SJB complains to UNHRC about Fr. Cyril Gamini grilling 

  • Silent protest staged by over 100 priests 

BY Buddhika Samaraweera 

As National Catholic Social Communication Centre Director Rev. Fr. Cyril Gamini Fernando appeared before the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) for the third day yesterday (22), the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) lodged a complaint with the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) office in Colombo, alleging that the present Government was harassing Fr. Fernando by summoning him to the CID. 

The complaint was handed over by Parliamentarian Dr. Kavinda Heshan Jayawardhana, who told the media afterwards that Fr. Fernando had been speaking based on the final report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) into the Easter Sunday terror attacks and certain comments made in Parliament regarding the said terror attacks. 

“The Government is currently harassing people who are demanding justice for the victims of these terror attacks. As of now, Fr. Fernando has been summoned to the CID for three days. He only asked the Government and law enforcement agencies to serve justice to the people. Therefore, we strongly condemn the CID summoning him in this manner and will always be there to support him,” he said.

Fr. Fernando provided a nearly five hour-long statement yesterday with regard to the complaint lodged by State Intelligence Service (SIS) Director, Maj. Gen. Suresh Sallay, against the former, after having appeared before the CID and provided statements on 15 and 16 November as well. 

Fr. Fernando arrived at the CID at around 9.30 a.m. yesterday, and was accompanied by more than 100 Catholic priests. During his time inside the CID, the Catholic clergy staged a silent protest on both sides of the road in front of the CID, holding photographs of people killed in the Easter Sunday terror attacks of 21 April 2019. They displayed various banners that read: “How disgraceful is it to hurt a victim?” and “We stand to defend the value and dignity of human life”. The Catholic clergy staged silent protests in front of the CID on the previous two occasions also.

Speaking to the media yesterday, Colombo Archdiocese Social Communications Director Fr. Jude Chrishantha condemned the questioning of Fr. Fernando. 

“How unfortunate we are to be under this corrupt regime? When someone in another country gives information about a crime, the authorities in those countries would go after it and find out the root cause of the crime. They would even give rewards to the person who provided that information. But in our country, Fr. Fernando, who gave this information, has been summoned to the CID for the third day.” 

He also commented on a recent statement made by Police Media Spokesman Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Nihal Thalduwa to the effect that Fr. Fernando was being summoned to the CID to investigate the Easter Sunday terror attacks and to bring justice to the victims.

“SSP Thalduwa said that Fr. Fernando is being summoned by the CID to investigate the said crime and to bring justice. Does he think that we have studied only up to Grade Four? The PCoI, which was appointed by the then President Maithripala Sirisena, investigated this matter for more than a year and prepared a report. Does Thalduwa know the information contained in it?.” Claiming that the PCoI report contained all the details related to the Easter Sunday terror attacks, Fr. Chrishantha said that the relevant authorities should follow the information and arrest those involved. “We would like to tell Thalduwa that this PCoI report contains all the information. It recommends that the law be enforced against incumbent MP Maithripala Sirisena and former SIS Director Senior Deputy Inspector General of Police Nilantha Jayawardena,” he said.

During a discussion between the Catholic church and a group of Sri Lankans living abroad held late last month, a presentation was made, which alleged that there is credible evidence that Maj. Gen. Sallay and other intelligence agencies had provided financial and other forms of support to the National Thowheeth Jama’ath (NTJ) terror group, including its Leader Mohamed Cassim Mohamed Zaharan alias Zaharan Hashim, prior to 2015. Zaharan was one of the suicide bombers at Shangri-La Colombo on 21 April 2019. 

On 25 October, a complaint was filed at the CID by Maj. Gen. Sallay against Fr. Fernando and others who attended the online forum, requesting an investigation into an allegation made against him during the said forum that the NTJ terror group, which was behind the Easter Sunday terror attacks on 21 April 2019, was supported by the intelligence services, including him (Sallay) in his former capacity as the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) Director.