"Landmark Verdict: Supreme Court Holds Former Presidents and Officials Responsible for Sri Lanka's Economic Crisis"

The corridors of power in Diyawanna witnessed a seismic shift last week as the Supreme Court rendered a groundbreaking verdict, implicating former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, ex-Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa, and several other officials in the country's economic crisis. The judgment followed the hearing of two Fundamental Rights (FR) Petitions filed by diverse entities, including Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) member Prof. Mahim Mendis, former Ceylon Chamber of Commerce President Chandra Jayaratne, and Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL).

The verdict found former Central Bank Governors Ajith Nivard Cabraal and Prof. W.D. Lakshman, former Finance Ministry Secretary S.R. Attygalle, and former Secretary to the President Dr. P.B. Jayasundara also culpable for violating public trust and breaching Article 12 (1) of the Constitution. The Supreme Court held that the respondents, including former Presidents and high-ranking officials, bear responsibility for Sri Lanka's severe economic crisis between 2019 and 2022, constituting a violation of the Fundamental Rights of the people.

Emphasizing that public officers have a duty to act in the best interest of the public, the Supreme Court underscored the failure of the respondents to address the economic downturn and their neglect in upholding the trust bestowed upon them. The 265-page judgment concluded that the cumulative actions and inactions of the respondents directly contributed to the crisis, emphasizing their responsibility to act in the country's best interest.

The 4-1 majority ruling, delivered by a five-member bench led by Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya, marked a significant judicial pronouncement on the accountability of high-ranking officials in economic governance. While Chief Justice Jayasuriya and Justices Buwaneka Aluwihare, Vijith Malalgoda, and Murdhu Fernando collectively issued a majority verdict, Justice Priyantha Jayawardena dissented, adding another layer of complexity to this landmark decision.

"Supreme Court Verdict Unveils Divergent Views and Political Ripples"

Justice Priyantha Jayawardena, dissenting in a minority judgment, issued an order to dismiss the Petitions related to the economic crisis, citing reasons such as untimely filing. Chief Justice Jayasuriya, in the majority, deemed it inappropriate to order compensation but mandated a legal cost of Rs. 150,000 for each petitioner.

Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, responding to the verdict, expressed non-acceptance and pledged to elucidate his stance when given the opportunity. The political aftermath of the decision is generating speculation, particularly regarding its impact on the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), the ruling party led by the former Presidents and Basil Rajapaksa.

Amid this legal development, Mahinda Rajapaksa marked his 78th birthday in a low-key celebration attended by President Ranil Wickremesinghe. The verdict's potential consequences for the political landscape stir discussions, with the Opposition, especially the SJB and JJB, seizing on the court decision to underscore their positions.

TNA Parliamentarian M.A. Sumanthiran, while the Court made no such order, urged those found responsible to compensate all citizens, envisioning an economic revival. The diverse responses illuminate the complex intersections of law, politics, and public sentiment in the wake of this landmark Supreme Court decision, setting the stage for further developments and debates in Sri Lanka's political arena.

"Political Ramifications and Strategizing: Opposition Contemplates Response to Supreme Court Verdict"

While the Opposition's condemnatory statements might be seen as routine political rhetoric, the discussion extends to potential political repercussions stemming from the Supreme Court's economic crisis verdict. Contemplating punitive actions, Opposition parties are weighing the possibility of introducing a motion in Parliament to impose civic disabilities on those held responsible by the Supreme Court.

However, constitutional hurdles loom large. According to the Constitution, such a motion necessitates an inquiry by a Special Presidential Commission (SPC), and even if introduced, the Opposition lacks the two-thirds majority required for endorsement. Recent events, like the comfortable majority vote in favor of the Budget, underscore the Opposition's challenge in garnering support in Parliament.

When the Opposition calls for penalties based on the Court's findings, it seeks political leverage. This was evident when Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa faced resistance from SLPP MPs, leading to a recess during Tuesday's parliamentary session. The Opposition aims to capitalize on the Court's verdict in its political campaigns, crafting slogans portraying the former Presidents and Basil Rajapaksa as "legally" responsible for the economic crisis.

Despite these political maneuvers, the verdict's direct consequences remain limited. Former Presidents and Basil Rajapaksa can freely participate in upcoming elections, as the Court's decision imposes no restrictions. Whether Parliament addresses the issue or not, last week's news cycle also spotlighted ongoing controversies within Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), brought before the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE). The convergence of legal and political dynamics, along with the unfolding cricket-related issues, contributes to a multifaceted landscape that continues to captivate public attention.

"Cricket Chaos and Political Turmoil: The Intersection of SLC Controversies and Opposition Strategies"

A stormy saga unfolds within Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) as the current administration clashes with Sport Minister Roshan Ranasinghe, leading to a suspension of Sri Lanka's ICC Membership. Despite the government's bid to replace the administration, a Stay Order obtained from the Court of Appeal disrupted their removal. Against this backdrop, the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) hearing, spurred by a parliamentary resolution, heightened tensions rather than easing them.

SLC officials faced a barrage of questions from Government and Opposition Parliamentarians, but COPE Chairman Prof. Ranjith Bandara became the focus of scrutiny due to alleged conflicts of interest. Accusations of consultancy work for SLC and aiding officials through hand signals have ignited controversy, with the Opposition demanding Prof. Bandara's removal from COPE. In response, Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena suspended COPE sittings until further notice.

Simultaneously, Sports Minister Ranasinghe intensifies his battle with SLC, presenting letters from SLC President Shammi Silva to the ICC, accusing the Minister of political interference. This ongoing conflict suggests that matters related to SLC may fall under the purview of the Ministerial Sub-Committee led by Foreign Minister Ali Sabry. Amidst these developments, the week witnessed the conclusion of the Cricket World Cup in India, with Australia claiming victory.

In Sri Lankan politics, the Opposition capitalizes on a Supreme Court decision against the SLPP leadership and the cricket debacle fallout, turning the week into a whirlwind of events with implications reaching both the cricket field and the political arena.

"As the cricketing arena witnessed the conclusion of the Cricket World Cup in India, Sri Lanka found itself embroiled in a whirlwind of controversies at the intersection of sports and politics. The clash between the current administration and Sports Minister Roshan Ranasinghe, the suspension of Sri Lanka's ICC Membership, and the heated COPE hearing amplified tensions within Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC). The parliamentary resolution seeking the removal of the SLC administration only fueled the flames, leading to accusations of conflicts of interest against COPE Chairman Prof. Ranjith Bandara.

The suspension of COPE sittings further underscores the intensity of the strife, while Sports Minister Ranasinghe's public release of letters accusing him of political interference adds another layer of complexity. The Opposition strategically maneuvers to capitalize on these issues, seeking to maximize the benefits of a Supreme Court decision against the SLPP leadership.

In this eventful week, the nexus between cricket chaos and political turmoil remains a focal point, prompting speculations about the future trajectory of both SLC and political dynamics. As Sri Lanka grapples with these multifaceted challenges, the fallout from these controversies continues to reverberate, leaving the nation at the crossroads of sports and politics."