The Government of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has decided to move the Ministry of Justice to the World Trade Centre, at a rental cost of 400 million rupees for a two year period, according to a cabinet memorandum presented by the Ministry of Finance and approved by the cabinet of ministers.
35,071 square feet of space will be rented by the government of Sri Lanka at the World Trade Centre tower for the Ministry of Justice from January 1, 2021-December 31, 2022.
Funds for the highly costly rental has been allocated by the Treasury already. According to documents presented to the Cabinet of ministers, Rs 233.1 million has been allocated as rent for 2021 and Rs 174 million has been allocated as rent for the year 2022.
The ministry of Justice is led by President’s Counsel Ali Sabry, formerly the head of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s personal legal team. Other members of the President’s crack legal team that kept him from being arrested on murder, abduction and money laundering charges have also accrued similar benefits.
According to the Prime Minister’s memorandum to cabinet, the “interim rental” was approved while the ‘House of Justice’ project is being completed to house 14 new judges appointed to the Court of Appeal as part of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s unilateral court-packing exercise. The House of Justice will be constructed in the current Justice Ministry premises in Hulftsdorp.
The move comes as Sri Lanka faces a massive debt repayment and liquidity crisis, with foreign reserves stretched thin. The Government last week announced cost cutting measures that included stopping all state sector advertising in the media as it struggles to keep a flailing economy afloat. Exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic and grotesque financial management in the first 3-4 months of the new president’s term of office, including unsustainable tax cuts that have since been reversed, the Gotabaya Rajapaksa presidency will confront one of Sri Lanka’s worst economic crises in history. (Chinthika De Silva)