COLOMBO: Sri Lanka's parliament on Friday voted to impeach Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake after a process criticised by international rights groups as an assault on judicial independence.
The assembly voted 155 to 49 to dismiss Bandaranayake whose most recent rulings had gone against the government of President Mahinda Rajapakse who is widely expected to ratify the sacking and name a replacement within days.
“The motion (to impeach) was carried with 155 voting for and 49 against,” Speaker Chamal Rajapakse said at the end of a two-day debate on a controversial parliamentary panel report which found Bandaranayake guilty of misconduct.
Bandaranayake, 54, the country's first woman in the highest judicial office, has already challenged the parliamentary process.
Three leftist members of Rajapakse's United People's Freedom Alliance coalition, who stayed away when the vote was taken, said they failed to “avert a constitutional crisis” with the first ever sacking of a top judge in Sri Lanka.
“Right from the beginning, we attempted to intervene at several stages to avert a constitutional crisis, a confrontation between the legislature, executive and the judiciary,” Senior Minister D. E. W Gunasekera of the Communist Party said.
Gunasekera said the impeachment had been politicised and damaged the image of the country.
Ruling party supporters celebrated the parliamentary vote by bursting fire crackers around the tightly-guarded parliament building.
The government brought charges against Bandaranayake after she turned down a controversial bill that sought to grant greater financial and political power to Rajapakse's youngest brother Basil, the economic development minister.
Although she was accused of 14 counts of financial, professional and personal misconduct, a parliamentary committee convicted her only of three.