He refuses to accept responsibility for the greatest carnage that occurred under his watch and now wants the people to help pay the compensation ordered by the Supreme Court.
Maithripala Sirisena, President and Minister of Defence was also the Head of the Security Council and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, when three churches and three hotels were bombed on April 21, 2019, Easter Sunday.
Sirisena was out of the country when the bombings occurred and took his time returning to Sri Lanka, though the nation had been plunged into total disarray. Close to three hundred lives were lost while hundreds more were injured, some crippled for life by bombings carried out by so-called radicalised Muslims.
On January 12 this year, a seven Judge Bench delivered its verdict on the 12 fundamental rights petitions filed in relation to the bombings; Maithripala Sirisena must pay compensation to the tune of Rs 100 million. The Court also ordered then Inspector General of Police Pujitha Jayasundera and then Chief of State Intelligence Nilantha Jayawardena to pay Rs 75 million each, then Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando to pay Rs 50 million and the former Chief of National Intelligence Sisira Mendis to pay Rs. 10 million. The compensation must, according to the court order, come out of their personal funds.
The Court ruled Sirisena was negligent when he failed to act on advance evidence received of the impending attacks. The Court also ordered the setting up of a Victims Fund under the Office of Reparations to ensure equitable distribution of compensation to the victims.
Sirisena’s behaviour adds insult to injury. He is cowardly in refusing to accept blame for the bombings when he was Head of State, especially when they were preventable. All Chief Executives know the Buck stops with them. This one chooses to ignore that responsibility, to save his skin.
And now, he wants the public to pay his fine. Claiming he does not have the financial ability to do so, he says he would have to beg on the streets to raise the money. He also plans to set up a committee to help raise the funds.
That is ridiculous.
When actor and YouTuber Sudantha Thilakasiri begged in the Fort area a few days ago, in an apparent attempt to belittle Sirisena, he may have thought his actions funny. Some tossed the little they had into Sudantha’s till, others watched with amusement. He raised around Rs 1811, which he gifted to Sirisena.
Videos of the meeting with Sirisena, show them both laughing, and the latter stating he would record it as the first donation he received towards the compensation he must pay.
So, we now have an ex-President who finds the Easter carnage a joke. Both Sudantha’s and Sirisena’s actions are in bad taste.
Most of those who died or were maimed were in church, celebrating the most important event in Christian life. Others were enjoying breakfast on what should have been a peaceful Sunday morning.
A majority of the population is struggling to eke out a living and put food on the table.
But Sudantha thought nothing of collecting the little they had, even if it was a gimmick, and donate it to a man who refuses to even apologise for his negligence.
Perhaps for those not directly affected by the Easter bombings, that dastardly act and the fundraising is a joke. Lives lost, shattered families, limbs dismembered, and mental trauma, are what victims are left with because Sirisena and his gang refused to do what was right, what was expected of a Head of State and the intelligence apparatus.
Innocent lives were sacrificed for an utterly incompetent man to come to power. And a lasting rift between Christians and Muslims ensued.
Sirisena wants the public to pay for his sins. His begging bowl tactic may well convince the other accused to do the same.
Sirisena was irresponsible, and so were the other public officers. They must all make good on the Court order, albeit on their own, not with our money. The ordinary citizens had no part in planning or carrying out the bombings.
Anyone supporting Sirisena’s fundraising venture must bear in mind that in doing so, they endorse his cowardice and are as guilty as he is, in trivialising the willful murder and maiming of innocents.
The judiciary is rarely lenient on citizens who cannot pay their fines. Failure to pay even a few hundred rupees for possession of drugs, or stealing to make ends meet, results in a jail term and even confiscation of personal property.
Man up Sirisena, apologise and pay the fine out of your pocket or take responsibility and suffer incarceration.
Do not beg, borrow or steal. If you do not have the funds, you can become a guest of the State.