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Cry for justice for Ceylon: The Church of England Newspaper, February 3, 2013, p 6. February 7, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of Ceylon, Church of England Newspaper, Politics.
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Shirani Bandaranayake

Sunday February 3rd will be a “day of lament” for Sri Lanka, the Bishop of Colombo told his clergy last week.

In a 23 Jan 2013 pastoral letter, Bishop Dhiloraj Canagasabey said “it is with a heavy heart that I write it, the reason being that in the past few days we have seen the complete collapse of the rule of law in our nation. We no longer appear to be a constitutional democracy.”

Sri Lanka’s government and the judiciary have been on a collision course since President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s ruling party filed an impeachment motion against Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake on 6 Nov 2012. Last month a parliamentary panel found her guilty of irregularities after she ruled that a bill submitted by the president’s younger brother, Basil Rajapaksa, proposing an 80-billion rupee (£400 million) development budget must be approved by nine provincial councils.

“If the impeachment motion is passed in parliament in defiance of decisions of the country’s judiciary, it will signal a massive breakdown in the rule of law and checks and balances,” warned Sam Zarifi, the International Commission of Jurists Asia director.

However, a government spokesman told reporters in Colombo the chief justice had politicised the judiciary and her actions were “very unbecoming of a chief justice.”

Bishop Canagasabey disagreed. “The rule of law means that we as a nation are governed by a system of laws to which the lawmakers themselves are subject. This is a way of ensuring that power is not concentrated in the hands of one person, or group of persons and exercised arbitrarily.”

“The breakdown of such accountability is a process that has been building up for the past several years. It has now climaxed in the recent events that have seen both the Executive and the Legislature disregarding the provisions of the very Constitution which they swore to uphold and defend, giving the appearance of a country ruled on the principle that ‘Might is Right’.”

The bishop said that warnings from the church and “civil society bodies repeatedly issued have been ignored. There is currently a climate of fear and helplessness, where people remain silent rather than speak out against rampant injustice, intimidation, violence and falsehoods.”

Bishop Canagasabey asked members of the diocese to fast and wear white clothing on 3 Feb 2013 as a sign of their prayers and “to grieve over the state of our country today.”

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