In a historic judgement, the Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday held that several political and other leaders including former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, former Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa and former Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal are responsible for the economic crisis in the country.
Accordingly, in a majority decision a SC five-judge-bench ruled that respondents including former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, former Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa, the Monetary Board, former CBSL Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal, former CBSL Governor W.D. Lakshman, former Treasury Secretary S.R. Attygalle and former President’s Secretaries P. B. Jayasundara and Saman Kumarasinghe have violated public trust.
Sri Lanka’s highest court further held that these leaders had breached the fundamental rights to equal protection of the law in terms of Article 12(1) of the Constitution. Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya observed that it would not be appropriate to issue an order that the leaders and top officials pay compensation to the petitioners since they have not claimed so in their petitions. Therefore, the Supreme Court did not issue an order for compensation. However, the Supreme Court ordered that each petitioner would be entitled to a legal cost of Rs. 150,000 by the political leaders and top officials. The petitioners are Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL), Chandra Jayaratne, Jehan CanagaRetna and Julian Bolling. They filed the petition against the group in the public interest, calling for action against people responsible for the prevailing crisis in Sri Lanka. The sum involved through bribery and corruption, kickbacks, commissions and other economic crimes is incalculable.
In this context, we could reflect on the thoughts and findings of the United Nations in a statement to mark International Anti-corruption Day on December 9. In a statement, the UN says, The world today faces some of its greatest challenges in many generations – challenges, which threaten prosperity and stability for people across the globe. The plague of corruption is intertwined in most of them corruption has negative impacts on every aspect of society and is profoundly intertwined with conflict and instability, jeopardizing social and economic development and undermining democratic institutions and the rule of law.
According to the UN corruption not only follows conflict but is also frequently one of its root causes. It fuels conflict and inhibits peace processes by undermining the rule of law, worsening poverty, facilitating the illicit use of resources, and providing financing for armed conflict. Preventing corruption, promoting transparency, and strengthening institutions is crucial if the targets foreseen in the Sustainable Development Goals are to be met.
The 2023 International Anti-Corruption Day (IACD) seeks to highlight the crucial link between anti-corruption and peace, security, and development. At its core is the notion that tackling this crime is the right and responsibility of everyone, and that only through cooperation and the involvement of each and every person and institution can we overcome the negative impact of this crime. States, government officials, civil servants, law enforcement officers, media representatives, the private sector, civil society, academia, the public and youth, alike, all have a role to play in uniting the world against corruption.
The 2023 IACD commemorates the twentieth anniversary of the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC). As we mark this milestone, we reflect on the positive changes brought about by the collective efforts driven by the Convention. Equally crucial is our examination of the remaining gaps that require attention to ensure that this mechanism continues to strengthen in the years ahead.
The UN says corruption is a complex social, political and economic phenomenon that affects all countries. Corruption undermines democratic institutions, slows economic development and contributes to governmental instability.
Corruption attacks the foundation of democratic institutions by distorting electoral processes, perverting the rule of law and creating bureaucratic quagmires, whose only reason for existing is the soliciting of bribes. Economic development is stunted because foreign direct investment is discouraged and small businesses within the country often find it impossible to overcome the “start-up costs” required, because of corruption.
As Singapore’s highly respected former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew says “The original communitarianism of Chinese Confucian society has degenerated into nepotism, a system of family linkages, and corruption, on the mainland. And remnants of the evils of the original system are still found in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and even Singapore.”