Sri Lanka heads for showdown over impeachment

Sri Lanka's parliament and Supreme Court were headed for a showdown over government plans to impeach the country's top judge, after MPs on Thursday said the court had no authority over their actions.

"This (impeachment) is a matter which falls exclusively within the purview of parliament's authority," said Parliamentary Speaker Chamal Rajapakse who is also President Mahinda Rajapakse's eldest brother.

Rights groups have seen the latest impeachment move as an attempt by President Rajapakse to tighten his grip on power after crushing Tamil rebels in 2009.

The Supreme Court had on Wednesday asked MPs to explain their attempt to impeach the chief justice after the influential Bar Association of Sri Lanka filed a case calling for the process to be declared illegal.

But Rajapakse said MPs will not go before the Supreme Court and insisted that no one else had the power to interfere with the work of the 225-member legislature.

The Supreme Court, headed by Shirani Bandaranayake, annoyed the president last month with a decision to effectively scupper a bill giving more powers to the economic development minister, who is the president's youngest brother Basil.

Bandaranayake has been accused of financial and professional misconduct.

A parliamentary committee last Friday held its first closed-door hearings against Bandaranayake, who has said there is not an "iota" of truth in allegations against her.

Bandaranayake, the country's first woman chief justice, is slated to appear again before the parliamentary committee on December 4.



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