The highest court in Sri Lanka has decided that 13 former leaders, including former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his brother Mahinda, were accountable for the greatest financial catastrophe the nation has ever experienced.
The decision stated that their “actions, omissions and conduct” were what started the crisis.
As the nation’s foreign reserves were depleted and supplies of food, fuel, and medication ran out in 2022, inflation skyrocketed.
Months of massive public demonstrations ignited by the situation led to Mr. Rajapaksa’s downfall.
After that, he left the nation, but he came back in September 2022 when his party-backed new administration began talks with the IMF over a bailout.
The petitioners’ legal bills are the only punishment associated with Tuesday’s decision, but experts tell BBC Sinhala that it may pave the way for more cases. Transparency International Sri Lanka, a corruption watchdog, and other campaigners filed the lawsuit.
The majority of judges (4–1) agreed that the politicians’ mismanagement of the economy infringed Sri Lankans’ fundamental rights. Along with the Rajapaksa brothers, 11 other officials were also found guilty, including two former governors of the central bank and former finance minister Basil Rajapaksa.
“Respondents cannot shirk responsibility by merely stating that the decisions they took were policy decisions. It was within full power of respondents to prevent such calamity as they had full knowledge,” Transparency International Sri Lanka said in a statement.
“It is clear that they did not act and take all measures to remedy the situation in the public interest,” it said.
Power outages lasted up to thirteen hours a day for Sri Lankans during the height of the conflict. The nation filed for bankruptcy last year, and it is still battling the crisis’s harshest consequences. It obtained an IMF bailout of $3 billion (£2.4 billion) and is bound by the deal to satisfy stringent goals.
With regard to its foreign debt as of November 2023, the largest lender, China, accounted for 52% of the total amount owed.