Landmark SC ruling a lesson to politicians and officials

Saturday, 18 November 2023 00:00 –      – 24

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When intoxicated with power, most politicians lose their way and forget the voters who elected them to office. Once seated in the comfort of their offices, they rarely see beyond their circle of cronies and forget that their terms in office are limited to a few years after which they need to face the voters once again.

The Rajapaksas grew to be a formidable political dynasty in the country after Mahinda Rajapaksa was elected President in 2005. The family’s fortunes rose steeply after the defeat of the LTTE by the military in 2009 but, drunk on power, their arrogance and ignorance of the growing public disdain saw their exit from power in 2015. The Rajapaksas returned to power in 2019 with Gotabaya Rajapaksa as President but he was ousted by a people’s uprising. He left the country’s economy in tatters and people are still struggling to overcome the damage done in less than three years that Gotabaya Rajapaksa held office.

Neither Gotabaya Rajapaksa nor his brothers have owned up to the fact that it was their wrong policies that led to the economic crisis but that won’t be necessary now. The country’s highest court this week made official what the public of this country have always known. In a four to one judgement, the Supreme Court determined that ex-President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, along with brothers Mahinda Rajapaksa (Prime Minister) and Basil Rajapaksa (Finance Minister) bear responsibility for Sri Lanka’s severe economic crisis and had thereby violated the fundamental rights of the people by mismanaging the economy between 2019 and 2022.

The apex court also found that 13 other respondents including former Secretary to the President P.B. Jayasundara, Central Bank Governors Ajith Nivard Cabraal, Prof. W.D. Lakshman, former Secretary to the Ministry of Finance S.R. Attygalle, and Members of the Monetary Board of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka had violated public trust and breached Article 12 (1) of the Constitution, in their administration of the economy, leading to the economic crisis in the country.

In the 261-page judgement, the Court explained in detail how the Rajapaksa-led Government pushed the country’s economy to perilous levels and brought on unprecedented hardships and sufferings to millions of its citizens.

Since then, many views have been expressed on the SC ruling but most amusing among them is former President Mahinda Rajapaksa stating he does not accept the ruling. Being an Attorney-at-Law, he should know better than most others that there is no question of not accepting a ruling by the highest court in this land. The judgement is final and those found guilty of wrongdoing are guilty as charged, however much they may feel they are superior and above the law.

Till today we have seen little repentance from those who put the country into the state it is today. Worst is their continuing arrogance that they can get away with anything and once again lead the voters of this country up the garden path. An expression of regret by those named in the SC ruling as having been responsible for the economic crisis would be welcome and this should not only come from politicians but also officials who were well aware that the generous tax cuts introduced by the Gotabaya Rajapaksa Government after taking office would seriously impact the country’s economy. The officials kept mum while one bad policy after the other were being rolled out and bear equal responsibility for the plight of the country and its people.

The SC judgement should be taken as a lesson to all politicians and bureaucrats. They are not above the law, and must be accountable to the public of this country for their misdeeds. It’s also a wakeup call to voters not to fall for the false promises made by politicians during the time of an election.