Sri Lankan impeachment panel finds chief justice guilty

Sat Dec 8, 2012 12:12pm EST
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By Shihar Aneez and Ranga Sirilal

COLOMBO (Reuters) - Sri Lanka's chief justice has been found guilty on three counts by an impeachment panel, a government minister said on Saturday, in a case that has raised international concerns about the independence of the judiciary.

"We have found her guilty of three charges out of the first five we have investigated," Nimal Siripala de Silva, minister of irrigation and a member of the impeachment committee, told reporters.

He said the charges against Shirani Bandaranayake included financial irregularities, conflict of interest, and failure to declare her assets.

"This is a one-sided political decision," said Vijitha Herath, one of four opposition legislators who withdrew from the impeachment panel on Friday, calling it unfair.

A lawyer for Bandaranayake said she had been framed, describing her as the victim of a "set-up job".

"It's a joke. Obviously the report has been written before the evidence-giving is finished," the lawyer told Reuters.

Tension has risen between the judiciary and government since President Mahinda Rajapaksa's party filed a motion against Bandaranayake, Sri Lanka's first female head of the Supreme Court, in parliament last month.

Bandaranayake had come under criticism from the government for ruling against a bill proposing a budget of 80 billion rupees ($614 million) for development, saying it had to be approved by nine provincial councils.   Continued...