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* Sri Lanka constitutional crisis deepens as lawyers refuse to accept a new Chief Justice
Mon, Jan 14, 2013, 08:20 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Jan 14, Colombo: The constitutional crisis created by the controversial dismissal of the Chief Justice in Sri Lanka by the President deepened today as the country's lawyers refused to accept a new Chief Justice and the opposition refused to take part in the nomination process.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa today held a special meeting with the representatives of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) including its Chairman United National Party Parliamentarian Wijedasa Rajapakshe at Temple Trees to discuss the current situation and appointment of a new Chief Justice.

During the meeting the President has stressed that he would not allow the special groups to take political mileage out of the situation and drag the country back to the time it was "ruled by a leaflet."

The President has asked the Bar Association not to make the judiciary a playground for groups trying to achieve political objectives.

The Bar Association representatives have denied any affiliations to such groups and noted that such groups are attempting to gain political mileage at the cost of the Association.

Justice Minister Rauf Hakeem, External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris, and Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga also participated in the meeting with the Bar Association.

Meanwhile, another lawyers'' organization in Sri Lanka, Lawyers Collective has refused to accept the appointment of a new Chief Justice since the removal of the incumbent Dr. Shirani Bandaranayake is illegal.

The Lawyers Collective told a news conference today that the struggle against the unconstitutional removal of the Chief Justice and the threat to judicial independence would be taken to the next level and called for a united fight to safeguard the independence of the country's judiciary.

The group appealed to the judges, lawyers and citizens of the country to unite to fight for the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law in the country. Senior Attorney at Law, Jayantha Wickramaratne said that any promotion, transfer or any other action of the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) would also be illegal if a new Chief Justice is appointed in an illegal manner.

The Lawyers Collective observed that the country was facing its darkest hour where the foundation of independence of the judiciary, the rule of law and all basic norms of a working democracy were at stake.

Meanwhile, the Chief Justice has not yet made any official comment on her dismissal but her lawyer has told the media that she will not recognize the legality of her ouster.

She has however, informed the Registrar of the Supreme Court that she will be vacating her official residence but she will be in the court Tuesday.

The Parliamentary Council which is mandated to make key appointments under the 18th Amendment will meet Tuesday to nominate a new Chief Justice. However, the opposition members of the Council Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremasinghe and MP D.M. Swaminathan have announced that they will not attend the Council meeting.

(Photos by Chandana Perera)

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