Sri Lanka lawyers boycott courts over impeachment

Wed Dec 12, 2012 1:24pm EST
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By Ranga Sirilal and Shihar Aneez

COLOMBO (Reuters) - Sri Lankan lawyers boycotted courts on Wednesday, crippling the judicial system in a protest at what they call an unfair impeachment move against the chief justice and is viewed abroad as a blow to judicial independence.

A parliamentary panel found the first woman to lead Sri Lanka's Supreme Court, Shirani Bandaranayake, guilty last week of financial irregularities and failing to declare her assets.

The United States, the United Nations and the Commonwealth have raised concerns about the process - which could see parliament voting next month on whether to sack her - and have called on the government to ensure the independence of the judiciary.

"Lawyers are staging a protest today in protest that the chief justice had not got an impartial, just and fair trial," said Wijedasa Rajapaksa, an opposition legislator and the president of the Bar Association.

Hundreds of lawyers in official uniform marched in different parts of the island nation.

Some carried placards reading "hands off from judiciary" and "today judiciary, tomorrow?", while others put up posters warning of the risks from what they called an unfair trial.

The government said the impeachment panel proceedings were in line with the constitution and the protest was not a success, as lawyers claimed.

"Their expectation was to cripple the entire judiciary. But it didn't happen as some court houses functioned," government spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella told Reuters.   Continued...