By SANJA DE SILVA JAYATILLEKA
The UN Human Rights Council’s first session of the year 2021 to be held from February 22 to March 23 is the most important because it opens with the participation of member states at the Ministerial level, known as the High-Level Segment. Often, Foreign Ministers, Ministers of Human Rights, Justice Ministers and others of similar rank speak at the Council on behalf of their countries and take up issues of human rights around the world.
As in the other two sessions held later in the year in June and September, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights presents her own reports of the work commissioned by the Human Rights Council. In addition, experts appointed by the Council on thematic issues known as Special Procedures also present their reports on their country visits and studies of human rights situations in the countries designated for scrutiny.
The report of the High Commissioner on Sri Lanka contains a devastating and unprecedented critique of the handling of human rights in the country, and its recommendations have escalated the possible interventions of the Council beyond anything that has been proposed to the Council to date.
The logic of this escalation is based on the High Commissioner’s conviction of an accelerated deterioration in civic, political, minority, religious and other democratic rights under the present administration which she explicitly states needs the UN Human Rights Council’s “urgent attention”.
The High Commissioner will also be presenting her findings to the General Assembly in New York through the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in furtherance of her mandate specified in General Assembly Resolution 48/141. In this context, some of her recommendations assume an added significance.
There are recommendations that she makes to the member states that Sri Lanka should not ignore. One is that member states may consider the referral of the Sri Lankan case to the International Criminal Court. This is unprecedented. A reading of the report clearly suggests that this was occasioned by what she perceives as the early warning signs of a dangerous trend: rapidly escalating militarization and the closing of democratic space by the present Sri Lankan administration, rather than as a response to the Tamil Diaspora lobbyists’ long-standing demands.
Another recommendation is the application of the principle of Universal Jurisdiction, which was first proposed by previous Human Rights High Commissioner Zaid-al-Hussain.
Universal Jurisdiction enables a state to claim criminal jurisdiction over a person accused of a crime regardless of their nationality and place the crime was allegedly committed. Former President of Chile, Augusto Pinochet was arrested in London in 1998 on a Spanish warrant charging him with human rights violations in Chile during his time in office. He was extradited to Spain and was tried in a Spanish court under the principle of “universal jurisdiction”. His claims of immunity were rejected by the British Courts on the grounds that torture and crimes against humanity did not form part of the “functions” of a head of state.
No member state acted on High Commissioner Zaid-al-Hussain’s urging with regard to Sri Lanka, agreeing to let Sri Lanka investigate alleged violations of human rights through local processes. The context in which it has been suggested this time is significantly different from previous years with High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet emphasizing the current practices of the Sri Lankan government which she describes as “trends emerging over the past year, which represent clear early warning signs of a deteriorating human rights situation and a significantly heightened risk of future violations, and therefore calls for strong preventive action.” Such language during peacetime in Sri Lanka is a cause for concern all round and warrants serious attention
The Sri Lankan Government will have to respond. If it doesn’t do so effectively, it will have an impact not only on the government but also on individual officials, because the High Commissioner also recommends “possible targeted sanctions such as asset freezes and travel bans against credibly alleged perpetrators of grave human rights violations and abuses”. The current Army Commander has already had a travel ban imposed on him, and as such these should not be regarded as empty threats.
In addition, she recommends the application of “stringent vetting procedures to Sri Lankan police and military personnel identified for military exchanges and training programme”. Sri Lanka has already faced the consequences of this form of punitive action where members of the Sri Lankan military were denied opportunities for training. Furthermore, the report calls for continued review of Sri Lanka’s contribution to UN peacekeeping operations.
Even if Sri Lanka were to ignore the contents of the High Commissioner’s Report, it will still have to deal with the consequences of its recommendations, if any of the member states or indeed individuals decide to act on them. An effective response will be essential if Sri Lanka is not to be seen by possible investors as a place likely to deteriorate into violent conflict and widespread human rights abuses. That is not an attractive climate for investment decisions.
The Secretary to the Ministry of External Affairs has claimed that Sri Lanka is a peaceful country 12 years after the end of the war and to be accused of human rights violations was “unfair”. This will not be a good enough defense in Geneva where the issues brought up in the report have little to do with peace now but with lack of progress on accountability for alleged incidents of war crimes, failure to establish credible local processes, reducing space for democracy, increasing militarization, and surveillance of civic actors and journalist, to list a few.
Asserting that no one has the right to dictate to us about democracy contradicts the logic of the UN Human Rights Council that all member states of the UN have a duty to speak on any concerns regarding human rights, including political and civil rights. There is in fact an open agenda item called “Any other matter requiring the Council’s attention”. During the war years, Sri Lanka was brought up often under this agenda item even if it was not formally included in the agenda. Sri Lanka needs a far better strategy of engagement which takes that into account.
Three Special Procedure mandate holders of the Human Rights Council issued a joint appeal to the governed of Sri Lanka on January 25, 2021 urging the government to stop what they termed “forced cremations”. This issue will surely be brought up at the Council and the language of the joint appeal indicates the form it will most likely take.
The Special Rapporteurs attribute the government’s decision to disallow burials of Covid fatalities to “discrimination, aggressive nationalism and ethnocentrism amounting to persecution of Muslim and other minorities in the country”. This is very strong language and the Rapporteurs were hardly detained by the peaceful nature of the country at present. A Government Minister’s protest that they will be guided by the WHO and local experts will inevitably fail to convince the Council due to the fact that both WHO guidelines and a stellar committee of local experts appointed by the Prime Minister, recommended both burial and cremation as safe options for Covid-19 fatalities.
The Secretary/External Affairs fears that the North will hijack the agenda of the Council to target Sri Lanka. The Human Rights Council does not have any veto-wielding members and membership is based on equitable geographic distribution. This means that there are fewer member states from the global North and more from the global South.
Sri Lanka was already placed formally on the agenda of the upcoming session as per earlier resolutions which requested the High Commissioner to monitor and report on its progress to the Council at this session. Her latest report on Sri Lanka is presented in that context.
It has been revealed that the External Affairs Ministry is awaiting the draft of a resolution on Sri Lanka being proposed by UK, Canada, Macedonia, Germany and Montenegro. It is expected to be a ‘consensual resolution’. The Foreign Secretary stated in an interview with the Daily Mirror that this was “the only thing on the table”. If this is the case, it is an important fact.
Consensual Resolution requires a consensus between the parties by definition. If it fails to achieve that or is challenged by Sri Lanka, it will be presented to a vote at the Council. It is then that the 47 member states of the Council will support or oppose the resolution which will be adopted if a majority of countries vote in support. However, all member states of the UN and ECOSOC registered NGOs, if they inscribe their names to speak on the matter, are able to present their views before the vote, to persuade the voting members either way. The Global South can have its say as much as or even more than the Global North.
While this administration withdrew from previous resolutions which were co-sponsored by the earlier regime, this resolution will need the Government’s full engagement through our diplomats in Geneva if it hopes to persuade the Council of its position on Human Rights in Sri Lanka. Given the tone and tenor, Conclusions and Recommendations of the High Commissioner’s Report on Sri Lanka and the perception of the Special Rapporteurs of Sri Lanka’s motivation in its public health decisions on Covid-19 deaths, the Government of Sri Lanka has its work cut out for it.
(Sanja de Silva Jayatilleka is the author of ‘Mission Impossible-Geneva: Sri Lanka’s Counter-hegemonic Asymmetric Diplomacy at the UN Human Rights Council’, Vijitha Yapa, Colombo, 2017.)
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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