by Dr Srilal Fernando
Though I was born in Panadura, a small village south of Colombo, my parents moved to a property in Colombo to facilitate my travelling to school. The property was located between Grandpass and Mutwal and formed part of a large estate called Mahawatte which was a grant of 58 acres to my grandfather’s grandfather’s grandfather, Renaldus D’Andrado in 1788.
Delving into the family papers, the originals of which are in the Sri Lanka National Archives, was a fascinating journey into the history of the family and the areas around Grandpass. The documents form a folio called the D’Andrado Manuscripts, and these were published in the National Archives Journal Vol II of 1984 edited by J.H.O. Paulusz – retired Government archivist. Among these papers are the Act of appointment of Renaldus D’Andrado as Mudaliyar dated January 15, 1787, his last will, a plan of partition of his estate among his descendants, and the genealogical table of the de Fonseka, D’Andrado and related families. He was also nominated as one of the executors of his will by the Maha Mudliyar, the redoubtable Nicholas Dias Abeysinghe1 a remarkable man who died in 1795. The book Chieftains of Ceyon by J.C. Van Sandon has an account of him.
All six children of my grandfather Francis Samuel de Fonseka, had land along Mahawatte Road. I grew up there, and on return from England, built a house on the lawn of my mother’s property. My grandfather however never resided in Mahawatte, choosing to live in a house called “St Patrick’s” overlooking the Kelani River, close to the former country residence of Dutch Governors. His eldest son Patrick John de Fonseka was born on St Patrick’s Day.
Grandpass derives its name from the Portuguese who called it Grande Passo, and in British times came to be known as Grandpass. Before the arrival of the Europeans it was called Nagalagam Tota implying that it was a place of crossing the Kelani River even then. The road that runs from the river is called Nagalagam Street and joins Grandpass Road which continues to Pettah and Colombo Fort. In British times and till the 1950’s, trams ran along Nagalagam Street from Grandpass to Fort. As a child I recollect travelling in this tram. This was later replaced by trolley buses which ran along Prince of Wales Avenue later named Sirimavo Bandaranaike Mawatha. The name Grandpass suggested that there existed a small pass and indeed there was one called Petit Pas. It was at the point where there was a sluice gate over the San Sebastian Canal close to the present Colombo Kachcheri. A painting of the original building De Uytvlught on the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam shows a splendid building which in 1852 was altered and now forms the Colombo Kachcheri. A painting of the sluice gate by J.L.K. Van Dort in 1888 exists in the Royal Institute of Linguistics and Anthropology in Leidan.
San Sebastian Canal is a man made canal which connected the Kelani River to the Beira Lake. In older times the Beira Lake was much bigger than it is now, and connected to the Colombo Harbour close to the place where the old Parliament building stands. It was the most important waterway through which export produce was transported for shipping. Parts of the waterway still exists, but landfill has made it narrow and since the advent of the road transport, its commercial importance has deteriorated.
San Sebastian Canal joined the Kelani River at Grandpass and this became the hub where all produce transported along the river in flat bottom barges (Paruwas) was transferred on to the canals. Cinnamon, food, sand and building products were transported this way.
Grandpass was also the main ferry across the Kelani River. It was the main Gateway to Colombo and the caretaker of the ferry had an important role to play and became an income generating source for the Dutch Company. His duties included checking the locals for arms and ammunition. Iron, gunpowder and saltpetre could not be transported into the city and duties were imposed. Arrack transported into the city was taxed at this point. A toll was charged for the use of the ferry.
In British times it continued its importance and in 1822 the river was spanned by a “bridge of boats”, a pontoon bridge which was in use till 1895. A painting of this, by the Irish artist Andrew Nicholl in
1848 is in the Colombo Museum. An original sketch done by him, now in my possession is reproduced here. The bridge of boats consisted of 21 boats anchored side by side, and a carriageway about 500 feet long ran from Grandpass to the other side of the river. For one hour each day the land traffic was stopped and two boats moved to allow river traffic. In 1895 the Victoria Bridge was built and took its place.
There were several other ferry points across the Kelani River. One was down river near Mutwal and connected the present day Sri Wickrema Mawata to Wattala on the other side. It was called Pas Betal and was the place where the Dutch having captured Negombo entered the outskirts of Colombo. Many years later the British did the same. Other ferries existed up river at Kelani Mulla, Kaduwela and Hangwella.
Ferry Crossing at Grandpass, Watercolour, 1755, Rijksmuseum
Grandpass and its surroundings in Dutch times was the favoured area for the Governors and senior officials to build their country residences. It was easily accessed with good roads, received a cool breeze in a hot climate ,and everything grew abundantly.
Governor Rickloff Van Goens 1664-1675 had a large property which was called Van Goens Village or Van Goensdorp. His son who too became Governor improved the property. Governor Iman Falck 1765-85 had a villa in Grandpass with cinnamon planted in the garden. He encouraged the cultivation of cinnamon. Till that time what was harvested was the cinnamon growing wild.
Governor Johann Van Angelbeek 1795-1796 had a country house at Grandpass. There is a detailed description of this house in Rev. James Cordiner’s, A Description of Ceylon published in 1807.
“At grandpass stands a country seat built by the late Dutch Governor Van Angelbeek. Besides a row of offices and a handsome farmyard there are two houses of one floor each for the accommodation of the family. These lie parallel to one another, and it is necessary to pass through the first to get to the second, which is raised on an embankment of the river. The stream is seen gliding along from the windows and is broad, deep and rapid. The opposite banks are clothed in thick woods.” He also mentions that after the takeover by the British, General Hay MacDowell and his staff lived there for several months at a time.
Governor’s House at Grandpass, Watercolour, Rijksmuseum
“General MacDowell was in the habit of receiving boxes of trees and shrubs by almost every ship; and one acre and a half of ground was completely filled with them”.
He introduced Mangosteen to Ceylon and it is most likely that the first plants were at Grandpass. He is also credited with introducing many other plants, including nutmeg, cloves, apples, asparagus to Ceylon.
J.P. Lewis in his notes on Pioneers of Natural History in Ceylon says that General MacDowell on his departure in 1804 left directions with his nephew John MacDowell of the Civil Service “to give a few plants of each sort to every person who promised to nourish them”.
“His house it may be mentioned was at Grandpass, a country seat built by the late Dutch Governor Van Angelbeek”.
Lewis also mentions that Joseph Jonville, a Frenchman, was the first Superintendent of the Botanical Garden started by Governor North on the opposite bank at Peliyagoda called “Ortafoula”. Later, on Jonville’s condemnation of the first site the gardens were moved to Slave Island and named “Kew”.
Cordiner mentions that on the opposite bank of the river Governor North built a temporary bungalow where he held grand entertainments. “Excellent boats carried the party, a band and other luxuries of the feast.”.
He mentions that “on the main roads, one leading to Grandpass and the other leading to Cotta, there are many commodious houses inhabited by the Dutch and European families.
The local elite too had houses in and around Grandpass and the area leading up to Hultsdorf.
A watercolour painting of the last Dutch Governor’s house in 1757 is in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. It is reproduced in Dr R.K. de Silva’s book. Two engravings, one from the front and the other from the rear is presented in Valentijn’s book of travel in 1726.
The location of the house is described in Dr R.K. de Silva’s book as North East of the present Madampitiya Road and the ferry at Grandpass. The scene shows the house looking North East from Nagalagam Street with the San Sebastian Canal on the right with the bridge over it.
Incidentally, the Town house in Colombo Fort belonging to the last Dutch Governor Van Angelbeek became the house occupied by General MacDowell for a time. It became vested in the British Government and became the King’s House, Queen’s House and now President’s House.
Large houses with extensive land, with numerous specimens of flora and fauna dotted the area extending up to Mutwal.
In British times, there is a detailed description of the Whist Bungalow in Ernst Haekel’s book “A Visit to Ceylon.” He stayed there for two weeks, a guest at the then owner Stipperger, the agent for Austrian Lloyd Shipping Company. Haeckel, a naturalist and Professor in the University of Jena, gives a very detailed description of the house and the gardens. His detailed botanical drawings inspired the Spanish Architect Antoni Gaudi. Another house in Mutwal still preserved is Elie House.
This was the preferred area of residence well into the 19th Century with schools such as St Thomas’ College starting off there. The then Catholic Bishop of Colombo acquired land to start St Joseph’s College, but eventually chose a more central location on cheaper land reclaimed from the Beira Lake. In the late 19th Century as cheap land cleared of cinnamon became available more people moved to the new area. Another factor was that the move of the main port from Galle to Colombo and the replacement of sailing ships to coal driven steam ships. This required coal bunkering. Coal was stored in old ships along the coast line near Mutwal and the wind blew the coal dust on to the shore and this became very unhygienic. Added to this, was the large scale commercialisation of the buildings leading to overcrowding and the large houses and gardens being carved up. Property prices had escalated and it was much more affordable to buy property in the recently opened Cinnamon Gardens.
Grandpass is described in most of the books on early Ceylon including the book by Robert Percival in 1803, the first book on Ceylon after the British take over.
Governor North brought in Robert Arbuthnot as the Chief Secretary for Ceylon. He in turn brought his brother George as Deputy Secretary, George kept a detailed diary which was later published by his heirs. He describes the houses occupied by General MacDowell, as quoted in the article “When North was Governor” by J.P. Lewis in the Ceylon and Antiquarian Literary Register in 1923.
An article by L.T. Gratien “Colombo in the 17th Century” in the C.A.L.R. States “at Grandpass was a noble house where Kandyan envoys used to reside when they visited Colombo. Later on, a house on Wolvendaal hill was set apart for the convoys and the house at Grandpass became the Dutch Governor’s country seat. There begun the cultivation of silkworms which gave Sedawatte its name and here in the next century was formed the first Cinnamon Estate.”
With the passage of time the areas around Grandpass has become less than salubrious. Large warehouses have come up and the area commercialised. The slums have been replaced by low to middle class housing complexes. It is no longer “Grand” and many will “Pass” by without any inkling of the rich history of the area.
1. The d’Andrado Manuscripts – J.H.O. Paulusz
The Sri Lanka Archives Volume 11 1984
2. Notes on some Singhalese families
3. The Chieftains of Ceylon – J.C. Van Sanden
4. Changing Face of Colombo R.L. Brohier
5. Old and New East Indies
Francois Valentijn 1724
6. Illustrations and Views of Dutch Ceylon 1602-1796
Dr R.K. de Silva and WGM Beumer 1988
7. Website deFonseka.com – Courtesy Jayashanth deFonseka
8. Account of Ceylon Robert Percival
9. A Description of Ceylon – James Cordiner 1807
10. A Visit to Ceylon – Ernst Haekel 1883
11. When North was Governor – J.P. Lewis
Ceylon Antiquary and Literary Register 1923
12. Colombo in the 17th Century – L.J. Gratien
Ceylon Antiquary and Literary Register Volume VIII Part IV 1923
13. Good ole Grandpass Dr K.D. Paranavitana Newspaper Article 2006
14. Some pioneers of the Natural History of Ceylon – J.P. Lewis
Spolia Zeylanica 1915
HEART TO HEART TRUST FUND
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”
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
Patrick Kodikara:A Sri Lankan’s action in UK Labour and minority movements
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.
Some incomprehensible lapses in Easter Attack Commission Report
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:”
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.
(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
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:
Secretary Defence Hemasiri Fernando – P. 284;
DIG Sisira Mendis, Chief of National Intelligence – P. 285;
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:
SDIG Nandana Munasinghe – Western Province – P. 312;
SP Sanjeewa Bandara – Superintendant of Police, Colombo North – P. 314;
SSP Negombo – Chandana Athukorala – P. 315;
SP B. E. I. Prasanna, Western Province Intelligence Division – P. 315;
Chief Inspector Sarath Kumarasinghe, Acting OIC, Fort Police Station – P.320;
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:
DIG Deshbandu Tennekone, Colombo North;
Negombo ASP Sisila Kumara;
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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