The Sri Lanka parliament has approved a bill to set up special courts to expedite trials of bribery and corruption cases amid public outcry over delays in punishing members of the island nation’s former strongman’s government. The government’s creation of the permanent three-judge courts comes amid rising public criticism over the slow pace of punishing those responsible for the alleged large-scale corruptions, bribery and misappropriation of public properties during the previous regime.
Deputy Minister of Justice Dushmantha Mithrapala said the country’s judicial system is facing a grave criticism due to delays and the new courts will help to expedite the proceedings and judicial process. 119 lawmakers of the 225-member parliament voted to pass the bill while 52 voted against. Sri Lanka’s government led by president Maithripala Sirisena won election three years ago on anti-corruption platform, after promising to investigate alleged large-scale irregularities under its predecessor president Mahinda Rajapaksa who faced allegations of corruption and nepotism. Rajapaksa lost the election to his own Health Minister Sirisena who launched his own last-minute campaign.
Since losing power, two of Rajapaksa’s three sons have been arrested and released on bail over money laundering allegations while his brother, Basil Rajapaksa, who was economic development minister, was arrested over misuse of public funds and released on bail.
Since came into power, Sirisena’s administration has been investigating more than 50 cases of alleged corruption and misappropriation of state property, but only in one case, suspects have been convicted. In that case, two top officials including Rajapaksa’s secretary were convicted and sentenced to a three year jail term for misappropriation of state funds. They have appealed the judgment.
Long delays in investigations and prosecution led to claims that Sirisena’s administration was protecting the accused.