Gotabaya, Mahinda, Basil & others responsible for economic crisis - SC rules

Gotabaya, Mahinda, Basil & others responsible for economic crisis - SC rules

November 14, 2023   04:08 pm

In a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court today (Nov.14) ruled that former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and former Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa and several others are responsible for the economic crisis that Sri Lanka was grappling with.

On that account, the country’s highest court’s judge bench determined that the three Rajapaksa brothers as well as former Central Bank governors Ajith Nivard Cabraal and Prof. W.D. Lakshman, former Finance Secretary S.R. Attygalle, former Presidential Secretary P.B. Jayasundara and the Monetary Board members of the Central Bank have violated the public trust and breached Article 12 (1) of the Constitution, in their administration of the economy, leading to the economic crisis in the country.

The ruling was delivered based on the majority view of the five-judge bench in respect of two fundamental rights (FR) petitions filed in this respect. The case was heard before Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya, PC; Buwaneka Aluwihare, PC; Priyantha Jayawardena, PC; Vijith Malalgoda, PC; and Murdu Fernando, PC.

The decision was a 4-1 split, with Justice Priyantha Jayawardena, PC dissenting, the TISL mentioned in a statement.

The TISL said the judges have made some key observations in their judgment:

• The conduct of Respondents directly contributed to the results that led to the crisis situation.

• Respondents ought to have known and should have taken actions to resolve matters that negatively impacted the economy and not further aggravate the impact and are responsible for acting in the best interest of the country.

• Public officers have a responsibility to discharge their duties in the best interest of the public.

• Respondents are bestowed high power to uphold public trust and are duty-bound to discharge duties according to Directives of the Constitution. Respondents cannot shirk responsibility by merely stating that the decisions they took were policy decisions.

• It was within the full power of Respondents to prevent such calamity as they had full knowledge.

• It is clear that they did not act and take all measures to remedy the situation in the public interest.

• Cumulative actions and inactions by Respondents led to the debacle. The public trust reposed in Respondents was not a higher one and is bestowed on all officers, and therefore Respondents were obliged to act in a responsible manner.

• Actions, omissions and conduct of Respondents contributed to the economic crisis.

The former head of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce Chandra Jayaratne, Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL), Jehan CanagaRetna and Julian Bolling had put forward one petition on June 17, 2022, calling for action against persons responsible for the economic crisis in Sri Lanka.

The TISL said the petition 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.

On the request of respondents, the Supreme Court took up the petition along with another petition which was similar in nature.

Given that petitioners had come to courts in the interest of the public and did not seek compensation for themselves, the judge bench was not inclined to order compensation other than costs incurred by petitioners.

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