COLOMBO  - Sri Lanka’s Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake on Thursday denied financial wrongdoing alleged in an impeachment brought by the ruling party, vowing to remain in office and defend her innocence. Bandaranayake, through her lawyers, told news organisations the charges in an impeachment motion filed in parliament two days ago were false and insisted there was no financial impropriety on her part. “Our client totally denies the other allegations and can easily refute them,” said the law firm Neelakandan and Neelakandan in letters sent to media outlets in Colombo.

Lawmakers from President Mahinda Rajapakse’s party had said they wanted Bandaranayake, 54, to step aside until the conclusion of an impeachment hearing, which could take months, but the chief justice made it clear she would not bow out. “Our client will, as always, continue to duly and properly discharge her duties without fear or favour (and) she will do so, independently, impartially and fearlessly in accordance with the law,” the firm said in a two-page letter. The drive towards impeaching the 54-year-old followed a decision last month by the Supreme Court to effectively scupper a bill giving more powers to the economic development minister, who is the president’s younger brother, Basil. “She has plunged the entire Supreme Court and specially the office of the Chief Justice into disrepute,” said the motion, printed in the parliamentary agenda and signed by 117 ruling party lawmakers. Among the accusations is a charge she had nine bank accounts that were not revealed in her asset declaration upon taking office in May 2011. She is also accused of failing to declare around $250,000 in foreign currency. Bandaranayake insisted she maintained only one bank account with a few “non-operative accounts with a zero balance”. She also denied she had a remittance of $250,000 in her account as alleged in the impeachment.