By Buddhika Samaraweera
The Catholic Church has lodged a complaint with the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), seeking an impartial and comprehensive investigation into a statement made by Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga that former President and incumbent Government MP Maithripala Sirisena is fully responsible for the Easter Sunday terror attacks of 21 April 2019.
Colombo Archdiocese Social Communication Director Rev. Fr. Jude Chrishantha Fernando filed the complaint with the CID on 10 December on the Catholic Church's behalf. The complaint, which was seen by The Morning, read that if investigations reveal that Sirisena was responsible for the said terror attacks, the legal actions should be taken against him, regardless of rank.
Ranatunga had recently claimed that Sirisena is fully responsible for the Easter Sunday terror attack and that his (Ranatunga) position was that the law should be enforced against Sirisena.
Accordingly, the complaint made by Fr. Fernando states that he believes that Ranatunga, a powerful Cabinet minister in the present Government, may have made that statement responsibly. He has also stated in the complaint that he believes that Ranatunga has made such a statement regarding Sirisena, a former President, party leader, and current ruling party MP, as he (Ranatunga) has sufficient evidence to prove the allegations.
“Despite the fact that Government officials, security chiefs, and top political authorities in charge of national security had received intelligence information confirming that a terrorist attack had been planned targeting Catholic churches on 21 April 2019, they did not take action to prevent the attacks. Sirisena, who was the then-President, Commander-in-Chief, and Minister of Defence, is one of the main accused of negligence and dereliction of duty to prevent the said attacks,” the complaint read.
However, Fr. Fernando claimed in the complaint that lawsuits have been filed against the former Defence Secretary Ministry Hemasiri Fernando and Inspector General of Police (IGP) Pujith Jayasundara, who did not take action to prevent the terror attacks on 21 April 2019, but no charges or lawsuits have been filed against Sirisena.
Therefore, Fr. Fernando, in his complaint with the CID, has requested that an impartial and comprehensive investigation be carried out into Ranatunga’s statement and that legal action be taken against Sirisena, regardless of rank, if the future investigation reveals that the latter is responsible for the said attacks.
On 21 April 2019, Easter Sunday, three churches (St. Sebastian’s Church in Katuwapitiya, St. Anthony’s Church in Kochchikade, and Zion Church in Batticaloa) and three hotels in Colombo (Cinnamon Grand Colombo, The Kingsbury Colombo, and Shangri-La Colombo) were targeted in a series of co-ordinated suicide bombings. Later that day, another two bomb explosions took place at a house in Dematagoda and the Tropical Inn Lodge in Dehiwala. A total of 269 people excluding the bombers were killed in the bombings, including about 45 foreign nationals, while at least 500 were injured. All eight of the suicide bombers in the attacks were Sri Lankan citizens associated with the NTJ founded by one of the suicide bombers at Shangri-La Colombo, Mohamed Cassim Mohamed Zaharan alias Zaharan Hashim.
Later, a Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) was appointed by Sirisena, who was the President at that time, to look into the Easter Sunday terror attacks. The PCoI, in its final report, has recommended to the Attorney General (AG) that criminal proceedings be instituted against Sirisena under provisions of the Penal Code for his failure to appoint an Acting Defence Minister when the latter left for Singapore on a private tour on 16 April, 2019.