019
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