By Shamindra Ferdinando
Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith will soon meet Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris to hear the government’s response to the issues raised by the National Catholic Committee for Justice pertaining to what it called inordinate delay in implementing the recommendations of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) into the 2019 Easter Sunday carnage.
Addressing the media at the SLPP office at Nelum Mawatha, Prof. Peiris, who is also the Chairman of the ruling party, appreciated the Archbishop’s readiness to meet him. Alleging that various interested parties had been making attempts to exploit the situation, Minister Peiris said that he would brief Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith on behalf of the government.
At the onset of the briefing, Prof. Peiris explained the continuing Geneva challenge faced by Sri Lanka 12 years after the successful conclusion of the war. Referring to the developments in Afghanistan, Prof. Peiris questioned whether Sri Lanka was really investigated for human rights violations or subjected to some political agenda whereas the region was in turmoil with some countries destabilized.
The UNHRC comprising 47 countries adopted a resolution against Sri Lanka in last March with 22 backing the UK and Canada led effort.
A spokesperson for the Church said that Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith explained their stand on July 13 as regards the Easter Sunday carnage. The Church raised the failure on the part of the government to deal with the then President Maithripala Sirisena, who is also the leader of the SLFP and the then Prime Minister and the leader of the UNP Ranil Wickremesinghe, MP.
Addressing the media at the Archbishop’s House, Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith faulted the SLPP administration for its failure to implement the PCoI recommendations five months after receiving it. The Church, in an 18-page report sent to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa dealt with specific alleged lapses on the part of the incumbent government.
Referring to the PCoI report (PCoI Final Report Vol. 1, p 265), the Cardinal asked why the government had refrained from initiating criminal proceedings against ex-President Sirisena under suitable provision in the Penal Code.
Cardinal Ranjith also found fault with the PCoI for failing to make specific recommendation in respect of UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, though it recognised his role in facilitating Islamic extremism. Referring to PCoI assessment of PM Wickremesinghe’s soft approach towards Islamic extremism that paved the way for the Easter Sunday carnage (P CoI Final Report Vol 1, p 276-277), the Cardinal said that they couldn’t comprehend why specific recommendation was not made. Wickremesinghe recently re-entered parliament on the UNP’s National List slot.
The PCoI comprised Supreme Court Judge Janak de Silva, Court of Appeal Judge Nishshanka Bandula Karunaratne, retired Supreme Court Judges Nihal Sunil Rajapaksha and A.L. Bandula Kumara Atapattu and former Secretary to the Ministry of Justice W.M.M.R. Adhikari. H.M.P. Buwaneka Herath functioned as the Secretary to the P CoI.
Cardinal said that Wickremesinghe’s lax approach and irresponsible attitude should have been thoroughly investigated.
The Cardinal on behalf of the National Catholic Committee for Justice declared that unless the government responded positively within a month, they would be compelled to resort to other means to obtain justice.
Noting that legal action had been initiated against the then Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernndo over his failure to thwart the Easter Sunday bombings, the Catholic Church asked why action hadn’t been taken in respect of the then Chief of National Intelligence retired DIG Sisira Mendis and Director of State Intelligence Service Senior DIG Nilantha Jayawardena.
The Church pointed out that the PCoI had recommended that the Attorney General should consider criminal proceedings against Mendis and Jayawardena under any suitable provision in the Penal Code.
The Church stressed that the P CoI made the recommendation on the basis that the available evidence indicated that there was criminal liability on the part of both Mendis and Jayewardena.
It pointed out that P CoI recommendation in respect of the then Senior DIG Western Province Nandana Munasinghe (criminal liability), DIG Colombo North Deshabandu Tennakoon (disciplinary inquiry), SP Colombo North Sanjeewa Bandara (criminal liability), SP Chandana Atukorale (criminal liability), Director Western Province Intelligence Division B.E.I. Prasanna (criminal liability), ASP S. Kumara (disciplinary inquiry), Acting OIC, Fort Chief Inspector R.M. Sarath Kumarasinghe (ciminal liability), OIC Fort Chief Inspector Sagara Wilegoda Liyanage (criminal liability) and OIC Katana Chaminda Nawaratne (disciplinary inquiry).
The Church said that out of the implicated law enforcement officers action had been taken only against the then IGP Pujith Jayasundera.