Former Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) Provincial Councilor Mahinda Jayasinghe yesterday filed a fundamental rights petition with the Supreme Court seeking a declaration that importing luxury vehicles for MPs is illegal.
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, Secretary of the Ministry of Finance SRAttygalle, members of the Cabinet of Ministers and the Attorney General were named as respondents in the petition.
Petitioner Jayasinghe said the prime minister submitted a special Cabinet memorandum on or about May 18, 2021 requesting Cabinet approval to import 50 ambulances, 50 water trucks, 50 double cabins and jeeps for MPs. The petitioner said the relevant Cabinet memorandum requested approval to obtain leasing facilities from the Bank of Ceylon and to open letters of credit to import the said vehicles.
The petition said that on May 24, 2021, the prime minister announced that the Cabinet of Ministers had decided to suspend the decision to import vehicles following a public outcry.
He says the public was unaware that the letters of credit were issued in April 2021, even without obtaining Cabinet approval. The petitioner said he sincerely believed the letters of credit were issued long before seeking Cabinet approval with the ulterior motive of making it even impossible for Cabinet to review and reverse practically and effectively the process undertaken for such imports.
The petitioner stated that the said vehicles must be imported without imposition of the corresponding taxes and duties. The petitioner alleged that the Cabinet of Ministers made the decision to import these vehicles in a situation where the country faces a severe shortage of foreign exchange reserves and struggles to control COVID-19 amid a shortage health facilities.
Jayasinghe requests a declaration that the defendants violated his fundamental rights guaranteed by article 12, paragraph 1, of the Constitution.