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Easter Sunday Bomb Attack on April 21, 2019:

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The author is a staunch advocate of police reforms and was one of those who contributed to the proposal put up by the OPA in 2001 that brought some police reforms in the form of the 17th Amendment to the Constitution.

In Retrospect

By Dr. Kingsley Wickremasuriya

Senior Deputy Inspector- General of Police (Retd)

E-mail: kingsley.wickremasuriya@gmail.com

Prologue

It is more than two years since the infamous bomb attack on civilian targets in Colombo, Negombo, and Batticaloa took place on Easter Sunday, 2019. Now that the dust from the political fallout from the incident is almost settling down (or is it?) it would be opportune to look back at the events that took place dispassionately removed from a politically charged environment. Undertaking such a task is particularly pertinent in view of the lingering protests and statements made by the Catholic Church representing the victims expressing fears that there would be a repetition of the violence.

Although many theories have been advanced in the public domain as to who is responsible for the failure to prevent the attack on Easter Sunday, prima facie it would seem that the failure is a clear Neglect of Duty on the part of the police, PREVENTION being its mandatory duty in terms of Section 56 of the Police Ordinance No 16 of 1866. However, looking at it from a practical point of view, invoking Section 56 alone is not realistic. Before coming to any conclusion as to where the final responsibility rests, the incident has to be analyzed in the background of many intervening socio-political factors that have intruded into the body politic of the country since the enactment of this law.

Accordingly, based on what is reported in the media on the instant case, the author would argue, that what contributed to the violence on that fateful Easter Sunday, was more a system failure than deliberate criminal negligence. Going on this premise he would venture to suggest a methodology that could prevent a repetition of another Easter Sunday.

Easter Sunday Attack

Wikipedia reported that , April 21, 2019, a series of Islamic bombings targeted three (St. Anthony’s Church, Katuwapitiya Church, a Church in Batticaloa, and three luxury hotels (the Kingsbury, Shangri-La, and Cinnamon Grand) in the country’s commercial capital, On the same day, minor explosions were reported at an apartment complex in and a lodge in At least 277 people were killed and more than 500 were injured, including at least 45 foreigners, three police officers, and eight bombers during the incident. According to the State Intelligence Service, the second series of raids were planned but were successfully stopped as a result of government raids.

Further, it is reported that all eight bombers were Sri Lankan nationals and affiliates of the . group suspected of having foreign links and has previously targeted and told parliament on April 23 that the government believed the attack was in retaliation for the March 15, 2019 attack on . However, the Tawheed Jamaat has been collecting explosives since January 2019.

While this was the local reaction, at the international level, the United Nations in Sri Lanka responded to the incident by strongly condemning the attacks against civilians carried out in places of worship and city hotels on Easter Sunday and urging the authorities, and all citizens to ensure that the rule of law is upheld.

Police Taken to Task

In the meanwhile, on Monday, November 22, 2021 ‘The Hindu’ reported that, following investigations, Sri Lanka’s former police chief was charged with criminal negligence for failing to act despite receiving prior intelligence warnings in the 2019 Easter Sunday terror attack that killed nearly 270 people, including 11 Indians. A total of 855 charges of criminal negligence were leveled against him as the Sri Lankan High Court began trial proceedings in the case, which has over 1,200 witnesses, according to the lawyers.

The ex-police chief on the other hand has told a panel probing the attack, that the former Sri Lankan President should take responsibility for the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings that claimed the lives of over 250 people, according to media reports.

Courts acquit the Police

The police chief was finally freed after a lengthy Trial at Bar on February 18, 2022 when the Colombo Permanent High Court Trial-at-Bar ordered his acquittal and release from all charges filed against him over the Easter Sunday attacks without even calling for evidence from the Defense, reported News First. If the High Court Bench have found the Inspector-General not guilty, then it is pertinent to ask the question as to who should be held responsible for the failure to prevent the carnage?

Lines of responsibility

It is a well-known fact that the police since its inception worked on the basic principle of law as given in ‘The Police Ordinance No 16 of 1866’ that “Every police officer shall for all purposes in this Ordinance contained be considered to be always on duty, and shall have the powers of a police officer in every part of Sri Lanka“. While the police in keeping with the principle of Separation of Powers draw this power from Parliament (the PEOPLE), and are held responsible to the Courts of Law (who have the power of review over the police) for the exercise of those powers, the administration of the police is vested in the Inspector-General of Police (Section 20) and policy making in the hands of the Minister (Sections 3,4,5,6,9 & 10) following on the same principle.

Further, Section 56 makes it obligatory on the part of every police officer that:

“It shall be his duty

(a) to use his best endeavors and ability to prevent all crimes, offences, and public nuisances;

(b) to preserve the peace;

(c) to apprehend disorderly and suspicious characters;

(d) to detect and bring offender s to justice;

(e) to collect and communicate intelligence affecting the public peace; and

(f) promptly to obey and execute all orders and warrants lawfully issued and directed to him by any competent authority.”

Thus, the lines of authority and responsibility drawn vis a vis the police are clear and unambiguous in law.

How the System Worked

For administration purposes the Island is divided into Police Stations, Districts, Divisions and Ranges. Police station is one of the first bulwarks of democratic government dispensing services to the community at grassroots level. Police station being the basic unit of security in the country, the Officer in Charge (OIC) of the police station played a key role in the System in maintaining law and order. In practical terms, the responsibility started at the Police Station level. The Officer in-charge of the Police (OIC) Station was responsible for securing his area against all threats to public peace. If he failed, the entire System would fail. The OIC naturally had therefore, to take the center stage of the local law and order scene.

In maintaining his position as a key link of the security system in the country, the OIC drew his strength from the Gazetted ranks (ASP & above) in playing his role and looked to his superiors for leadership and personal advancement. This expectation fulfilled, his loyalty never went beyond the Head of the Department, the Inspector-General. So, the SYSTEM worked fairly effectively (in spite of an occasional derailment) and the Police by and large stood their own against any calamity, be it coup d’état, Insurrection or communal violence or even natural disaster.

What went wrong

Although the System worked initially for some time, it was soon overwhelmed by the steadily increasing influence of the Member of Parliament (MP) over time. Various Sessional Papers on Constitutional Reforms reports of the Donoughmore Commission Report (1928), the Soulbury Commission Report (1969) and on Police Reforms such as the Soertz Police Commission Report, Basnayake Police Commission Report(1970)), Subasinghe Committee Report (1978), and Jayasinghe Committee Report (1999) give a detailed account of the gradual encroachment of the System by the MP – first in matters of transfers, promotions etc and then going even to the extent of interfering in police operations like Criminal Investigations.

The three-man Committee headed by Mr. W. T. Jayasinghe, a former Secretary to the Ministry of Defence (1995),

the last committee on Police Reforms describing the extent to which the canker had grown said:

The interference did not stop with personnel matters like transfers, promotions etc.. It extended even to operational matters like criminal investigations. As a result of increasing incidence of interference by MPP in investigations the Committee said that some of the officers who were fair and acted impartially were removed and transferred from their stations overnight at the instance of the MP because the offender happened to be a supporter of the MP, and yet others who had a well-known track record of corruption or inefficiency were promoted over the heads of those conscientious and dedicated officers. They also pointed out how in recent years junior officers have been promoted over their seniors, ostensibly on the ground of outstanding merit. This affected the morale of the entire Service.

These undue pressures were mostly from politicians and those close to politicians. This was one of the main reasons for the breakdown of discipline, loss of morale and high incidence of corruption in the police, the Committee reported.

Thus, Commission after Commission and Committee after Committee reported that the evidence before them showed that there is political interference in the sphere of appointments and promotions. Such interference they said affects the impartial discharge of their duties and consequently their independence. Commenting further, they said that the efficient maintenance of law and order by the Police depends on non-interference with the performance of their duties. This is a prerequisite to the efficient maintenance of law and order. They should have the freedom of performing their duties without the fear of coming under external pressure.

The impact of this continued political onslaught on the police by those in power was subversion of the police into a feudal instrument of political subservience waiting for ’Orders from Above’ (resulting in the abdication of responsibility) than an organization providing services to the community in a democracy according to the Rule of Law. Easter Sunday attack, one cannot therefore rule out, is a direct outcome of this process.

Had it not been the case, I would imagine that the first officer to be on the scene before the attack would have been the OICC of the concerned police stations who would have communicated and shared the information (intelligence) in their possession with the Church/ hotel authorities – the mandatory duty laid down by Section 56 of the Police Ordinance. Having done that, I would imagine that they would have gone further and either posted officers in uniform overtly at the concerned sites or taken other measures like establishing check points or going even to the extent of getting the church services for the day canceled in consultation with the authorities concerned in order to deter any attacks. They could even have considered calling for a local curfew with the support of their superiors instead of waiting for orders from above.

Conclusions

Politicians’ interest in government business in this country is not a new phenomenon. It has been in existence ever since the establishment of constitutional government and the introduction of democratic institutions in Ceylon. Such interest however, is a healthy sign of a vibrant democracy. The author recognizes this development as such and the legitimate right and the duty of the elected representative to represent matters about his electorate and its constituents.

Similarly, he also recognizes the responsibility that an elected Government has towards its constituency and its accountability to the country for its actions through the government machinery and the need to implement its policy through that machinery effectively. But what is of concern here is how undue political pressure brought to bear by elected representatives of the people on those in public service in matters other than policy has been detrimental to Good Governance, Democracy and Rule of Law and how it had led to inefficiency, corruption and inaction in the Public Service. Police are no exception.

Police in a Democracy are an institution responsible for maintaining safety and security of the citizen according to the rule of law. Impartial police therefore are a sine-qua-non-if they are to ensure a just & a peaceful society. Their commitment should ideally be to serve the community “for the happiness of the many, for the welfare of the many” – bahu jana hithaya, bahu jana sukhaya. Any compromise of the role of the police beyond his legal position is bound with calamitous results as we have seen in the case of Easter Sunday attack. Therefore, if we are to prevent a repetition of another Easter Sunday in the future, political tinkering with the police and their impartiality is what must be guarded against at all costs. The way towards achieving the desired end is through repeated police reforms from time to time.

The last Commission sitting on police reforms publicly was the Basnayake Police Commission (1970) – half a century back. Others were only Committees (last Committee sitting in 1999) with a limited scope. Much water has passed under the bridge since then. Police as well as the Community had to grin and bear their grievances without a chance being given to come out with them – particularly the police who have no Trade Union Rights. It is therefore, time to call for police reforms, a task that is best left to the leadership of civil society.

BHAVATU SABBA MANGALAM.!! MAY ALL BEINGS BE HAPPY!!



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Glimmers of hope?

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The newly appointed Cabinet Ministers leaves Cass un-uplifted. She need not elaborate. She wishes fervently that Dr Harsha de Silva will leave party loyalty aside and consider the country. Usually, it’s asking politicians to cast aside self-interest, which very rarely is done in the political culture that came to be after the 1970s. Thus, it is very unusual, completely out of the ordinary to appeal to Dr Harsha to forego party loyalty and do the very needful for the country by accepting the still vacant post of Minister of Finance. We are very sorry Eran W too has kept himself away.

Some of Cassandra’s readers may ask whether she is out of her right mind to see glimmers of hope for the country. She assures them she is as sane as can be; she does cling onto these straws like the dying man does. How else exist? How else get through these dire times?

What are the straws she clings to? News items in The Island of Tuesday 24 May.

‘Sirisena leaves Paget Road mansion in accordance with SC interim injunction.’ And who was instrumental in righting this wrong? The CPA and its Executive Director Dr Pakiasothy Saravanamuttu. It is hoped that revisions to the system will come in such as giving luxury housing and other extravagant perks to ex-presidents and their widows. Sri Lanka has always lived far beyond its means in the golden handshakes to its ex- prezs and also perks given its MPs. At least luxury vehicles should not be given them. Pensions after five years in Parliament should be scrapped forthwith.

‘Letter of demand sent to IGP seeking legal action against DIG Nilantha Jayawardena.’ Here the mover is The Centre for Society and Religion and it is with regard to the Easter Sunday massacre which could have been prevented if DIG Jayawardena as Head of State Intelligence had taken necessary action once intelligence messages warned of attack on churches.

‘CIABOC to indict Johnston, Keheliya and Rohitha’. It is fervently hoped that this will not be another charge that blows away with the wind. They do not have their strongest supporter – Mahinda R to save them. We so fervently hope the two in power now will let things happened justly, according to the law of the land.

‘Foreign Secy Admiral Colombage replaced’. And by whom? A career diplomat who has every right and qualification for the post; namely Aruni Wijewardane. If this indicates a fading of the prominence given to retired armed forces personnel in public life and administration, it is an excellent sign. Admiral Colombage had tendered his resignation, noted Wednesday’s newspaper.

‘Crisis caused by decades of misuse public resources, corruption, kleptocracy – TISL’.

Everyone knew this, even the despicable thieves and kleptocrats. The glaring question is why no concerted effort was made to stop the thieving from a country drawn to bankruptcy by politicians and admin officers. There are many answers to that question. It was groups, mostly of the middle class who came out first in candle lit vigils and then at the Gotagogama Village. The aragalaya has to go down in history as the savior of our nation from a curse worse than war. The civil war was won against many odds. But trying to defeat deceit power-hunger and thieving was near impossible. These protestors stuck their necks out and managed to rid from power most of the Rajapaksa family. That was achievement enough.

Heartfelt hope of the many

The newly appointed Cabinet Ministers leaves Cass un-uplifted. She need not elaborate. She wishes fervently that Dr Harsha de Silva will leave party loyalty aside and consider the country. Usually, it’s asking politicians to cast aside self interest, which very rarely is done in the political culture that came to be after the 1970s. Thus, it is very unusual, completely out of the ordinary to appeal to Dr Harsha to forego party loyalty and do the very needful for the country by accepting the still vacant post of Minister of Finance. We are very sorry Eran W too has kept himself away. As Shamindra Ferdinando writes in the newspaper mentioned, “Well informed sources said that Premier Wickremesinghe was still making efforts to win over some more Opposition members. Sources speculated that vital finance portfolio remained vacant as the government still believed (hoped Cass says) Dr Harsha de Silva could somehow be convinced to accept that portfolio.”

Still utterly hopeless

Gas is still unavailable for people like Cass who cannot stand in queues, first to get a token and then a cylinder. Will life never return to no queues for bare essentials? A woman friend was in a petrol queue for a solid twelve hours – from 4 am to 4 pm. This is just one of million people all over the country in queues. Even a common pressure pill was not available in 20 mg per.

Cassandra considers a hope. We saw hundreds of Sri Lankans all across the globe peacefully protesting for departure of thieves from the government. The ex-PM, Mahinda Rajapaksa’s answer to this was to unleash absolute terror on all of the island. It seems to be that with Johnson a younger MP stood commandingly.

Returning from that horror thought to the protesters overseas, Cass wondered if each of them contributed one hundred dollars to their mother country, it would go a long way to soften the blows we are battered with. Of course, the absolute imperative is that of the money, not a cent goes into personal pockets. The donors must be assured it goes to safety. Is that still not possible: assuring that donations are used for the purpose they are sent for: to alleviate the situation of Sri Lankans? I suppose the memory of tsunami funds going into the Helping Hambantota Fund is still fresh in memory. So much for our beloved country.

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Ban on agrochemicals and fertilisers: Post-scenario analysis

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By Prof. Rohan Rajapakse

(Emeritus Professor of Agriculture Biology UNIVERSITY OF RUHUNA and Former Executive Director Sri Lanka Council of Agriculture Research Policy)

There are two aspects of the ban on agrochemicals. The first is the ban on chemical fertilisers, and the second is the ban on the use of pesticides. Several eminent scientists, Dr Parakrama Waidyanatha (formerly the Soil Scientist of RRI), Prof OA Ileperuma (Former Professor of Chemistry University of Peradeniya), Prof C. S. Weeraratne (former Professor of Agronomy University of Ruhuna), Prof D. M. de Costa University of Peradeniya, Prof. Buddhi Marambe (Professor in Weed Science University of Peradeniya) have effectively dealt with the repercussion of the ban on chemical fertilisers which appeared in The Island newspaper on recently.

The major points summarised by these authors are listed below.

FERTILISER ISSUE

1. These scientists, including the author, are of the view that the President’s decision to totally shift to organic agriculture from conventional could lead to widespread hunger and starvation in future, which has become a reality. Organic farming is a small phenomenon in global agriculture, comprising a mere 1.5% of total farmlands, of which 66% are pasture.

2. Conventional farming (CF) is blamed for environmental pollution; however, in organic farming, heavy metal pollution and the release of carbon dioxide and methane, two greenhouse gases from farmyard manure, are serious pollution issues with organic farming that have been identified.

3. On the other hand, the greatest benefit of organic fertilisers as against chemical fertilisers is the improvement of soil’s physical, chemical and biological properties by the former, which is important for sustained crop productivity. The best option is to use appropriate combinations of organic and chemical fertilisers, which can also provide exacting nutrient demands of crops and still is the best option!

4. Sri Lanka has achieved self-sufficiency in rice due to the efforts of the Research Officers of the Department of Agriculture, and all these efforts will be in vain if we abruptly ban the import of fertiliser. These varieties are bred primarily on their fertiliser response. While compost has some positive effects such as improving soil texture and providing some micronutrients, it cannot be used as a substitute for fertiliser needed by high yielding varieties of rice. Applying organic fertilisers alone will not help replenish the nutrients absorbed by a crop. Organic fertilisers have relatively small amounts of the nutrients that plants need. For example, compost has only 2% nitrogen (N), whereas urea has 46% N. Banning the import of inorganic fertilisers will be disastrous, as not applying adequate amounts of nutrients will cause yields to drop, making it essential to increase food imports. Sri Lankan farmers at present are at the mercy of five organizations, namely the Central Department of Agriculture, the Provincial Ministry of Agriculture, the Private sector Pesticide Companies, the Non-Government organizations and the leading farmers who are advising them. Instead, improved agricultural extension services to promote alternative non-chemical methods of pest control and especially the use of Integrated Pest Management.

Locally, pest control depends mostly on the use of synthetic pesticides; ready to use products that can be easily procured from local vendors are applied when and where required Abuse and misapplication of pesticides is a common phenomenon in Sri Lanka. Even though many farmers are aware of the detrimental aspects of pesticides they often use them due to economic gains

We will look at the post scenario of
what has happened

1. The importation of Chemical fertilisers and Pesticides was banned at the beginning of Maha season 1 on the advice of several organic manure (OM) promoters by the Ministry of agriculture.

2. The Ministry of Agriculture encouraged the farmers to use organic manure, and an island-wide programme of producing Organic manure were initiated. IT took some time for the government to realize that Sri Lanka does not have the capacity to produce such a massive amount of OM, running into 10 tons per hectare for 500000 hectares ear marked in ma ha season.

3. Hence the government approved the importation of OM from abroad, and a Company in China was given an initial contract to produce OM produced from Seaweed. However, the scientists from University of Peradeniya detected harmful microorganisms in this initial consignment, and the ship was forced to leave Sri Lankan waters at a cost of US dollar 6.7 million without unloading its poisonous cargo. No substitute fertiliser consignment was available.

4. A committee in the Ministry hastily recommended to import NANO RAJA an artificial compound from India to increase the yield by spraying on to leaves. Sri Lanka lost Rs 863 million as farmers threw all these Nano Raja bottles and can as it attracts dogs and wild boar.

Since there is no other option the Ministry promised to pay Rs 50000 per hectare for all the farmers who lost their livelihood. It is not known how much the country lost due to this illogical decision of banning fertilisers and pesticides.

Recommendations

1. Judicious use of pesticides is recommended.

2. The promotion and the use of integrated pest management techniques whenever possible

3. To minimize the usage of pesticides:

Pesticide traders would be permitted to sell pesticides only through specially trained Technical Assistants.

Issuing pesticides to the farmers for which they have to produce some kind of a written recommendation by a local authority.

Introduction of new mechanism to dispose or recycle empty pesticide and weedicide bottles in collaboration with the Environment Ministry.

Laboratory-testing of imported pesticides by the Registrar of Pesticides at the entry-point to ensure that banned chemicals were not brought into the country.

Implementation of trained core of people who can apply pesticides.

Education campaigns to train farmers, retailers, distributors, and public with the adverse effects of pesticides.

Maximum Residue Level (MRL) to reduce the consumer’s risk of exposure to unsafe levels.

Integrated pest Management and organic agriculture to be promoted.

1. To ensure the proper usage of agrochemicals by farmers

All those who advised the Minister of Agriculture and the President to shift to OM still wield authority in national food production effort. The genuine scientists who predicted the outcome are still harassed sacked from positions they held in MA and were labelled as private sector goons. The danger lies if the farmers decide not to cultivate in this Maha season due to non-availability of fertilisers and pesticides the result will be an imminent famine.

The country also should have a professional body like the Planning Commission of

India, with high calibre professionals in the Universities and the Departments and

There should be institutions and experts to advise the government on national policy matters.

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Thomians triumph in Sydney 

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Nothing is happening for us, at this end, other than queues, queues, and more queues! There’s very little to shout about were the sports and entertainment scenes are concerned. However, Down Under, the going seems good.

Sri Lankans, especially in Melbourne, Australia, have quite a lot of happenings to check out, and they all seem to be having a jolly good time!

Trevine Rodrigo,

who puts pen to paper to keep Sri Lankans informed of the events in Melbourne, was in Sydney, to taken in the scene at the Sri Lanka Schools Sevens Touch Rugby competition. And, this is Trevine’s report:

The weather Gods and S.Thomas aligned, in Sydney, to provide the unexpected at the Sri Lanka Schools Sevens Touch Rugby competition, graced by an appreciative crowd.

Inclement weather was forecast for the day, and a well drilled Dharmaraja College was expected to go back-to-back at this now emerging competition in Sydney’s Sri Lanka expatriate sporting calendar.

But the unforeseen was delivered, with sunny conditions throughout, and the Thomians provided the upset of the competition when they stunned the favourites, Dharmaraja, in the final, to grab the Peninsula Motor Group Trophy.

Still in its infancy, the Sevens Touch Competition, drawn on the lines of Rugby League rules, found new flair and more enthusiasm among its growing number of fans, through the injection of players from around Australia, opposed to the initial tournament which was restricted to mainly Sydneysiders.

A carnival like atmosphere prevailed throughout the day’s competition.

Ten teams pitted themselves in a round robin system, in two groups, and the top four sides then progressed to the semi-finals, on a knock out basis, to find the winner.

A food stall gave fans the opportunity to keep themselves fed and hydrated while the teams provided the thrills of a highly competitive and skilled tournament.

The rugby dished out was fiercely contested, with teams such as Trinity, Royal and St. Peter’s very much in the fray but failing to qualify after narrow losses on a day of unpredictability.

Issipathana and Wesley were the other semi-finalists with the Pathanians grabbing third place in the play-off before the final.

The final was a tense encounter between last year’s finalists Dharmaraja College and S.Thomas. Form suggested that the Rajans were on track for successive wins in as many attempts.  But the Thomians had other ideas.

The fluent Rajans, with deft handling skills and evasive running, looked the goods, but found the Thomian defence impregnable.  Things were tied until the final minutes when the Thomians sealed the result with an intercept try and hung on to claim the unthinkable.

It was perhaps the price for complacency on the Rajans part that cost them the game and a lesson that it is never over until the final whistle.

Peninsula Motor Group, headed by successful businessman Dilip Kumar, was the main sponsor of the event, providing playing gear to all the teams, and prize money to the winners and runners-up.

The plan for the future is to make this event more attractive and better structured, according to the organisers, headed by Deeptha Perera, whose vision was behind the success of this episode.

In a bid to increase interest, an over 40’s tournament, preceded the main event, and it was as interesting as the younger version.

Ceylon Touch Rugby, a mixed team from Melbourne, won the over 40 competition, beating Royal College in the final.

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