By Shamindra Ferdinando
One-rime Secretary of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry to Investigate and Inquire into Serious Acts of Fraud, Corruption and Abuse of Power, State Resources and Privileges (PRECIFAC) Lacille de Silva yesterday (17) said that leaders of political parties represented in Parliament should set up a committee to study the landmark Supreme Court ruling on the economic crisis.
On the basis of a thorough examination of the ruling, action should be initiated against those who had been found guilty of economic ruin, regardless of their standing in the society, de Silva said.The prominent civil society activist who had served as Director, Administration of Parliament for over a decade during a turbulent period said that if political leaders genuinely responded to the situation, SC ruling could help Parliament to clean up the mess. “They’ll never get another opportunity like this,” de Silva said.
Lacille de Silva said that the political parties couldn’t ignore the Supreme Court faulted former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa who chaired the Cabinet-of-Ministers (Nov 2019-May 2022) and Finance Ministers, Mahinda Rajapaksa (Nov 2019-June 2021) and Basil Rajapaksa (June 2021-April 2022) and the five-member Monetary Board for the current crisis.
The former House official said so responding to The Island queries regarding political developments in the wake of the SC ruling. Pointing out that Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) as one of the petitioners in this case has already underscored the responsibility on the part of Parliament and relevant institutions and ministries to act on the SC ruling, de Silva emphasized that wrongdoers shouldn’t be shielded under any circumstances.
Responding to another query, the ex-House official said that though former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, MP, and MP Namal Rajapaksa commented on the SC ruling, political parties were yet to disclose how they intended to deal with the situation.
“It wouldn’t be an easy task. I know how the powers that be during the Yahapalana administration reacted to investigations undertaken by the PRECIFAC. I was sacked as its Secretary. On a directive given by the then President Maithripala Sirisena, Presidential Secretary P.B. Abeykoon informed me, in writing, of my removal. They didn’t at least give a reason,” de Silva said. “This happened in late Feb or early March 2016,” de Silva said, urging the Parliament to take up the challenge.
The SC ruling meant that the Gotabaya Rajapaksas’ government caused the unprecedented economic crisis, de Silva said, pointing out that the court was told of the need to refer the case to the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC).
The SC ruling quoted Upul Jayasuriya, PC, appearing for some petitioners that a proper investigation under the relevant laws relating to Bribery and Corruption would ensure due respect to accountability.
Lacille de Silva said that against the backdrop of the SC ruling the Parliament constitutionally responsible for ensuring financial discipline and enactment of laws should inquire into its failure on its part to identify the impending catastrophe. “Perhaps, statements made by Governor of the Central Bank Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe before the Committee on Public Accounts (COPA) and Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) on May 24 and 25, 2022, respectively, should be re-examined. Dr. Weerasinghe didn’t mince his words when he quite rightly and clearly placed the blame on those who were found guilty by the SC on Nov 14, 2023.” Dr. Weerasinghe explained how tax revision declared and implemented in Nov 2019 contarry to the advice of IMF triggered the crisis, de Silva said.
The former House official emphasized that consequent to the SC ruling, Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena and leaders of political parties represented in Parliament would have to ascertain the requirement for the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on the economic crisis. Noting that Prof. Charitha Herath, the former COPE Chairman, too, has been preparing a report on the continuing crisis, de Silva suggested the government and Opposition should reach consensus on a common action plan.
Referring to the judgment, de Silva said that the Supreme Court was told how the government ignored interventions made by the Central Bank in a bid to initiate a programme with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The government’s irresponsible response led to the downfall of the economy, the SC was also told.
The IMF according to President’s Counsel Jayasuriya not only denied the last tranche of the IMF programme commenced in 2016 but also refused to grant a relief facility – Rapid Financing Instrument (RFI) – to overcome the ill-effects of the pandemic.