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Catholic Church reiterates call for PCoI report

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‘There cannot be any justification whatsoever of denying us a copy’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Lord Bishop Winston Fernando, the President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Sri Lanka yesterday (23) told The Island that the government’s handling of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry on the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks was not acceptable to the Catholic Church, under any circumstances.

“We are quite worried and suspicious over the inordinate delay in the government sharing the PCoI report with the Church,” Rev. Fernando said, pointing out that almost a month had lapsed since the government received it.

Responding to another query, the Church leader emphasized the responsibility on the part of the incumbent government to successfully move court against those responsible for the 2019 Easter Sunday carnage.

Rev. Fernando roundly dismissed government efforts to justify the appointment of a six-member ministerial committee to examine the PCoI. Challenging the very basis of the formation of the Committee, headed by Chamal Rajapaksa, Rev. Fernando said that the Church fully participated in the P CoI process as the incumbent administration repeatedly assured justice.

Unfortunately, the affected community had been now forced to fight for a copy of the P CoI report that dealt with the country’s worst single intelligence/security failure, Rev. Fernando said. If the government really felt the need for the parliament to examine the P CoI report perhaps all-party group could have been appointed, Rev Fernando said. However, even that could have happened while the Church received an opportunity to examine the report, Rev Fernando said.

Former President Maithripala Sirisena appointed the P CoI in the run-up to last presidential poll in Nov 2019. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa retained the same P CoI in consultations with the Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith.

The President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Sri Lanka questioned the rationale in naming of a ministerial team to identify measures to be taken by various agencies including Parliament, the judiciary, the Attorney General’s Department, security forces and intelligence services in implementing the P CoI recommendations.

Rev. Fernando said that he was in touch with the Archbishop of Colombo. The Church leader said that they never expected the government to adopt delaying tactics having assured the people that all those responsible would be appropriately dealt with.

He emphasized that the Church wouldn’t give up its campaign to ensure justice. The community couldn’t be deprived of justice for political reasons therefore those in power shouldn’t expect the protests to cease.

Last week, the Catholic Church called for a protest at Katuwapitiya, the scene of the worst attack. Over 100 died therein.

Rev Fernando was of the opinion that powerful interests could be hell-bent on suppressing the truth. The priest noted the US had already moved court against three of those who had been arrested and in Sri Lankan custody in connection with the Easter Sunday attacks. However, Sri Lanka seemed to be reluctant to address what he called an accountability issue.

The government whoever in power couldn’t disown responsibility for such a huge security failure, the senior priest said. By delaying the releasing of the report the government caused itself immense harm, Lord Bishop Fernando pointed out.

The Island sought Rev Fernando’s views in the wake of the President’s Office handing over several copies of the P CoI report to Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena. The top Church spokesperson said that they had no issue in lawmakers receiving the report but the real issue was why the Church was deprived of one. “Our request is reasonable. There cannot be any justifiable reason to deny us an opportunity to know the truth,” Rev Fernando said.



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Embassy officer arrested at BIA remanded

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The Embassy official who was attached to the Sri Lanka Embassy in Oman who is accused of being involved in a human trafficking racket was arrested by officers of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and remanded till the 13th of December when he was produced before the Colombo Chief Magistrate

The official was arrested on his arrival at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) this morning (29 November).

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Easter Sunday terror attack suspect hacked to death

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By Norman Palihawadane

A 38-year-old Easter Sunday terror attack suspect was hacked to death yesterday morning (28) in Mattakkuliya.

The victim, Mohamed Badurdeen Mohamed Harnas, was a resident of Safiya Avenue, Mattakkuliya, police said.

A suspect in the Easter Sunday terror attacks, he had been released on bail.

The suspect was rushed to the National Hospital, Colombo, after three individuals, who arrived in a car around 10. 00 am, attacked him.

Two persons attacked the man while the other was keeping the car engine running, according to eyewitnesses. The attackers thereafter fled in the same car.

Harnas was pronounced dead on admission to hospital.

Further investigations in this regard are currently underway.

The victims family members said that Harnas had been taken into custody, following the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks, but later released as there was no evidence of his involvement in terrorist activities.

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Rail service between Mahawa and Jaffna to be suspended for five months

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Transport Minister Bandula Gunawardena told Parliament yesterday that the railway services between Mahawa and Jaffna will be suspended for a period of five months in 2023.

The Minister said that operations will be suspended from January 15, 2023.

The Minister said it was to repair work on the railway line.

He said so in response to a question raised by Vanni District MP Selvam Adaikalanathan.

“We are focusing our attention on the request made by you. We have to halt railway operations between Mahawa and Jaffna for five months from January 2023. Train services have been continuously operating to Jaffna, but now we have faced a situation as we have not been able to carry out any repair work thus far,” the Minister said.

Assuring that this issue can be rectified in five months, Minister Gunawardane said that, thereafter, a good railway service can be provided for this route.

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