Dereliction of duty
Posted on September 21st, 2019

By Dr. Tilak S. Fernando Courtesy Ceylon Today

It has taken nearly five months and it becomes crystal clear from the evidence emerging from the Parliamentary Select Committee, on the Easter Sunday carnage, where the authorities were to blame for the bloodshed that took place, while Catholic devotees were piously praying to God and foreign tourists were enjoying their breakfast in star hotels in Colombo. They were all blown up by a group of Islamic suicide bombers who were conditioned to believe that ‘by dying as martyrs for their religion they would end up in Heaven in the company of pretty angels’.

Snail’s pace

Although the attack has been identified as ‘international terrorism mysteriously manifesting itself in our country’, the probe is still continuing at snail’s pace. Therefore, it would be interesting to look at all the witnesses’ interpretations and their personal experiences before the mammoth blast on the 21/4 disaster. Starting with the National Intelligence Chief who complained to the PSC on 29 May, about a blatant and lackadaisical approach that prevailed among responsible officials in the Government; and the fact that the final Security Council Meeting was held only on 19 February.


The blast took place while the President of the country was abroad on a private holiday in Singapore with his family. The former IGP, Pujith Jayasundara, who is still on compulsory leave has appeared intermittently at Magistrates Courts, after appearing as a witness before the PSC declaring that  ‘relevant higher officials who were responsible for the carnage attempted to influence him to accept liability for the disaster. An extraordinary statement he made before the Commission was that the President of the country asked him to take full responsibility for the carnage that took place promising him a diplomatic posting in a foreign country! This is a serious allegation. He re-iterated his statement saying “it did not agree with his conscience”! He has since been charged with dereliction of duty for his failure to prevent the Easter Sunday bombings.

TV drama

After nearly four months, investigations are still on with the PSC requesting numerous officials to appear before them. Meanwhile, the former IGP was summoned to Courts more than once amidst him filing an FR petition in the Supreme Court seeking reinstatement. All such proceedings, whether it is due to Sri Lanka’s antiquated system of legal procedure or not, only boils down to a TV drama without any culprit being brought to justice for the murder of over 250 with over 500 people also being maimed and wounded.


It is indeed ironic that the Prime Minister and the President are often seen on television babbling on about how “every single Islamic terrorist responsible for the attack has been detected and are detained pending investigations”. Yet, on a daily basis, the public are treated to a news article on another associate of Zahran being arrested or detained. Both the heads of the Government need to double-check with the security forces before coming out with such robust statements because at the end of the day it’s their reputations that are at stake.

India’s briefing

Finally, it is now confirmed that the Indian authorities had briefed the Sri Lankan bigwigs of three specific dates (11, 16 and 20 April) that these attacks could take place. As claimed in the news media, Indian Intelligence had alerted the SIS Chief, who had, in turn, briefed the most senior officials in the security establishment about them.


The fact that the President was abroad on holiday in Singapore at the time and having heard about this tragic incident (only via Facebook),  after which directives had been sent to the top brass to take remedial action, orders that were allegedly ignored or considered to be not so important. It is assumed that although they ‘knew of an impending attack’ no one ever dreamt that it would be an attack of this magnitude. Therefore, it would have been a foregone conclusion in the minds of the authorities that Islamic terrorists were not capable of carrying out such a devastating attack! This is the basic problem with the decision makers of this country, because either they never believe in the theory of “prevention is better than cure” or such advice never seems to reach their swollen or barren heads! It is very much akin to a repetition of the JVP’s initial insurrection many moons ago, where the Prime Minister dismissed it wholesale stating, “the JVP was only a threat but they will never be destructive”.

Negligence

The most tragic aspect of this is that due to the negligence on the part of the authorities, 250 people’s lives were lost, including 45 children and not forgetting 45 foreigners, who were spending their holiday or engaged in business activities in Sri Lanka. The loss of life and the consequential emotions that followed seem to get diluted in the minds and eyes of the authorities. This is evident from the way investigations are being executed at snail’s space at present.  


However, it is interesting to note that the Prime Minister has voluntarily agreed to appear before the PSC as a witness to elucidate his side of it. He has always been maintaining that the intelligence division never briefed him about any alerts and that he has not been invited to take part in National Security Council meetings for a considerable period of time!

Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith’s commitment

The Archbishop of Colombo, Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, appeared as the only ‘saviour’ for the angry Catholics who were feeling angry and let down by the authorities who were responsible for letting this carnage take place in their churches. His effort at reconciliation in harmony with the Buddhist clergy, at a time when perhaps feelings were running high against the Muslim community as a whole, who had nothing to do with the terrorists, needs to be acknowledged and appreciated.  Undoubtedly, all credit should go to the Archbishop for acting serenely as a real religious leader at the hour of need with the help of Buddhist prelates in the country.


Furthermore, the Cardinal’s accusation that “politicians responsible for the Easter Sunday  attacks, who pretend to be saints, should be expelled” is a robust statement where he showed his frustrations; his words that  “God will punish them certainly in some form,  if not the people,”  and his instructions to all Catholic churches to hold low key Sunday masses after the blast, apparently turned out to be a serious threat to the entire Catholic hierarchy in Sri Lanka including himself, a fact brought out by State intelligence reports, which was revealed by a senior official at the Archbishop’s House in Colombo.


Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith undoubtedly is known as a religious leader who has no bias towards any individual or religion, but considers that in the eyes of God everyone needs to be treated as a human being. The Cardinal has always given credit to Buddhism stating that, “Buddhism is the elder brother of the Sri Lankan family and other religions are the younger brothers, and the lifeblood of Sri Lanka is Buddhism. He has often stated during meetings that Christians and Muslims should accept Buddhist traditions.


 As a renowned religious leader, the Archbishop has always called a spade a spade. In this instance too, he has come out strong, boldly accusing the local politicians and the Government of the day as being responsible for the Easter Sunday attacks that killed over 250 people and wounded and maimed 500 others. It is no surprise, therefore, that he has criticised current politicians “for not having a backbone!”  Following such courageous statements, an irate President seemed to have taken offence and declared publicly that “politicians in this country are not vertebrates and it’s only the vertebrates that are born without a backbone!”  Amidst such a hullabaloo Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith has thrown the hat into the ring openly for anyone to wear it, if the cap fits!


However, although the Prime Minister has voluntarily agreed to appear before the PSC probing the Easter Sunday attacks, the President has yet to consent to follow suit. The consensus of the people however, is that as the Minister in Charge of National Security under whom all the security forces come, it is part of the President’s responsibility and obligation to explain in detail his version of what took place, to avoid any unnecessary speculation in the future.


With a Presidential election fast approaching, the Easter Sunday massacre, false promises of the ‘Yahapalana’ Government during the last election campaign, the Central Bank Bonds scam, the rift between the Legislature and the Executive, and the failure of two main political parties to decide on their party presidential candidate are going play a crucial role for the voter when deciding who to appoint as their President. That individual should have a vision and a mission and be able to pave the way for a better tomorrow.

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