Privilege issue: House warned against move to summon SC judges

Treasury Chief given seven-day ultimatum

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Freedom People’s Alliance (FPA) yesterday (20) said that the contentious move to summon judges of the Supreme Court before the House Ethics and Privileges Committee, this week, over an interim order could have disastrous consequences.

Former Speaker Chamal Rajapaka heads the Ethics and Privileges Committee.

Addressing the media, at Nawala, the ex-External Affairs Minister pointed out that the government had not only ignored the interim ruling issued by the Supreme Court, but sought to interfere with the judiciary.

Referring to the powers exercised by the executive, legislature and judiciary, Prof. Peiris alleged that the government wanted to keep the judiciary under its thumb.

The former minister declared that there was absolutely no basis for privilege issues raised by SLPP MPs, Premanath Dolawatte, Attorney-at-Law, and Shehan Semasinghe, State Finance Minister.

The MPs, on 07 and 10 March, respectively, raised privilege issues over an interim order that cleared the obstacles for the conducting of polls.

The order was given by the three-member Supreme Court bench, comprising judges Preethi Padman Surasena, Janak de Silva and Priyantha Fernando, allowing the consideration of a fundamental rights petition filed by Samagi Jana Balawegaya General Secretary, MP Ranjith Madduma Bandara.

The former law professor said that the move against the Supreme Court should be examined, taking into consideration Finance Secretary Mahinda Siriwardena conveniently ignoring the directive given on 03 March. Lawmaker Chamal Rajapakse’s committee includes Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC, Kanaka Herath, Vijitha Berugoda, Tharaka Balasuriya, Anuradha Jayaratne, Dullus Alahapperuma, Kabir Hashim, Jayantha Ketagoda, Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam, Hesha Withanage, Kokila Gunawardena, Ali Sabry Raheem, Samanpriya Herath and Dr. Harini Amarasuriya.

“If Siriwardena fails to release funds as required by the Election Commission, within seven days from today, the joint Opposition will move the Supreme Court against him on the basis of contempt of court,” the academic said.

Pledging the undivided support of the Opposition to the judiciary, Prof. Peiris said that the interim order was issued to the Secretary of the Finance Ministry and the Attorney General preventing them from withholding the funds allocated for the Election Commission, through the Budget passed by the Parliament for 2023.

In addition, the apex court issued another interim order preventing the misappropriation of money allocated to the government printing press for the printing of ballot papers.

These interim orders were issued to the Secretary of the Ministry of Finance, who were named as respondents in the relevant petition, and the Attorney General, who was named on behalf of the President.

Prof. Peiris said that in spite of clear directives in this regard, the Treasury Chief has refrained from releasing funds. Instead of addressing that issue, the ruling party was now going after Supreme Court judges, Prof. Peiris said.

The MP said that if the government was allowed to get away with this, the same strategy would be applied to avoid conducting a presidential election next year.

Prof. Peiris said that the conduct of Parliament, in this regard, could not be acceptable. The former minister found fault with Parliament for interfering in legitimate functions of the Supreme Court, thereby creating an explosive environment which may contribute to further destabilization.

The SJB, in a letter delivered to the Treasury Secretary, warned him of their decision to initiate contempt of court proceedings unless he immediately complied with the original interim order issued by the Supreme Court.

Prof. Peiris said that fearing a certain defeat, the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government had sought to indefinitely put off scheduled Local Government polls, much to the chagrin of the electorate. In support of that disgraceful strategy, they had gone to the extent of challenging the Supreme Court, the former minister said. The lawmaker compared the action contemplated against the judges of the Supreme Court to recent measures taken in respect of Siyatha TV for being critical of government strategies.

Island.lk

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