By Tassie Seneviratne –
These days, people watch news bulletins of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry in regard to the Easter Sunday (21st April 2019) bombings, purely for entertainment and not for any news value. The blame game has taken the stage of comic strips as commented by all and sundry. The magnitude of the incidents and their ramifications are thereby lost on the people.
These news broadcasts have opened the floodgates for public discourse.
The co-ordinated attacks in Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa revealed that there was a conspiracy. The conspiracy was against the State – A serious offence under the Penal Code. The conspiracy and its background was known from 2016 till it was put to action in April 2019.
Whether an investigation into the conspiracy was initiated as required by Chapter X1 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, we do not know. Whether reports were submitted to the Magistrate every two weeks, as required by Sec. 115 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, we do not know. (‘B’ reports and further reports)
We know that information about the conspiracy had been incessantly flowing in from concerned Muslim groups to the Intelligence Services. Former Director /State Intelligence Service, Nilantha Jayawardena, has revealed that he even received information 17 days prior to the attacks and that written notices were issued to 14 VIPs that included President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Defence Secretaries, and the IG Police. This would mean the Security Council too was aware of the impending threat.
This would also mean that by the time the hot information was received, there was the background information of the conspiracy and an inquiry file already in hand to tie up with it, and giving the police a head start.
We do not know if the Attorney General was consulted in the early stages and especially when the hot information was received. That would have strengthened the IGP’s hand in the light of his excuse that the President stood in the way of police action as stated in his evidence that was broadcast.
Considering the seriousness of the offence and the confidentiality required to protect witnesses, one would expect evidence to be taken in camera. But the intention here was evidently a political move to divert people’s attention from blaming him – the President. By way of the diversion, the people are now entertained with comic strips in news bulletins.
The preposterous denial of any knowledge of the specific information, and the departure from the country on a private visit to Singapore on the eve of the bombings, and several other actions on the part of President Sirisena, raises suspicion on in the eyes of the public.
As for the Inspector General of Police, (IGP) he has no excuse at all for not co-ordinating all the police divisions under his command and expediting a contingency plan to prevent as well as to apprehend the culprits when the hot news was received. There is no argument on that. It was a police job. The information was specific. The IGP did not need orders from any authority. In fact he did not have to obey any orders to the contrary because that would have been unlawful. His excuse that the President stood in the way of police action citing political ramifications, is not acceptable.
The Secretary Defence as well as Director State Intelligence also carry responsibilities attached to their appointments. The Prime Minister too is shirking his responsibility. What did the Security Council do?
The latest witness to be summoned before the Commission is former Senior DIG M.R. Latheef who was in charge of the STF.
Most of the ‘witnesses’ who are summoned before the Commission are in fact respondents who are answerable for this holocaust. Their mind-set is only to wriggle out of any blame. Excuses such as: Security Council meetings not held; no specific information was received, are lame excuses to confuse the whole issue. Police have nothing to do with Security Council meetings. – That is political.
The evidence of the IGP before the Commission, that he was pressurized by the President to take the blame, and offering a high post as a reward, is a very serious allegation.
1.) For what precisely was he was asked to take the blame is not known – whether it was political blame or blame for not carrying out his duty under the law?
2.) The specific nature of the pressure exerted on him is also pertinent. These are matters the public wish to know, arising from what has been broadcast.
Either person did not seem to have a clue what the blame was about. There is, however, a criminal charge that is attached to the blame. Furthermore, DIG M.R. Latheef who was in charge of the STF. (S/DIG/STF). He stated in evidence that he was not intimated of the specific information and that he would have prevented the attacks had he been informed. The IGP thereafter added in evidence that S/DIG/STF was in fact informed in writing as well as orally. This is not tangible with his excuse that the President was the stumbling block. If the President stood in the way of police action, the question arises as to what the IGP expected S/DIG/STF to do? To manipulate evidence by bargaining with the IGP, offering him a high post as a reward, and thereby interfering in the course of justice, makes out another serious allegation against the President. Bribery or Corruption is also made out.
Much to the chagrin of this episode, a point to note is that, other than passing the information around, at best, no police deployments had been sent out to the field, to cover the places under threat with determination to prevent the specific threat, and to also alert the targeted places!
Now they are all passing the buck like school children after some mischief, saying: “No sir, not I sir, he did it sir.”
In this case it is: “No sir, not my fault sir, he should have done it sir.” And the comic strips carry on regardless in news bulletins broadcast on TV.