02/21/2022, 17.44
SRI LANKA
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Officials accused over Easter Sunday attacks acquitted

by Melani Manel Perera

Pujith Jayasundara and Hemasiri Fernando were accused of ignoring warnings from foreign intelligence services. To get justice, “we have to wait for another government,” said Card Ranjith.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – A Sri Lankan court acquitted two former officials tried in connection with the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks.

Retired Inspector General of Police Pujith Jayasundara and former permanent secretary to the Ministry of Defence Hemasiri Fernando were accused of ignoring warnings from foreign intelligence agencies about a possible attack.

“There is no confidence in the current government and the Attorney General's Department,” said Archbishop Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo in a video message in Sinhala.

The “government has not fulfilled any of its promises to do us justice for the Easter attack,” he added. Hence, “we will not be able to get the truth and justice from this government.” For this to happen, “we have to wait for another government”.

Although the presidential commission report called for “legal action against those individuals who were aware of this attack, and those who did not take action to prevent the attack, due to the misconduct of the Attorney General and the Attorney General's Department, a situation has arisen where justice is not being served. We are deeply saddened by this,” the cardinal said.

Both Jayasundara and Fernando resigned on 25 April 2019. According to AFP, the prosecutor wanted to accuse them of murder but there was no evidence linking them to the attackers, who were believed to be affiliated with the Islamic State.

“Muslim extremists were directly behind the attack,” and “intelligence and senior government officials were aware that the attack would take place. We have evidence of that. In particular, the report of the presidential commission clearly stated that,” Card Ranjith said

Following the attacks, former president Maithripala Sirisena set up a commission of inquiry whose final report was given to current President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in February 2021.

Rajapaksa then appointed another committee (composed only of members from the ruling coalition) to examine the report, which has however not been shared with either the Church or the Attorney General.

According to the archbishop of Colombo, the government and the attorney general withheld evidence from the presidential commission.

The retired bishop of the Methodist Church of Sri Lanka, the Rev Asiri P Perera, agrees with Card Ranjith.

“As a law-abiding, responsible citizen, I know that I have no right to criticise the decision and judgment delivered by a court of law and I shall abide by the same,” Bishop Perera said. However, “The comment made by the presiding Judge that ‘this decision will not please all parties’ is worth taking note.”

In the prelate’s view, it is regrettable how the investigation was handled and how charges were laid, not some much the verdict.

Certain “names and evidence have been swept under the carpet. The daring negligence of those who were responsible to investigate” is clearly “visible to the public. In the face of such shortcomings, where can we now turn to seek justice?” he wonders.

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