By Chandani Kirinde
Government and Opposition MPs traded charges in Parliament yesterday as the debate on the report of the commission that probed the 2019 Easter Sunday terrorist attacks got underway with some backing calls by the Catholic Church for an international investigation into the attacks.
SLPP National List MP Jayantha Weerasinghe commenced the adjournment debate, calling for action against those named by the Commission of Inquiry as having been responsible for lapses which resulted in the attacks.
“Those who were in power during the time the attacks were carried out are solely responsible for what happened. This Opposition might try to find cover using a new name by calling itself the Samagi Jana Balawegaya, but they are the ones who were in power in 2019,” Weerasinghe said. However, SJB MPs said that the current Government had benefited from the fallout of the attacks and used the terrorist incidents to shore up support during the elections and come to power.
SJB MP Ranjith Madduma Bandara called for an international investigation into the attacks so as to find out the mastermind behind the incident as there were many theories about who was behind the attacks.
“When Lalith Athulathmudali was assassinated in 1993, the Scotland Yard was called in to assist with the investigation. Similarly we propose the Government seek international assistance to find the truth about who was behind these attacks,” he said.
TNA MP M.A. Sumanthiran also backed the call by Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith for an international investigation saying successive governments have failed to mete out justice to the victims of the terror attacks.
“Even those who said we do not need international interventions are now calling for an international inquiry as the State has failed to deliver justice to its citizens. I support the Archbishop’s call for an international inquiry,” Sumanthiran said.
He said a question arises as to who stood to benefit from these attacks.
“After the lapse of two years, if we say we are still unable to name the mastermind, there is something that is being covered up. How is it that we say we do not know who the mastermind is when there was prior information of these attacks,” he asked.
SJB MP Sarath Fonseka laid a large part of the blame for the attacks on former President Maithripala Sirisena, saying he was lax towards national security and ignored intelligence reports. The commission has recommended against the former President for failing to take necessary action to prevent the attacks.
“Many expected this Government to act against the culprits once in power, but it has failed to do so. Only a few terrorists have been arrested while there are many others who were trained to carry out suicide attacks are roaming free,” Fonseka said.
He added that there were reports between 2013-2015 of some Sri Lankans travelling via Turkey to Syria to train with the IS which means it was not only the previous Government that was responsible for the emergence of these groups as they were active prior to 2015.
Chief Government Whip Minister Johnston Fernando said the report of the Commission has been handed over to the CID and the TID and they were pursuing investigations while State Minister Arundika Fernando called on Archbishop Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith to be patient until the Government identifies and punishes those who are responsible for the attacks.
“We have to jointly address this matter. There is no point in blaming each other without identifying those responsible for these heinous attacks,” he said.
The debate will continue on 23 March when the House reconvenes.