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A Political Solution – Who needs what Kind of Solution?

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Shivanthi Ranasinghe

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) got a nasty shock at the recently concluded general elections. Meera Sirinivasan for The Hindu warns in the article titled “The Centrality of Devolution in Development” that to interpret this result “as a shift away from long-pending political demands is at best reductive and at worst dangerous”.

As Sri Lanka is yet again at a juncture where a new constitution is being contemplated, a reality check on Sirinivasan’s warning is timely. It is important to understand the validity of the demand as well as its feasibility. After all, this demand for self determination has been dominating Sri Lankan politics and international relations for a very long time. 

Despite the passage of time, persistence and international pressure, this “historic” demand is still far from its goal. Sirinivasan argues that it is a legitimate and democratic right to be able to “actively shape their political and economic destinies” and a necessity as “a vital check against a ‘majoritarian’ state deriving power and legitimacy from its core ethno-nationalist base.” 

The first question that must be clarified is: who is it that is being referred to as “their”? 

 

Who are “They”?

Throughout her argument, Sirinivasan interchanges “their” to refer to both the Tamil community and the Tamils living in the North and East. However, Tamils in Sri Lanka are not confined to only these two areas of the Island. In fact, over 52 percent of Tamils live outside these two areas. Furthermore, the North and East there are not only Tamils in the North and East, but also Sinhalese and Muslims live there. 

In the East, the three communities live in roughly equal proportions. The rising Muslim population however may overtake the other two communities before long. It is true that at present the Sinhala and Muslim presence in the North is marginal. However, that absence was artificially created by the LTTE. 

The domestic mechanism to investigate the causes for the three decade war against terrorism, the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) finds that the ethnic cleansing of the Sinhala families living in Jaffna began as far back as 1977. By mid 1980s, the LTTE were evicting the Sinhalese in earnest. “By 1987, there were no Sinhala residents left in Jaffna.” According to the census department, in 1981, there were 5,684 Sinhala families living in the Jaffna district. These families have told the Commission that they wish to return to the North, where they were born and bred. 

On October 30, 1990 the entire Muslim population, numbering around 72,000 persons, were expelled from Jaffna within two hours. In 2002, LTTE strategist Anton Balasingham apologized for it, calling it a “political blunder” and invited the Muslims to return. However, the fact remains that the reason for the LTTE to expel the Muslims in the first place was the Muslims’ objection over the creation of a Tamil homeland. 

Therefore, as Attorney-at-Law and author Dharshan Weerasekera reasons, there cannot be any further devolution until the evicted Sinhalese are resettled in their former homes in the Northern Province as they too have a right to enjoy the benefits of such devolution. Without taking this foremost step, the very demand for self determination for Tamils is nullified because the fundamental principle of law states that “one cannot benefit from one’s own wrong.”

To ignore this fundamental principle “would in effect be validating ethnic cleansing as a tactic for gaining ‘self determination’, which would be an absolute travesty of justice, not to mention morality,” points out Weerasekera. 

Therefore, the reference to “their” cannot be exclusive to the Tamils, but must also include the Sinhalese and Muslims as well. This however still leaves the question as to the Tamils who can claim ownership to this political solution – will it entitle all Sri Lankan Tamils or only the Tamils in the North and East?

 

For whose Benefit is the Demand for a Political Solution?

The TNA represents only the Northern and Eastern provinces. Their sole focus is winning self determination for Tamils. Yet, they received a very poor mandate from their own voters. Their abysmal election results have been attributed to neglecting the economy. Yet, even in the political front, the TNA has failed by,

1. Miscarrying the proposed constitution

2. Allowing Provincial Councils to become defunct

 

1. Miscarrying the Proposed Constitution

 

Despite international support, TNA failed to implement the much touted political solution. This was due to the passive resistance by other minority parties, including the Tamil parties outside the North and East. 

It is noteworthy that the Good Governance Government (GGG) from January 2015-November 2019 was a coalition of minorities and some other parties. Furthermore, GGG had the most unusual setup where both main political parties cohabited in the Government. The legitimate Opposition, with 55 MPs representing eight provinces, was ostracized. Instead, the TNA with only 16 seats within the aforementioned two provinces was appointed as the official Opposition. Equally contentious was the obvious partnership the TNA had with the Government. 

With a two-third majority in Parliament on its side, the TNA had the best working environment to push their most desired solution. TNA indeed took up the opportunity. They designed a system that would pump Central Government’s powers into the Provincial Councils (PCs), making the Central Government a dependent of the PCs.

These plans were not scuttled by the Sinhala Buddhists. It was the Muslim politicians and their Tamil counterpart outside the North and East who quietly rejected this effort. Not only would they have not benefited from this arrangement, it would have adversely affected them.

Without an overriding central control, the province’s ethnic ratio would become the domineering factor. In very simple terms, the province will be ruled by the majority of that area and the minority communities within will have very little say. The Central Government will be without the powers to redress any wrongs or injustices or assure equity. The national politicians will not have a say in matters concerning their respective communities.

As political analyst CA Chandreprema observes, for minority parties outside North and East to agree to this solution would be political hara-kiri. Even Mr Ranil Wickremesinghe did not want to claim ownership of this proposal, notes Chandreprema. This will certainly not be the “vital check against a ‘majoritarian’ state,” that Sirinivasan seeks in a political solution.

Even for the Tamils in the North and East to benefit, the two provinces need to be merged, explains Chandreprema. Without such a merger, the Tamils in the East will come under the Muslims’ dominance. They will never agree to such a situation. However, a merger between provinces cannot and should not take place without a referendum from the two provinces. It is highly doubtful that the Muslims and Sinhalese will agree to a situation where they will come under the Tamil domination.

Therefore, this is a solution that looks great on paper to those who sees the Central Government as a Sinhala-Buddhist “majoritarianism” and hence a bully; and the Tamils in North and East as the underdog and ignores all other stakeholders. In reality, this will hurt the minorities more than the majority for it is only in the North and East that the Sinhalese are without a greater presence. Thus, this will effectively divide the country with the North and East under Tamil dominance (if the two provinces are merged) and the rest under the Sinhala dominance. Hence, this will not see the light of the day unless this is forced through against the peoples’ will. That of course would be most undemocratic.

 

2. Allowing Provincial Councils

to fall defunct

 

PCs were formed at the behest of the Rajiv Gandhi regime as a foundation for Tamils to exercise self governance. The rest of the country was forced to accept this system that they neither asked for nor needed. This was bitterly opposed by the nationalists for they feared this as a step towards separatism. However, India was firm and the then Sri Lankan Government under President JR Jayewardena conceded. Except for the land and police powers, the PCs are currently empowered with all the other legislative powers as per the Constitution.

It is most unfortunate that the Chief Minister of the temporarily merged North-East province Annamalai Varadaraja Perumal acted in a manner that heightened the nationalists’ fears. He moved a motion in the Council on March 01, 1990 to unilaterally declare the merged provinces as “Independent Eelam”. The then president R Premadasa was thus forced to quickly dissolve the PC and take it under Colombo’s administration.

However, after the East was freed from the terrorists, the Eastern PC was formed on May 10, 2008. Election for the Northern PC (NPC) was held on September 21, 2013. Yet, quite petulantly the TNA dominated PCs refused to use the opportunity and prove their case that they are capable of governing themselves. 

Instead, NPC Chief Minister CV Wigneswaran for five continuous years returned the funds and projects from the Central Government claiming that these are not “theirs”. Instead of making use of the powers already at hand, TNA continued to demand greater autonomy. Ironically, those provinces that once opposed the system are now working smoothly with the Central Government.

By 2018, the terms of all nine PCs had expired. The previous government in which the TNA played a prominent role hung on to a technicality to postpone elections. To date, the TNA had not protested over this outcome even though the PCs were formed specifically to give them autonomy.

 

It is not a surprise that the TNA’s vote base is steadily and rapidly declining. Living the life of elitists the TNA had quite sadistically allowed their own electorate to suffer by not utilizing the powers granted by the PCs. As a result, the people in these areas suffer enormously from unaddressed and accumulating economic and social woes.

 

Conclusion

The TNA is being disingenuous. Their proposed constitution is not democratically possible. Despite the drama, they presented a proposal that is unacceptable to all stakeholders – including the Tamils in the North and East (unless the two provinces can be merged).

They also failed to protect the PCs. This was handed over to North and East Tamil politicians on a platter at India’s insistence. This intervention cost India heavily. Yet, during its five year term, neither of these two TNA dominated PCs looked after the people, nor allowed the Central Government to do so. People are held hostage to prove a political point – not unlike the TNA’s erstwhile boss, the LTTE.

It is obvious that the TNA is not serious about a political solution. This call for autonomy for Tamils is just a political slogan that gives them a reason for their political existence.

The most important component in this debate however should not be about the politicians’ rhetoric. It is the people, their worries and hopes that matters the most.

During a recent visit to the Northern peninsula, this writer made a number of interesting observations. These observations and the exchange of ideas with the people include,

1. Many of the educated, elderly people live in empty and neglected homes. Their children are living overseas, where the economic prospects are better;

2. Despite the end of terrorism, considerable extent of land remains abandoned. The owners are overseas and do not wish to return home leaving their present comfortable lives;

3. Those in the most vulnerable segments continue to be marginalized by a rigid caste-based system. Without basics such as housing or essentials as drinking water, the poor are trapped in poverty;

4. As a political solution, people want an income that will give them the freedom to live with dignity and independence. Thus they wish for more investments in the North in the form of factories and industries. This will allow people to find jobs without leaving their hometown or their families behind;

5. The war is seen as a matter of the distant past and not something relevant to the present.

Sirinivasan argues that economic development sans a political solution “will prove futile unless citizens have the political agency to inform the process.” However, it is evident that without a robust economy where the benefits flow to all levels of society, a political solution – whatever it might be – will be without owners.

 

(ranasingheshivanthi@gmail.com)



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HEART TO HEART TRUST FUND

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receives a donation from Australia

‘Mighty of Heart, mighty of mind, magnanimous – to be this, is indeed to be great in life’ sums up the life of Mauri Antoinette Clare Sendapperuma.

We were elated beyond words when we were informed that a Sri Lankan domiciled in Australia had left over AUD 94,820/= (over 13 million rupees) in her last will to be donated to the Heart To Heart Trust Fund. To us, who have been involved in the journey of the Trust Fund and experienced the joys and the sorrows of people who would give anything to have a second chance at life, Miss Sendapperuma’s generosity was like being touched by an angel.

Born on 31st March 1954 in Colombo, Mauri was educated in a convent school, Good Shepherd Convent, Colombo, and was an accountant by profession. Her young days had been spent joyfully in the service of the Lord in her church, St Lucia’s Cathedral, until in 1989, she migrated to Melbourne, Australia, where she worked for leading corporates in the energy industry. Mauri passed away on 11th December 2019 following complications from Heart Aortic Valve Replacement surgery.

In a true mark of greatness, Mauri had given up a successful career to take up volunteer work, doing so at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. According to her family, she had always looked forward to her volunteering days, and often talked about how giving her time to the hospital fulfilled her, and that she felt as though she was part of a close family.

Mauri has ensured that kindness and generosity extended beyond her earthly life. And by giving back to her country, she has given hope to individuals suffering from heart related diseases and seeking a new lease in life. We at the Heart To Heart Trust Fund know not how Mauri came to know of us and our work with individuals suffering from heart diseases. But this we know – that Mauri had an open heart and a love that represented the God she served since she was a child.

The Heart to Heart Trust Fund is a Charitable Trust functioning under the patronage of the Head of State – and co-founded by leading Consultant Cardiothoracic Surgeon Dr. Rajitha Y de Silva and his mentor the eminent Senior Consultant Cardiologist, Dr. Ruvan Ekanayaka, who are guided by a Board of Trustees, made up of an eminent group of persons, and a beautiful group of individuals who have wholeheartedly volunteered to support and execute the good cause with the objective that ‘Nobody should die or suffer from heart diseases due to financial difficulties in this country.’

The Board of Trustees is composed of both medical and non medical persons who represent various professional fields such as law, medicine, diplomacy, corporate business and the social sciences.

Representing the medical field on the Board are

 

1. Dr. Ruvan Ekanayaka, Senior Consultant Cardiologist,

2. Dr. Rajitha Y de Silva, Consultant Cardiothoracic Surgeon,

3. Dr. Aruna Kapuruge, Consultant Cardiothoracic Surgeon,

4. Dr. Mahendra Munasinghe, Consultant Cardiothoracic Surgeon,

5. Dr. Kanishka Indraratne, Consultant Cardiac Anaesthetist,

6. Dr. Kumudini Ranatunga – Senior Consultant Cardio-thoracic Anaesthetist and Intensivist, NHSL

7. Prof. S D Jayarante, the Chairman, Sri Jayewardenepura General Hospital (Ex-Officio).

 

The non medical persons representing other disciplines and professions on the Board are

 

8. Ambassador Jayantha Dhanapala, former UN Under-Secretary-General,

9. Palitha Fernando PC, former Attorney General,

10. Arunashantha De Silva PC, Former Legal Draftsman,

11. Mahendra Amarasuriya, Senior Banker, Philanthropist and Former International President, Lions Club International 2007/08,

12. Dr Kumari Jayawardena, Author/Social Worker,

13. Sudath Tennakoon, Chairman, Central Bearings,

14. Lt. Gen. (retd.) Jagath Dias, former Chief of Staff, Sri Lanka Army,

15. Sunimal Fernando, Senior Sociologist,

16. Deshamanya Ajita De Zoysa, Chairman of Kalutara Bodhi Trust and Musaeus College

17. Kumar Sangakkara, Captain Sri Lanka Cricket 2009-2011 and President of the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) who also guide the trust fund while representing diverse fields of specialisation.

 

When somebody is having a heart disease is a matter of life and death where a price tag is attached to his/her life. The fact that Mauri recognised the work of the Trust Fund among those in need of critical treatment but are unable to obtain timely intervention due to financial difficulties shows that she has been following our work closely. She definitely knew the importance of lending a helping hand to patients, because in Australia all health services including complex cardiac procedures are provided free to all, irrespective of income and social status.

Over the initial six- and a half-year period, we have been able to save more than 300 lives. These are individuals who have undergone various procedures and have been eventually reunited with their families and society, and are today living normal and fruitful lives. The surgical procedures carried out included CABG (Bypass surgery), cardiac surgeries, and procedures to insert stents and pacemakers, which were carried out at the Sri Jayewardenapura General Hospital as well as in other hospitals in the last few years and its accounts are annually audited by M/s Ernst and Young. Being a Trust Fund, ensuring transparency of our operations at all levels and maintaining a high level of integrity are a virtue held high and we trust that our impeccable track record has been an immense help for our success thus far.

We believe strongly that “prevention is better than cure”, hence part of our endeavour at the Heart To Heart Trust Fund is to teach and educate people whenever possible to embrace a healthy lifestyle in order to reduce the incidents of heart disease. We target all age groups, but children are a vital group of our focus, as growing up, they can make choices to live healthily. Therefore, we focus a great deal on disseminating knowledge on the importance of prevention.  

Given the yeoman service rendered by the Trust Fund thus far, Mauri’s generosity to the present, gives hope to the future; to the future of not just the individual who benefits from her kindness, but the dependents who will bless her name many times as they receive their loved one back into their fold in a state of restored health.

Although we at the Heart To Heart Trust Fund did not know Mauri during her lifetime, her memory will remain with us and we will bless her name each time we think of her when we save a life.

As we appreciate the generosity of a Sri Lankan, and remember the countless who have supported the Trust Fund for so many years, in numerous ways, we know that none of them expected anything in return, and in giving, none of them became poor, but became richer in compassion and humanity. 

“Before giving, the mind of the giver is happy; while giving, the mind of the giver is made peaceful; and having given, the mind of the giver is uplifted”

Gautama Buddha

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus says “do good, lend, and expect nothing in return and your reward will be great” (6:35), and indeed we know that Mauri’s reward in heaven is great as she has been received with great joy by her Creator who would have welcomed her with open arms saying “Come to me….I will give you rest” (Mathew 11:28).

May her soul rest in peace!

 

A tribute from the Heart To Heart Trust Fund

(Tel: +94 77 734 4410
Email: heart2hearttrustfund@gmail.com
Website: www.heart2hearttrust.org)

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Patrick Kodikara:A Sri Lankan’s action in UK Labour and minority movements

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By Lucien Rajakarunanayake

Britain has certainly given higher education and a political background to many leaders of the left movement in Sri Lanka. The colonial period saw many who qualified for higher education moving to Britain.  The rise of left-wing politics and socialism in Britain at that time, led many to formulate their anti-colonial and socialist thinking, bringing important changes to the political leadership in Ceylon.

Some well-remembered names are  N. M. Perera, Colvin R de Silva, Leslie Goonewardena, Pieter Keunamen, and S. A Wickremesinghe, among many others. who gave guidance and leadership to the emerging left movement here, and the rising call for Independence. The leftists certainly wanted a more meaningful independence, than those of the right.

Recently, we saw the demise of Patrick Kodikara, a Sri Lankan who played a significant role in the activities of the UK Labour movement, the Labour Party, the movements for Black People’s Rights, against Race and Sex Discrimination in the UK, as well as strengtening the faith and credibility of the Police with a more socialist attitude in Police Management. It was certainly a rare turnaround towards leftwing activity by a citizen of this former colony, in the homeland of the colonizers.

Patrick Kodikara, was from Negombo, with his father in the Public Service. He was educated at  St. Joseph’s College, Maradana and later at the Aquinas University College, where he passed the GCE Advanced Level (UK) in Economics and History. For a brief period he was a teacher at the then Kolonnawa Vidyalaya, (now the Terence de Silva Maha Vidyalaya, Kolonnawa). With his emerging leftwing thinking he was glad that Kolonnawa Vidyala was founded by Terence de Zilva, a strong anti-colonial activist, the first Joint Secretary of the Suriyamal Movement.  It was first named the Suriya Vidyalaya, burnt down by pro-colonial, right wing opponents. 

At Aquinas he was one of a strong left thinking activist group that included Vasudeva Nanayakkara, late Devapriya Jayawardena (Priya), himself, and this writer.

He joined the Health Department as a trainee in psycho-social activity, and won a scholarship to the UK to continue his studies and training. He entered the London School of Economics in the early 60s, gained his first degree and a diploma in Applied Social Studies. His initial work was in Singapore from 1965, a three year course in Social Services, and  returned to the UK in 1968, becoming Head Social Worker at Friern Barnet Psychiatric Hospital. 

From 1970 to 75, Patrick served as a Senior Social Worker at the Hackney Social Services in London, when he obtained his MA in social planning from Essex University. His work in Social Service activities with the Southwark Social Services, and as a Divisional Officer of Tower Hamlets Social Services, brought to him the call for wider community activity. This saw him move to the left movement with the UK’s Labour Party.

His activities with the communities on major social issues affecting the people, saw his election as a Hackney Councillor from 1978, and continued work with Labour activists. This included mass protests and activities for minorities in the UK, and saw him lined up for possible selection as a candidate to Parliament from the Labour Party for Hackney Central, showing his wide popular support. He lost a parliamentary nomination by just one vote.

He has been a leader of strikes, protest occupations of public buildings and specially the Centre Point occupation in 1974 – an over 30-storey building left empty for several years as a speculative investment — in the context of increasing homelessness for the people of London.

The steady deterioration of race relations in the UK, especially in London, saw Patrick moving to Labour activism against it. He led two delegations to the Metropolitan Police to discuss relations with the police and black people. He also led a delegation to the Home Office on this issue, but the official position against minorities remained stronger. The Sunday Times (UK) quoted Kodikara in July 1980, stating: “…I have learnt that these organizations are a total con as far as black people are concerned. They give a comfortable feeling that something is being done. It’s not true, the situation is worsening, Racial harmony must have a precondition — and that is equality.”

In April 1978, Patrick was among the leaders of a mass Anti-Nazi League protest rally against racism and fascism, in London, which had a participation of more than 80,000 people.  

The prevailing situation led Patrick and some other black leaders to think of a black civil rights movement, which was later announced, and became an important pro-minority political movement in the coming years. The new movement began to campaign for the rights of Britain’s three million blacks – that they must also be accounted and reassured.

Among his achievements as a community and Labour activist were the changes to the Adoption and Fostering Policy — seeking to find a placement for children among parents of the  same race and religion, wherever possible. He was also associated with moves to change the Positive Action clauses  in the Race and Sex Discrimination Acts, the creation of new Social Work Training Posts to specifically train black and ethnic minority Social Workers, and among local councils to change the racial basis of employment  to reflect the community it served.

Patrick had an active and leadership role in formulating Labour policies for the control of the Police and policing policies, that sought the removal of the Met Police from the Home Office.   

He was also Chairman of the Hackney Council for Racial Equality, which was actively probing alleged wrong activities of the police relating to race and ethnicity.

He did have a lot of criticism of the left leaders here, after the failure of the United Front that saw the LSSP and CP join the SLFP/MEP. He regretted the steady decline of the left with a rise in extremist nationalism in the post-1956 trend of politics, and then the move to separatism and terrorism.

He joined he Bangladesh Community of Brick Lane – East End, London, after the stabbing to death of a member in a small park opposite the Whitechapel Art Gallery.   The park was eventually renamed – Altab Ali Park, after the deceased.

He was a very active member of the National Front for Racial Equality calling for ‘Black and White Unite and Fight’, and took the stage as the main speaker at many anti-racist meetings and other events.

From the late 1970s to 80s Patrick was also a strong trade unionist with emphasis on racial equality relating to the rights of workers in the UK. 

His pro-worker and employee work in the UK was known to many trade unionists in Sri Lanka, and to Mahinda Rajapaksa, when he was appointed Minister of Labour in 1994. Patrick had by then returned to Sri Lanka. Minister Rajapaksa contacted Patrick and sought his advice on pro-worker activities, to raise the standards of labour in the country. He was appointed a Consultant to the Ministry of Labour on formulating a National Policy on Vocational Training.  

A comprehensive programme was prepared by Patrick, and a team associated with him, relating to many aspects and needs for training based on the diverse social and economic situations of those in Labour and  Vocations, considering ethnic and even caste divisions that affects those seeking betterment through employment. This programme has been continued by the successive ministers of labour, and is part of the core aspects of Vocational Training under the ministry.

He spent more than a decade in friendly retirement in Sri Lanka, with knowledgeable help to those engaged in social betterment and advancement here. A man of good humour he always shared a laugh on both social and political issues. 

The Easter Sunday carnage on April 21 in 2019, saw his birthday turn into the bloodiest tragedy. Living in Negombo, the subsequent Covid-19 lockdowns and transport blocks made him sadly isolated from friends in many months of near isolation; but kept alive with plenty of humour amidst the tragedies of that Easter Sunday and the pandemic that prevailed. 

His record of service to the underprivileged and ethnic minorities in the UK is memorable. 

His demise was on January 24 this year. This is written to remember him as we approach what would have been his 83rd birthday, on April 21; when Patrick’s record of commitment to service to the people and humour in life will not be forgotten.

 

 

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Some incomprehensible lapses in Easter Attack Commission Report

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By Kalyananda Tiranagama

The Presidential Commission of Inquiry on Easter Sunday Attack (PCoI) had the difficult and challenging task of going through a vast amount of evidence, both oral and documentary, of several hundred witnesses, identifying the persons and organizations involved in the attack and the circumstances that brought about the situation culminating in the attack, and the political leaders and state officials whose dereliction of duty and responsibility resulting in the failure to take necessary action to prevent the attack in time and making necessary recommendations for taking legal action against them and for preventing recurrence of such situations.

In its Final Report submitted to the government, the PCoI had made a large number of relevant, important, useful and implementable recommendations, some of which the government has already taken steps to implement such as arresting some of the persons and proscribing some organizations mentioned therein. The Commission has done a commendable job by presenting this report.

While the Commission was conducting its inquiries summoning witnesses and recording their evidence at length giving wide publicity through the media, the people of the country expected that the Commission would identify all the culprits responsible for the attack, not only those who carried out the terrorist acts, but all those who were involved in or contributed to it directly or indirectly in various ways by facilitating, aiding and abetting, providing financial, material or moral support, within the country and from outside, to the terrorist group that carried out the attack; the links they had with communalist Muslim political parties and their leaders; and the foreign involvements in the attack. The people also expected it to identify the political leaders and public officials accountable for this attack by their failure to take necessary action to prevent it even after having received information in advance and deal with them according to law.

However, when a person with some legal background reads this report with an analytical mind, one finds that there are several incomprehensible lapses, omissions and lacunae in it. The purpose of this article is to point out some of the lapses that one would come across while going through this report.

 

Persons directly connected to terrorist attacks

In its Final Report the Commission has identified 14 persons as persons directly connected with the terrorist acts that took place on Easter Sunday. Out of them 11 persons are dead:

 

Zaharan and Ilham Ibrahim – suicide bombers in Shangrila attack;

Inshaf Ibrahim – Cinnamon Grand bomber; Mubarak – Kingsbury bomber;

Jameel – Dehiwala Tropical Inn bomber; Muath – Kochchikade bomber;

Hasthun – Katuwapitiya bomber;

Azad – Batticaloa Zion Church bomber;

Rilwan, Shaini and Niyas – died in Saindumarudu explosion.

 

Only three persons remain in custody to be prosecuted:”

(i)

Mohammed Ibrahim Mohammed Naufer – who has lectured on IS ideology and its activities in all the training camps conducted by Zaharan group;

(ii) (ii) Hayathu Mohammadu Ahamadu Milhan – who has acted as the weapons trainer in about 12 training camps conducted by Zaharan, played a key role in establishing the training camp at Wanathavilluwa and preparing explososives and procuring chemicals for the manufacture of bombs and taken part in the killing of two Police officers at Vavunativu in November 2018.

(iii) (iii) Mohomed Ibrahim Sadeeq Abdulla – an active member of Jamaath Islamia Students Movement (SLJISM), who had gone to Syria via Turkey in 2014 and undergone arms training; and participated in two training camps conducted by Zaharan and conducted some more camps in 2017 and 2018 on his own.

 

Persons and Organisations that contributed to terrorist acts

The PCoI has identified

the following as organizations and persons that contributed to the terrorist attacks by aiding and abetting actions which caused racial and religious disturbances or by giving support to such acts within the country and created public unrest and disturbed social order:

(i) Sri Lanka Jamaat-e-Islami (SLJI)

SLJI is an organization working on the same ideology as Muslim Brotherhood, a terrorist organization banned in Egypt, and having close connections with persons and organizations having the same ideology in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, India and Pakistan. The final goal of the SLJI is establishment of an Islam state in Sri Lanka. The official publication of SLJI, Al Hassanat has over the years carried articles glorifying jihad. In February 1990 it has published an article stating that the establishment of an Islamic state cannot be done without waging jihad. In November 1999 it has carried an editorial criticizing the worshipping of statues and praising those who break them. In February 2001 it has published an article extolling people who sacrifice their lives for Islam and stating that they will be given 72 virgins in heaven. In June 2008 it has stated quoting Egyptian terrorist Al Qardawi that a suicide attack is a great act of jihad. It has established Arabic Schools in Madampe, Mawanella and Kalkudah. At the Arabic School in Madampe students were taught about the establishment of an Islamic state and it was compulsory to learn to fight with weapons – P. 227 – 228.

 

(ii) Sri Lanka Jamaat-e-Islami Students Movement (SLJISM)

SLJISM is the students’ wing of the SLJI. Many of the participants in training programmes conducted by Zaharan and several of the suspects in custody over the Easter Sunday attacks are members of the SLJI. About 15 members of the SLJISM are in custody over the Easter attack, some of them have gone to Syria for arms training and Mufees, the person who provided the land at Wanathavilluwa where explosives and weapons found was a member of SLJISM. – P. 238

The COI has recommended proscription of SLJI and SLJISM.

Persons:

(i) Ahamed Talib Lukman Thalib (father);

(ii) (ii) Lukman Thalib Ahamed (son) – 2 persons of Sri Lankan origin domiciled in Australia –who have facilitated several members of SLJISM to proceed to Syria via Turkey for arms training;

(iii) (iii) one Rimsan, a Sri Lankan connected to Al Qaida. The COI has recommended in the on-going criminal investigations to examine their role, if any, in the Easter Sunday attacks.

(iv) Rasheed Hajjul Akbar – the leader of SLJI from 1994 till August 2018. He was a member of the Shura Council of the SLJI. Hajjul Akbar is one of the main ideologists of Islamic extremism in Sri Lanka, promoting religious hatred and intolerance, application of Sharia law and establishing an Islamic state in Sri Lanka. Under his leadership, the official journal of SLJI Al Hassanat has published articles promoting extremism and terrorism. He had been arrested by the CCD on August 25, 2019 and released on September 27, 2019. His younger brother is Moulavi Rasheed Mohamed Ibrahim. Moulavi Ibrahim and his two sons Sadeek Abdulla and Shahid Abdulla are in custody for damaging Buddha statues in Mawanella in December 2018. The COI has recommended the AG to consider instituting criminal action against Rasheed Hajjul Akbar for conspiring to establish an Islamic state in Sri Lanka.

(v) Dr. Muhamad Zufyan Muhamad Zafras – working at the National Hospital, Colombo who has helped Zaharan’s brother Rilwan to get admitted to Colombo National Hospital for treatment as a person injured in a gas cylinder blast, hiding the fact that he was injured in a blast while experimenting with explosives. The COI has recommended the AG to consider instituting criminal action against Dr. Zafras under S. 5 of the PTA for withholding information.

 

Accountability of Authorities for Failure to Prevent Attacks

Political Authorities

As for the political authorities in government accountable for the failure to prevent the terrorist attacks, the PCoI has found only President Maithripala Sirisena accountable: President Maithripala Sirisena – failed in his duties and responsibilities, transcending beyond mere civil negligence – P 263. There is criminal liability on his part for the acts or omissions mentioned therein and the COI recommends the Attorney General instituting criminal action under the Penal Code against him. -P 265

 

Senior Public Officers

The COI has recommended the AG to consider instituting criminal action under any suitable Penal Code provision against three senior public officers:

(i)

Secretary Defence Hemasiri Fernando – P. 284;

(ii)

DIG Sisira Mendis, Chief of National Intelligence – P. 285;

(iii)

SDIG Nilantha Jayawardane, Director, State Intelligence Service – P, 288.

 

Law Enforcement Officers

Out of the Law Enforcement Officers held accountable by the PCoI for their failure to take necessary steps to prevent the attacks in their respective areas, recommendation has been made only against the Inspector General of Police Pujitha Jayasundara for the AG to consider instituting criminal action under any suitable Penal Code provision. – P. 308

In respect of 6 other Police Officers recommendation has been made for the AG to consider instituting criminal action under any suitable Penal Code provision or S. 82 of the Police Ordinance. The following Police Officers belong to this category:

(i)

SDIG Nandana Munasinghe – Western Province – P. 312;

(ii)

SP Sanjeewa Bandara – Superintendant of Police, Colombo North – P. 314;

(iii)

SSP Negombo – Chandana Athukorala – P. 315;

(iv)

SP B. E. I. Prasanna, Western Province Intelligence Division – P. 315;

(v)

Chief Inspector Sarath Kumarasinghe, Acting OIC, Fort Police Station – P.320;

(vi)

Chief Inspector Sagara Wilegoda Liyanage, OIC, Fort

 

The AG has the option of instituting criminal action under any suitable Penal Code provision or under S. 82 of the Police Ordinance. If the AG decides to institute action under S. 82 of the Police Ordinance, they will not be indicted and there will be no criminal proceedings against them. They will be charged in the Magistrate’s Court for breach of duty under S. 82 of the Police Ordinance:

S. 82 :– Every Police officer (a) guilty of any violation of duty or wilful breach or neglect of any regulations and lawful orders of other competent authority – shall be liable to a penalty not exceeding three month’s pay, or to imprisonment with or without hard labour, for period not exceeding three months, or both.

 

Against three other Police Officers only disciplinary inquiry has been recommended:

(i)

DIG Deshbandu Tennekone, Colombo North;

(ii)

Negombo ASP Sisila Kumara;

(iii)

Chaminda Nawaratne, OIC, Katana

 

Accountability of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe and the Cabinet of Ministers

 

As for the responsibility and failures of the Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe no such recommendation, as made against the President, has been made.

It appears from the following observations of the PCoI that it has shown a very lenient attitude towards the failures of the Prime Minister. The report states: ‘The reasons for the Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe’s inability to attend meetings of the National Security Council when fixed at short notice due to other commitments – acceptable; Though he did not explain why he did not stay on for some of full meetings, this taken in isolation is insufficient to make any adverse findings against him – P. 268; There are other instances reflecting lenient approach on his part to national security issues: No positive action taken to prevent Wahabi violence against traditional Sufi Muslim community though he was aware of it; Did not accept army intelligence presentations about the rising Islam extremism in the country, particularly in the East – P. 270; He opposed the issue of banning nikab and burkha raised by the Army Commander at the National Security Council without consulting Muslim parties – P. 271; Govt. did not ban IS organization in Sri Lanka as there were no reports stating IS propaganda taking place in Sri Lanka, only reports of individuals spreading IS ideology; It was corroborated by several witnesses that the Govt was reluctant to take strong action against rising Islamic extremism due to its dependence on support of Muslim political parties.’

 

However, the Report states: ‘The lax approach of the Prime Minister towards Islam extremism was one of the primary reasons for the failure on the part of the government to take proactive steps towards Islam extremism. This facilitated the build-up of Islam extremism to the point of Easter Sunday attacks.’ – P. 277

If it is so, why no action is recommended against Prime Minister Ranil?

It has totally ignored the fact that, though Maithripala Sirisena was the President, the Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe had the effective control of the entire government in his hands under the 19th Amendment, controlling the Cabinet and the Parliament.

Sagala Ratnayake, a close confidante of the Prime Minister in the UNP, was the Minister of Law and Order in charge of the Police.

 

The Accountability of the Cabinet of Ministers

The PCoI has not given its mind as to whether the Cabinet of Ministers has contributed in any manner to the terrorist attack by its failure to discharge its Constitutional responsibility. When it examined the accountability of the President and the Prime Minister, one finds it difficult to understand why it did not examine the accountability of the governemtn headed by the Cabinet of Ministers, especially in view of the relevant provisions in Article 42 of the Constitution and the evidence placed before it.

Article 42 (1) There shall be a Cabinet of Ministers charged with the direction and control of the government of the Republic;

(2) The Cabinet of Ministers shall be collectively responsible and answerable to Parliament;

(3) The President shall be a member the Cabinet of Ministers and shall be the Head of the Cabinet of Ministers.

IGP Pujitha Jayasundara sent the communication received from Senior DIG Nilantha Jayawardana, Head of the State Intelligence Services and from Sisira Mendis, the Chief of National Intelligence containing detailed information warning about a threat of possible terrorist attack by ISIS terrorists in Sri Lanka received from Indian Intelligence sources with a note stating ‘FNA’ on 09. 04. 2019 itself to four Senior Police Officers: i. SDIG Western Province – Nandana Munasinghe; ii. SDIG Crimes, Organized Crimes and STF – M. Latheef; iii. SDIG Special Protection Range – Priyalal Dasanayake; iv. Director – Counter Terrorism Investigation Division – Waruna Jayasundara – P. 303.

Special Protection Range is the Ministerial Security Division (MSD) which provides security to Ministers of the Cabinet. It was reported in the media that SDIG Priyalal Dasanayake, giving evidence before the Commission, stated that he had conveyed the information received of the threat of possible terrorist attack to all the officers of the Ministerial Security Division on April 9, 2019 itself.

Of the four Senior Officers who received the said communication from the IGP, the PCoI has recommended to the AG to consider instituting criminal action under any suitable Penal Code provision or S. 82 of the Police Ordinance against SDIG Western Province – Nandana Munasinghe;. – P. 312. As for the conduct of SDIG Crimes, Organized Crimes and Commander STF – M. Latheef, the Report contains the following comment: ‘When the COI queried the steps taken with regard to it (the IGP’s communication) the response was that he got in touch with the Indian High Commission and provided security to it. However, it is surprising as to why he did not instruct his intelligence units to work on the intelligence received.’ – P. 309. No recommendation made against him.

However, the final report does not mention anything about the steps taken by SDIG Priyalal Dasanayake on the information conveyed to him. It does not show whether COI made any query as to whether the officers of the Ministerial Security Division conveyed the information received by them to the Ministers to whom they provide security and the reaction of the Ministers concerned. This is highly relevant and a serious lacuna in the report. One cannot expect or believe that none of the officers of the Ministerial Security Division conveyed this information received by them to any of the Ministers. At least we know that Minister Harin Fernando’s father had got this information from a Police officer, and that he conveyed it to his son preventing him from going to church on that fateful day.

The entire Cabinet of Ministers cannot evade responsibility for their failure in their Constitutional duty. Though they may not be legally accountable, their conduct is highly irresponsible, immoral and blameworthy.

However, the Cabinet Sub-Committee appointed by the present government to study the Report of the COI and identify recommendations for implementation has also expressed its view that the entire government then in power was accountable for the failure to prevent the Easter Attack.

(To be concluded tomorrow)

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