Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa had first said that he respects the Supreme Court ruling against him and his brothers, former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and former Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa, along with several others over the current economic crisis. Then he told Parliament on Tuesday that he did not accept the verdict that he and others had been instrumental to the crisis.
The legality of a defendant of a case rejecting the verdict of that case is intricate, in a way. He would argue and sometimes would be genuinely of the view that he was innocent or he was not prepared to accept that he was guilty until the court ruling was delivered.
For instance, former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa might still be thinking that he was innocent as economics seemed to be something like Latin or rocket science for him. And should we expect that such a defendant has to accept that he is guilty of the offence, all of a sudden, once the verdict is announced by the court?
It can be argued in that way, only in respect of a complicated case like the one involving economic crimes.
However, on the other hand, any criminal would argue, before and after the verdict is delivered that he is innocent, even if it is clear through evidence presented in the court that he has committed that offence.
When social activist Oshala Herath who challenged the legality of State Minister Diana Gamage’s Parliamentary seat claimed that he did not accept the ruling on his case by the Appeals Court, some people with affiliations to the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) argued that he committed Contempt of Court.
However, they would not say that Mahinda Rajapaksa had done the same with his remarks in Parliament on the verdict against him.
The Supreme Court ruled on October 14 in the case on the economic crisis that the above-mentioned three Rajapaksa brothers along with former Central Bank governors Ajith Nivard Cabraal and W.D.Lakshman, former President’s Secretary P.B.Jayasundara, former Treasury Secretary S.R.Atygalle and Saman Kumarasinghe had violated public trust and had been responsible for the current economic crisis.
The verdict was in respect of several Fundamental Rights petitions filed by three university academics – Dr Athulasiri Kumara Samarakoon, Dr Mahim Mendis and Soosaiappu Nevis Morais - Sri Lankan swimmer and coach Julian Boling, former Chairman of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce Chandra Jayaratne, Transparency International and Jehan Canaga Retna.
The Court did not impose compensation or any other penalty on those found guilty, as the petitioners had not asked for any.
Many who hail the Court for its ruling are at a loss over the Court not imposing any sentence on those found guilty and some suggest they could have been deprived of their Civic Rights so that they would not be able to engage in politics or public service again.
They compare the offences of this case with offences committed by Mrs Sirima Bandaranaike and Myown Musthafa, whose civic rights were deprived of by the courts.However, loyalists of the SLPP leadership cite various grounds to negate the legal as well as socio-political effects of the Supreme Court ruling.
Mahinda Rajapaksa refuted allegations against them on the economic crisis in Parliament on Tuesday saying that all decisions regarding financial management for the past two decades were taken with the approval of MPs in the House and not arbitrarily.
Yet, we cannot recall President Gotabaya Rajapaksa or the then Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa or any other Minister of that government requesting the approval of Parliament for the huge tax cuts of over Rs. 680 billion in 2019, delay in seeking assistance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) or for artificially fixing a rupee rate for the dollar in 2021 – three allegations accepted by the Supreme Court.
Besides, we all know how the leaders irrespective of their party, get the approval of Parliament for various proposals and motions. The members of the ruling party of the day which commands the majority voice in the House support anything that is presented by their leaders.
For instance, even the so-called experts in economics in the ruling party supported the tax cut of 2019. Minister Bandula Gunawardena announcing the tax reduction stated that all sectors in the country would be improved through the tax concessions, leading to an increase in production.
The entire ruling party endorsed the ban on fertilizer imports which almost destroyed the country’s agriculture. The then Central Bank Governor Cabraal, perplexing even the Ordinary Level students of economics argued that money printing did not
Leaders of the government have to accept the culpability for the crisis as the causes for the crisis cited in judgment were facts, not imaginary.
They had accepted their responsibility for the economic crisis before the Supreme Court decision. During his address to a new Cabinet on April 18 last year which was appointed in response to a public uprising, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa admitted that his decision to ban chemical fertilizer and other agrochemical imports in May 2021 was faulty and the government should have sought assistance of the IMF much earlier to ease the foreign exchange crisis.
Similarly, in an interview with the Daily Mirror, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa also acknowledged that all past governments and leaders including him have to be held responsible for the current
He was correct to say that “all past governments and leaders” were responsible for the crisis, but they came to power promising to rectify the past errors. They then not only went back on their words but exacerbated the crisis unprecedentedly the repercussions of which are to haunt the people of this country for life or generations.
The culpability of the current government, especially the Rajapaksa family for the economic disaster is a subject matter even among the international stakeholders.
IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva bluntly said last year that Sri Lanka’s crisis was due to mismanagement. Hamilton Reserve Bank, a St Kitts and Nevis-based bank which has filed a suit in the Federal Court of New York Southern District against the Sri Lankan government over the latter’s decision to default foreign debt last year had accused Rajapaksa family of “lining their own pockets through years of corruption.”
SLPP leaders should be sensitive to the sufferings that the people undergo due to their mishandling of the economy without attempting to justify the current situation or pass the buck.
Prices have gone up threefold, electricity tariff has gone over fivefold while the income of every family, especially those belonging to the middle class and below has dwindled by over sixty per cent with the real value of the rupee having drastically dropped.
Dreams of housing, education, higher education, foreign education, vehicle ownership, and a decent life, for millions of people have been shattered.
Hundreds of thousands of youth are clamouring to leave the country. The country does not see yet any plan on the part of the government to put an end to the indebtedness, despite new avenues having opened for further borrowings, following the involvement of the IMF.
They must understand the gravity of the message given by the Supreme