In a landmark ruling, the Sri Lankan Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that the Rajapaksa brothers and other senior officials were responsible for the massive economic crisis in the island nation, the Colombo Gazette reported. The apex court has ruled that the Rajapaksa brothers–former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and former Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa–were among those responsible for the crisis that led the country to bankruptcy last year. Notably, the crisis resulted in major street protests last year forcing the Rajapaksas to resign and give way to the appointment of a new administration led by current President Ranil Wickremesinghe.
The Supreme Court also found that former Central Bank Governors Ajith Nivard Cabraal and Professor WD Lakshman, former Finance Secretary SR Attygalle, former Presidential Secretary PB Jayasundara and the Monetary Board members of the Central Bank had violated the fundamental rights of the people, Colombo Gazette reported. The ruling was delivered based on the majority view of the five-judge bench presided over by Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya. This Fundamental Rights Petition (SC/FRA/212/2022) was filed on June 17, 2022, by Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL), along with co-petitioners Chandra Jayaratne, Jehan Canaga Retna and Julian Bolling calling for action against persons responsible for the economic crisis in Sri Lanka.
It was filed in the public interest, considering the lack of accountability and transparency in high-level decision-making that has brought Sri Lanka to its knees. Since the petitioners approached the Court in the public interest and did not seek compensation for themselves, the Court was not inclined to order compensation other than costs incurred by the petitioners. The petition by TISL, Chandra Jayaratne, Jehan CanagaRetna and Julian Bolling claimed that the respondents named in the petition were directly responsible for the unsustainability of Sri Lanka’s foreign debt, its hard default on foreign loan repayments and the current state of the economy of Sri Lanka. The petitioners called for the respondents to be held accountable for their illegal, arbitrary and unreasonable acts or omissions which culminated in the unprecedented crisis, Colombo Gazette reported.
The petitioners also argued that the fundamental rights of the citizens to equality, freedom of expression and the right to information guaranteed under the Constitution had been violated through the actions or inactions of the respondents, among other rights. It added that the actions and inaction of the respondents led to the shortages of food, medicine, fuel and LP Gas in the country, victimising the entire population in an unprecedented manner. The petition further highlighted that the reduction in government revenue caused by the tax breaks, failure to reverse the tax breaks, the decision to continue servicing sovereign debt without any restructuring, and the refusal to seek the assistance of the IMF were among the main factors that caused the economic crisis, Colombo Gazette reported.
Chandaka Jayasundera, PC, appeared for the petitioners along with SA Beling, Chinthaka Fernando, Sayuri Liyanasuriya and Manisha Dissanayake.