By Saman Indrajith
Education Minister Prof GL Peiris yesterday called on the Attorney General to initiate the process of prosecuting those responsible for the Easter Sunday carnage on the basis of the investigations that had already been concluded.
Participating in the adjournment debate on the report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry on Easter Sunday terror attacks, the Minister said that 36 investigations had been completed and their files sent to the AG for legal action.
The Minister said: The Presidential Commission of Inquiry is not a court of law that decides who the offenders or wrongdoers are and impose punishments. A commission has no police powers to conduct investigations. However, the PCoI remaining within its mandate and terms of reference has done an outstanding job. The government is duty bound to implement the recommendations of the PCoI and there is no doubt about it. That is certain. There are some wrong wrong opinions being expressed about the Cabinet subcommittee chaired by Minister Chamal Rajapaksa. There was no independent probe by that subcommittee. It was entrusted with a separate task. The final report of the PCoI into the Easter Sunday attack contains many recommendations in hundreds of pages. That report is very complex. The government needed to decide which recommendations should be implemented on a priority basis.
“The Subcommittee was expected to instruct the government on the implementation of the PCoI report’s recommendations. There are some recommendations that could be implemented at once.
“If the Mawanella incident, where several Buddha statues were damaged, in my opinion had been properly investigated, the Easter Sunday catastrophe could have been averted. in the aftermath of that incident several persons were taken into custody. Unfortunately, they were released. We can apprehend the policemen who released them and take action against them. In addition, we can find who ordered the release of the suspects and take action against them.
“Regarding the Easter Sunday carnage affair, we must first ascertain the different tasks to be completed by the government, the Attorney General and courts. When these three are mixed there is confusion in the public mind. The government acts through the Police – the CID and the TID. In that regard a heavy load of work has been completed. Around 99 have been arrested for their involvements in the incidents and events that have links to the Easter Sunday carnage. Thirty-six investigations have been completed.
“I studied this report and observed that there are clear indications and details about the incidents and persons. Those are not general statements but very specific ones.
“Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith went before the court asking for an investigation into a suspected hoard of 6,000 swords and knives and to obtain a court order to ascertain the truth. The police could do the same even without a court order. The IGP has issued orders to detail two teams of policemen for the purpose. These weapons pose a threat. Therefore, they must be found, and the threat removed. They have been imported. Then who was involved in getting them released from the Customs. It is not an easy task to get a stock of 6,000 swords and knives through the Customs. There should have been a political involvement and the police are conducting investigations.
“The next issue is the suspected foreign involvement. Not even the LTTE had been able to carry out eight bomb attacks from Colombo to Batticaloa within two three hours. Who funded that process? Who facilitated them? Who aided and abetted them? To find answers for those questions the government is not only investigating the local persons but also people abroad to find their links. We have discussed the matter with foreign governments. Up to this point, we have made 54 arrests in five countries and got around 50 of them extradited to Sri Lanka. There is a process of getting the remaining persons extradited. There is a reference in the report to an incident in Qatar in October 2020, following which several persons were arrested. Some of them are not Sri Lankan citizens. Some of them who had links with them have gone to Australia, but they too have been traced and investigated. So, the government has performed well in the investigations to find those responsible for the crime as well as to ensure that there would be no recurrence of such incident.
“Then there are questions about the money trail of this affair. There is a question whether there had been pumping of funds from abroad for this attack and its preparations. There are important recommendations and a mentioning that a Turkish organization by the name of FETO sent funds to Sri Lanka. FETO is an armed insurgency organization against the Turkish government. The PCoI report mentions that organization too has channeled funds to those involved in the Easter Sunday attacks. This shows that the government has done its work, and nothing has been left behind.
“Thirty-six files of completed investigations have been sent to the Attorney General for further actions. Thereafter it is up to the Attorney General to proceed with prosecutions. The government and police have completed their investigations. The Attorney General should make an independent decision as to whether the available evidence is enough to institute legal actions. We as the government would ensure that the process would be cleared of politics so that no innocent person would be targeted, or no responsible person would be exculpated because of his rank or powers. The process is impartial. We do not instruct the Attorney General. We have no powers or need for that. It is not possible to file all those 36 cases at once. There are religious leaders demanding justice. We call on the Attorney General to act fast regarding the matters for which the cases could be filed in courts.
“The report also contains recommendations regarding the Madrasa schools. In this regard the Ministry of Education has a special responsibility. I think that there are around 365 registered Madrasas in the country. In addition, there are separate institutes under various names. There is a need to regulate them. Those who are under the age of 16 cannot go to such unregulated and unregistered institutes. That is illegal. We must find what is being taught there, who is giving funds to them and who is maintaining them.
“The government hopes to bring new laws regarding money laundering, extradition, terrorist funding etc., because the extant laws are not enough to address the complex challenges in the present times.”
SL gets Rs 452 mn for saving ill-fated tanker: Rs. 3.4 bn asked for
By Ifham Nizam and Rathindra Kuruwita
The Marine Enviro-nment Protection Authority (MEPA) yesterday received Rs. 452 million from London for having saved MT New Diamond, a super oil tanker that caught fire in the Sri Lanka’s territorial waters last year.
MEPA General Manager, Dr. P. B. Terney Pradeep Kumara told The Island that Rs. 442 million had come for the services rendered by the Sri Lanka Navy, MEPA and Rs. 10 million by way of a fine imposed on the Ship’s Captain.
However, Sri Lanka has to receive a much larger amount for the damage caused to the marine environment, Dr. Kumara said. Following the incident, Sri Lankan authorities filed charges against the Captain of the ill-fated vessel and made a claim for $2.4 million from the ship’s owners for the firefighting and pollution prevention efforts.
Twenty experts from the Universities of Moratuwa, Ruhuna and Sri Jayewardenepura submitted their recommendations as regards the damage to the environment, to the Attorney General. Based on the report, the Attorney General’s Department had asked for Rs. 3.4 billion (around USD 19 million) as compensation for environmental damage, the Coordinating Officer for the Attorney General, state counsel Nishara Jayaratne said.
Soon they would have discussions with the lawyers of the shipping agent concerned on compensation for environmental damage caused, she said.
Dr. Kumara, who is the former Head of the Department of Oceanography/Marine Geology of the Ruhuna University, said that the incident had caused deaths among marine species due to spillage of some toxic fuel from the vessel.
The MT New Diamond crude oil tanker was transporting 270,000 MT oil from the port of Meena Al Ahmadi in Kuwait to the Port of Paradip in India when a fire broke out in its engine room as the vessel was passing the eastern seas of Sri Lanka on September 3, 2020.
PSC on gender equality meets for the first time
State Minister, Fernandopulle flanked by two other PSC members
Special attention on microfinance
The Parliamentary Select Committee appointed to further gender equality, to investigate instances of discrimination against women and to present recommendations to Parliament, focused on microfinance loans that are currently affecting a large number of women in Sri Lanka, when they met for the first time in Parliament recently.
The meeting was chaired by the State Minister of Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID-19 Disease Control Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle.
It was also revealed that the Cabinet had approved the re-establishment of an institution to regulate Microfinance loans in Sri Lanka.
The MPs also discussed the role of the Select Committee. They decided that the primary role of the Committee should be to investigate women’s grievances and all forms of discrimination based on gender, including workplace violence.
Another task before this committee is to examine and review laws that can be used to enhance gender equality, encourage relevant ministries and authorities to formulate plans to further gender equality and to allocate financial resources.
The Committee will also try to encourage greater women’s representation in decision-making bodies at the national and provincial levels as well as in government, civil society and the private sector.
MPs Rohini Kaviratne, (Dr.) Harini Amarasuriya, M. Udayakumar, S. Sritharan, Rohana Bandara and the Secretary to the Committee, Deputy Secretary General and Chief of Staff of the Parliament Kushani Rohanadheera were also present at the meeting.
A/L Examination from October 04 to 30
The 2021 GCE Advanced Level examination would be held from October 4 to 30, Education Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris said yesterday addressing the media at his Ministry.
Minister Peiris said the examination was earlier scheduled to be held in August.
The Grade 5 scholarship examination would be held on October 03 and the 2021 GCE Ordinary Level (O/L) examination in the last week of January 2022, the Minister said.
“Usually, schools are open for academic activities for around 200 days a year. But in 2020, schools were open for about 150 days. It was around 130 days in the Western Province. We were not able to fill this gap with online classes due to lack of internet facilities in many parts of the country,” he said.
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