02/24/2021, 12.47
SRI LANKA
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Easter Sunday massacres: Commission of Inquiry accuses former president Sirisena

by Melani Manel Perera

The PCol report points the finger at government leaders in office at the time, including the former prime minister and police chief. Despite warnings, they did not take the necessary steps to prevent the attacks. The report also calls for the ban of a radical Sinhalese Buddhist group (the BBS).

Colombo (AsiaNews) – The Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCol), called to shed light on the 2019  Easter Sunday attacks and criticised by Christians, has asked the Attorney General to start criminal proceedings against then-President Maithripala Sirisena and other senior government officials on duty at the time of the events.

The PCol report yesterday reached the desk of current parliamentary speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, to be given to all Members of the house so that they can study and assess it.

For the authors of the report, the investigation demonstrates that former President Sirisena (pictured) was responsible for acts and omissions that favoured the attacks. Hence, the Attorney General (AG) should consider bringing charges against the former president under the suitable provisions of the Penal Code.

Along with the former president, the PCol is calling for proceedings against Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando, former Chief of National Intelligence Sisira Mendis, former Inspector General of Police Pujith Jayasundara and his deputy Nandana Munasinghe, former Director of Intelligence Nilantha Jayawardena, and former Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen.

According to the report, the former president went on a state visit to India from 16 to 21 April without appointing an acting Defence Minister, thus leaving a vacuum in a crucial security post, knowing full well of a threat against the country. This gave terrorists an advantage when they launched their attacks.

Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando, a former permanent secretary to the president, along with Police Chief Pujith Jayasundara, failed to take the appropriate steps to prevent the massacres. Despite intelligence reports and warnings issued by the intelligence services, the two did not act in time leaving the jihadists free to act.

Former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is also in the report’s crosshair, blamed for failing to take the necessary steps to prevent the attacks. During his term in office, he did not act forcefully to stop the growing activism of extremist Islamist movements, which was one of the causes that facilitated the Easter massacres and other violent incidents that left a trail of blood across the country.

In the meantime, based on a study of Buddhist movements and other religious organisations, the Commission has recommended a ban on Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), which has perpetrated attacks in the past.

Finally, the Commission also recommended that the AG vet the speeches by the Venerable  Galagoda Atte Gnanasara Thera in Maharagama and Aluthgama in 2013 and 2014 to assess possible criminal prosecution against him, in accordance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

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