Backroom moves over Sri Lanka Chief Justice pick

ECONOMYNEXT – The political manoeuvring involving President Maithripala Sirisena and the Joint Opposition centred on the top Supreme Court post which is to be filled Friday with the appointment of low-profile career judge Nalin Perera.

Official sources close to Sirisena said he nominated Perera, 64, to be the next Chief Justice overlooking the senior most Supreme Court judge Eva Wanasundara who has a chequered record.

With the Supreme Court position finalised, the political moves to form a "caretaker government" fizzled out, both sides involved in the negotiations said.

Former president Mahinda Rajapaksa pooh-poohed the idea of his Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) faction uniting with Sirisena’s SLFP rump after a week of inspired leaks that they were on the verge of forming a government.

Constitutional provisions would not allow the President to sack Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, but notwithstanding the obstacles both Sirisena and Rajapaksa kept up appearances without commenting on reports of their alleged secret negotiations.

“The real objective of floating this story was to mount pressure on the new High Court which took up the corruption case against Gotabhaya (Rajapaksa) and the other JO members facing similar prosecutions,” a source close to the discussions said.

The central theme of talks between Sirisena and the Rajapaksa faction had been to get Wanasundara, a close associate of the former president, as the Chief Justice with a view to influencing cases against JO members.

The Chief Justice is also vested with powers to decide which cases should be directed to the newly established High Court trial-at-bar. The court has already scheduled Gotabhaya Rajapaksa’s trial to begin on December 4.

It was unlikely that Wanasundara would get the top job given her record. 

She granted Gotabhaya an interim order preventing his arrest in connection with several high profile corruption cases.





She has subsequently recused herself from hearing Gotabhaya’s petition, thus giving him more time and delaying the investigations, legal sources said.

In contrast, the new Chief Justice nominee is regarded as a low profile judge with a proven track record starting as a magistrate and climbing the ladder in the judicial service. (COLOMBO, October 12, 2018)

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