Finally, it is official: it was the Rajapaksas- and a handful of officials who did their bidding- who are responsible for the current economic calamity Sri Lanka is faced with.

This comes from no less an institution than the highest court in the country, the Supreme Court, which last week handed down a landmark decision determining that Presidents Mahinda and Gotabaya and Minister Basil Rajapaksa along with Governors Ajith Nivard Cabraal and W.D. Lakshman and Secretaries P.B. Jayasundera and S.R. Attygalle were liable for the calamity.

What does all this really mean though, for the Rajapaksas? Will it cost them politically and will they face any other consequences?

In delivering the verdict the Supreme Court has made it explicitly clear that no compensation is being awarded as it was not asked for. Instead, the respondents have been asked to pay legal costs to the petitioners which is a mere drop in the ocean of vast reserves that the Rajapaksas have access to.

Nevertheless, the verdict comes at a cost to the Rajapaksas: the loss of what little credibility they had left. It will be recalled that all this time, the familiar riposte from the Rajapaksas whenever they were accused of a wrongdoing was ‘take us to court and have us punished under the due process of the law.’ That is precisely what has happened now.

Since the verdict was announced there have been discussions in both in mainstream and social media that there was potential for the Rajapaksas to be deprived of their civic rights, based on the verdict. Theoretically, this is possible but practically, it is impossible.

For this to occur, a Special Presidential Commission would have to probe the issues at hand and make a recommendation to Parliament which needs to be endorsed by a two-thirds majority. For starters, President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who is beholden to the Rajapaksas for the office he currently holds, will never appoint a Special Presidential Commission into the economic mismanagement under them.

Even if he does so, there is no possibility of a recommendation to impose civic disabilities on the Rajapaksas mustering a two-thirds majority in Parliament which is still dominated by their lackeys who form the majority of parliamentarians of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), the party Basil Rajapaksa founded.

However, the verdict provides the collective opposition with a rallying cry against the Rajapaksas which will be a powerful slogan at the next national elections, a slogan that they cannot simply brush away as political mudslinging because it has come from the Supreme Court.

It is up to the collective opposition to make the most of it. Demands for compensation and imposition of civic rights may never see the light of day but they still form an important part of a conversation for the general public that will make the economic mistakes committed by those found guilty linger in the minds of the voter- and this will be a potent weapon when the next national elections are held.

The other effect of the verdict is to alienate more and more SLPP parliamentarians away from the party- and mostly towards Wickremesinghe because he is the only person who would accept them.

For most politicians, the bottom-line is whether they can return to Parliament at the next general election. That is their foremost consideration at this time. This is why we are seeing so many MPs becoming ‘independent’ and several of them banding into smaller groups. What they are all seeking is a guarantee of re-election.

What the Supreme Court verdict does is to deliver a significant blow to the prospects of the SLPP by branding its leaders as either being incompetent or as being corrupt or both. There was already a mass migration of voters from the SLPP. This verdict only increases that.

SLPP politicians will be quick to realise this. When they do, they will try their best to distance themselves from the Rajapaksas. Some have already started this process. Now, more are likely to join them. Very few politicians who value their future will remain with the SLPP now. If they do, they are naïve- or Rajapaksa loyalists of the die-hard variety for whom even their own political survival doesn’t matter.

One person who will be very happy with this verdict is President Wickremesinghe. It is no secret that he has already commenced the process of poaching parliamentarians from other parties to join him as he bids for an elected term of office in 2024. Already some members of the SLPP and a few from the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) have preferred to side with him.

In this respect, the verdict is a godsend for Wickremesinghe. Now he can lure SLPPers who are worried about their political futures, even without dangling carrots in the form of ministerial portfolios before them. Also, because the decision as to whether a Special Presidential Commission should be appointed rests with him, he has more leverage with the Rajapaksas now. They cannot go about bad-mouthing Wickremesinghe or demanding Cabinet portfolios from him anymore.

What of the Rajapaksas themselves? Mahinda Rajapaksa has said that he does not ‘accept’ the verdict of the Supreme Court. Before him, S.B. Dissanayake said much the same thing, albeit in harsher language, had to spent two years in prison and had to be pardoned by Rajapaksa himself.

Namal Rajapaksa also displayed his ignorance as a lawyer stating that, because this is a Fundamental Rights application, only written submissions were heard and that this was a factor which could have influenced the verdict. Is the younger Rajapaksa suggesting that therefore, all verdicts in Fundamental Rights applications are erroneous when only written submissions are received?

Collectively, the Rajapaksas will hope that this is a storm in teacup and Sri Lankans being endowed with extremely short memories, would have forgotten all about this verdict when major national elections are held next year.

That is exactly what the opposition must remember and prevent. For, if the Rajapaksas ever return to power, we can be quite certain they will shamelessly plunder the economy- all over again.