Maithripala Sirisena, Nilantha J, two senior AG Department officials among the culprits
By Shamindra Ferdinando
The Catholic Church yesterday (25) welcomed President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s declaration that the government had the required 2/3 majority in Parliament to take action against those who had been named in the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) by introducing a new Act in Parliament.
Top spokesperson for the Church Rev Fr. Cyril Gamini Fernando told The Island that the Church had repeatedly asked for the full implementation of the recommendations made by the PCoI.
Rev. Fernando said that the Church launched a sustained campaign due to the inordinate delay on the part of the government to act on the PCoI recommendations.
The PCoI handed over its report to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Feb 01 this year.
Having vested the newly built Kelani Bridge with the people, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa warned the Opposition not to push the government on the issue at hand as it enjoyed the parliamentary majority needed to enact necessary legislation to punish the culprits.
Rev. Fernando emphasised that the stand taken up by the Catholic Church in respect of the PCoI recommendations was clear. Responding to a query, Rev Fernando said that the Catholic Church quite clearly accepted the composition of the PCoI, appointed on Sept 21, 2019 by the then President Maithripala Sirisena. In spite of the change of government two months later, the Catholic Church accepted the composition of the PCoI, Rev Fernando said, adding that a team of lawyers represented the Catholic Church at the PCoI.
Now that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has assured that his administration would act on the recommendations, the Catholic Church hoped the government would go the whole hog.
The five-member PCoI consisted of Appellate Court Judge Janak de Silva (Chairman), Appeal Court Judge Nissanka Bandula Karunarathna, Retired Judge of the Court of Appeal Nihal Sunil Rajapaksa, Retired Judge of the High Court Bandula Kumara Atapattu and retired Ministry Secretary Ms. W.M.M. Adikari.
Asked whether the Catholic Church would give up its campaign both here and abroad to pressure the government over the delay in the judicial process, Rev. Fernando said the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) had so far questioned him for three days –over a period of 15- 16 hours subsequent to a complaint lodged by State Intelligence Service (SIS) Chief Maj. Gen. Suresh Salley. “The Catholic Church had no option but to seek justice whatever the consequences as we felt efforts are being made to discard PCoI recommendations,” Rev. Fernando said.
Rev. Fernando pointed out that one of those who had been named by the PCoI, Senior DIG Nilantha Jayawardena, Maj. Gen. Salley’s predecessor was a key prosecution witness now.
The National Catholic Committee for Justice in July this year urged President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to implement the PCoI’s recommendations in respect of 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.
The SLFP with 14-member group is the second biggest constituent in the government.
The Church released an 18-page report that had been sent to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. The report 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 Church asked why the government had refrained from initiating criminal proceedings against Sirisena under suitable provisions in the Penal Code.
The Church also found fault with the PCoI for failing to make specific recommendations in respect of UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, though it recognized 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 Church said that they couldn’t comprehend why specific recommendation was not made.
Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith told a July media briefing 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 addressed their grievances 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 Fernando 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.
The following are the P CoI recommendations 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 (criminal liability), OIC Fort Chief Inspector Sagara Wilegoda Liyanage (criminal liability) and OIC Katana Chaminda Nawaratne (disciplinary inquiry).
Rev. Fernando stressed that contrary to claims the Church hadn’t been given access to the full report. The Church spokesperson pointed out that the PCoI recommended the Public Service Commission take disciplinary action against State Counsel Malik Azeez and Deputy Solicitor General Azad Navani for their failure that may have contributed to the Easter Sunday carnage.
The PCoI also made reference to ACMC leader Rishad Bathiudeen, his brother, Riyaj Bathiudeen, Dr. Muhamad Zulyan Muhamad Zafras, Ahamed Lukman Thalib and M.L.A.M. Hizbullah.