The mystery surrounding the missing report of the Presidential Commission that inquired into the death of former minister and Sri Lanka Muslim Congress founder M.H.M. Ashraff has taken a new turn, with the the commission secretary saying he handed over a copy to the National Archives.
In a statement to the Right to Information Commission, the Ashraff Commission Secretary said he had informed the Department of the National Archives that he had handed over the commission report along with relevant files to the National Archives on January 24, 2002. He had stated that the report was given to the Presidential Secretariat as well and clarified that he did not know why only the final three pages of the Commission Report were with the responsible authorities but not the rest of the pages.
The Commission Secretary had sent in the clarification following an Order by Sri Lanka’s Right to Information (RTI) Commission to the National Archives to ascertain the same in an on-going inquiry being conducted by the RTI Commisson.
In the RTI Commission’s Order dated January 16, 2018 (http://www.rticommission.lk/web/images/pdf/basheer-segudawood-en.pdf), it is recorded that the Commission Secretary had stated that it is now over 15 years since the handing over of the report took place and that there should be letters and/or documents indicating the receipt of the documents.
In response, the National Archives told the RTI Commission that the list of accession of the documents maintained by the National Archives at the time did not contain a reference to the said report. A part inspection of the other documents in the custody of the National Archives had not revealed the existence of the report.
The RTI Commission directed the National Archives to embark on a thorough and full search of the files in its keeping, pointing out that it has the power to undertake an inspection of the information under Section 15(c) of the RTI Act.
Given that the files available for scrutiny showed that the Commission Report had been sent to selected state agencies under confidential cover, the relevant public authorities were directed to inquire from the agencies. The contents of the relevant file maintained by the Presidential Secretariat were also ordered to be furnished to the RTI Commission to ascertain if there were any pointers to the missing report.
On the appellant’s grievance that he could not even locate the Gazette Notification regarding the appointment of the Commission of Inquiry even though he had searched in the Parliament Library on many occasions before the RTI Act was enacted, enabling him to make a formal RTI request, the Gazette was located in the files perused by the RTI Commission and released to him.
A further letter — dated September 27, 2001 — written by the Ashraff Commissioner Justice L.K.G. Weerasekera addressed to the then President requesting an extension of time to obtain the evidence of twenty five more important witnesses was also released by Order of the RTI Commission.