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Sri Lanka's new Chief Justice to begin work amid lawyer boycott


16:46, January 22, 2013

COLOMBO, Jan. 22 (Xinhua) -- Sri Lanka's new Chief Justice is preparing to officially assume duties despite lawyers insisting that they would boycott the event, an official said here on Tuesday.

Newly appointed Chief Justice Mohan Peiris is to attend a ceremonial event on Wednesday where the legal fraternity usually accept him as the highest authority in their field.

However, his appointment remains mired in controversy with international condemnation flowing in over the removal of Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayke.

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL), which is the professional organization of local lawyers with over 11,000 members, in December made a unanimous decision not to attend the new Chief Justice's ceremonial sittings.

"On 15 December at a Special General Meeting the BASL decided unanimously that we would not be present at this ceremony. Over 3, 300 members were at that meeting and we have every intention of standing by it," BASL Chairman Wijedasa Rajapaksa told media.

Nonetheless, a sprinkling of lawyers loyal to the government is expected at the event.

Sri Lanka has faced a barrage of criticism from the U.S., Britain, Commonwealth and other international organizations for its removal of Bandaranayke earlier this month.

Last Friday the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navenetham Pillay described the impeachment as a " calamitous setback for the rule of law in Sri Lanka" and warned that Sri Lanka would have serious repercussions at the upcoming UN sessions in March.

Nonetheless, Sri Lanka on Monday hit back with a strongly worded letter to Pillay stressing that her statement contained " unwarranted comments based on innuendos" and "marred by erroneous facts."

The standoff is likely to further strain already tense relations between Pillay and the Sri Lankan government.

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