By Chandani Kirinde
The Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) that probed the Easter Day terror attacks has found enough evidence to hold former President Maithripala Sirisena guilty of “criminal liability” for his part in the acts or omissions which resulted in the tragedy.
The PCoI recommended that the Attorney General (AG) consider instituting criminal proceedings against the former President under any suitable provision in the Penal Code.
The Commission also recommended that the AG consider initiating criminal proceedings against former IGP Pujith Jayasundera, former Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando, Senior DIG Nandana Munasinghe and DIG Deshabandu Tennekoon.
A copy of the report was sent to Parliament yesterday and kept in the MPs library for perusal. The Daily FT saw extracts of the conclusions and recommendations of the five-member commission.
The commission was appointed by the former President on 22 September 2019, and its terfindsm was extended by current President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
The report said that President Sirisena proceeded to India and then Singapore from 16 to 21 April 2019 without making an acting appointment for the posts of Defence Minister, this in spite of the information he possessed of a possible threat from IS/Zaharan. “No doubt, in terms of the Constitution, there appears to be discretion for the President in the making of an acting appointment. Nevertheless, given the circumstances, President Sirisena should have made the acting appointment,” the PCoI said.
It noted that Director of the State Intelligence Services (SIS) Nilantha Jayawardena, had made several calls to the Presidential Secretariat between 4-16 April 2019, prior to Sirisena leaving on his overseas visit. And, having observed the close connection between the two, on a balance of probability concluded that Jayawardena did convey to the former President intelligence reports pertaining to a possible attack.
The commission also recommended criminal proceedings against Jayawardena, and said he had played down the seriousness of the intelligence reports received from Indian intelligence pertaining to an attack, and that this was reflected in a communication he sent to the then Inspector General of Police Pujith Jayasundera on 9 April 2019.
The PCoI also recommended that the AG consider instituting criminal proceedings against the former Chief of National Intelligence (CNI) Sisira Mendis.
The PCoI also faulted former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe for keeping neither Cabinet nor Parliament informed that he was being kept out of National Security Council meetings since October 2018. The report labelled Wickremesinghe’s excuse that he was not invited for the meetings as unacceptable, and also said that his lax approach toward Islamic extremism as Prime Minister was one of the primary reasons for the failure on the part of the government to act against these groups.
The PCoI also concluded that the primary causes for the 21 April attacks was the spread of the Wahhabi ideology and groups affiliated with this ideology, while internationally the activities of the Islamic State (IS), and locally the activities of the extremist groups such as BBS, contributed to the events.
The commission recommended the payment of compensation and welfare measures for all those affected in the attacks and made recommendations to ensure public safety and the prevention of the recurrence of such attacks.
On the matters that linked the copper factory to former minister Rishad Bathiudeen, the commission said the matter should be referred to the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery and Corruption.
The Commission was chaired by Supreme Court Judge Janak de Silva. Its other members were Court of Appeal Judge Nishshanka Bandula Karunaratne, retired Supreme Court judges Nihal Sunil Rajapaksha and A.L. Bandula Kumara Atapattu, and former Secretary to the Ministry of Justice W.M.M.R. Adhikari.