Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court today (Friday) sent a powerful message that it is prepared to directly intervene in the country’s dire economic crisis and hold those responsible to account. A five-judge bench of its most senior justices granted leave to proceed against Former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Former Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa and 36 other very senior government officials.
The bench comprised Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya and Justices Buwaneka Aluvihare, Murdhu Fernando, Vijith Malalgoda and L.T.B. Dehideniya. The three civil society petitioners are Dr. Mahim Mendis, Dr. Athulasiri Samarakoon and Dr. Nevis Morais. Their Fundamental Rights petitions are seeking an immediate inquiry into officials whom they have accused of adopting reckless economic decisions without proper assessment and being directly responsible for the bankruptcy of the country and the dire hardships of the people.
The petitions are to taken up again on 9th January 2023.
Other former and present officials named as respondents include the entire former Cabinet of Ministers, current Foreign Minister Ali Sabry who was formerly Finance Minister, Former Central Bank Governors Prof. W.D. Lakshman and Ajith Nivard Cabraal, as well as Former Finance Secretary S.R. Attygalle, Former Secretary to the President P.B. Jayasundara, and Members of the Monetary Board of the Central Bank at the time.
Court also made the following orders.
1. The Auditor General to conduct an audit and submit a report by the 30th of November, in respect of:
a. The decision made by the Monetary Board to set the value of the Sri Lankan rupee at Rs. 203 against the US Dollar and all matters connected thereto.
b. The delay in seeking assistance from the IMF and all matters connected thereto.
c. All matters relating to the settlement of the sovereign bond of US Dollars 500 million on 18th January 2022, using foreign reserves
d. An audit on the loss caused to the Central Bank by such payments.
The Court also directed that the present Governor of the Central Bank Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe produce before the 30th of November 2022 copies of all communications and recommendations given to then President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Former Finance Ministers Mahinda Rajapaksa and Basil Rajapaksa, the Cabinet of Ministers, the Monetary Board of Sri Lanka, Former Governors of the Central Bank Professor W.D. Lakshman and Ajith Nivard Cabraal, Former Secretary to the treasury S.R. Attygalle, by the Central Bank.
Among the stellar cast of legal minds appearing in the case were Upul Jayasuriya PC with Vishwaka Peries for the petitioner in SC FR 195/2022, Romesh Silva PC for the Monetary Board, Gamini Marapona PC with Navin Marapona for Basil and Mahinda Rajapaksa, Shavindra Fernando PC, Anura Meddegoda PC, Nihal Jayawardena PC, and Nerin Pulle PC.