By Rashmika Ranasinghe –
Sri Lanka’s highest court – the Supreme Court today (12) slapped several officials including former President Maithripala Sirisena, with a staggering Rs 311 million, the highest ever compensation ever awarded in a fundamental rights application, in the case filed by the families of the victims of the 21 April 2019 Easter Sunday Attack, that killed nearly 267 individuals, including 45 foreigners, and injured over 500 persons.
Ex-President Sirisena was ordered to pay Rs 100 million whilst former Inspector General of Police (IGP) Pujith Jayasundara, Sirisena-lackey and former State Intelligence Service (SIS) Director DIG Nilantha Jayawardene, former Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando and former Chief of National Intelligence (CNI) Sisira Mendis, all of whom had adequate prior information of an attack well in advance; were slapped with compensation payments of Rs 75, 75, 50 and 10 million, respectively.
With the State being ordered to pay Rs one million, the total compensation to the families of the victims amounted to a total of Rs 311 million, which is the highest ever awarded in a fundamental rights application by the Supreme Court.
The seven member Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya, PC, and Justices B.P. Aluwihare, PC, L.T.B. Dehideniya, Murdu N.B. Fernando, PC, S. Thurairaja, PC, A.H.M.D. Nawaz, A.L. Shiran Gooneratne, ordered that a Victim Fund be established at the Office for Reparation, which must formulate a scheme to award the sums ordered as compensation in a fair and equitable manner to the victims and families.
“In view of the observations we have already made as regards the conduct of Director, SIS, we direct that the State take appropriate disciplinary action forthwith against the former Director, SIS, Nilantha Jayawardena for his aforesaid lapses and failures,” the Court further ordered.
“The State and the individual respondents named above must make their payment of compensation to the victim fund maintained at the Office for Reparation. Respondents are directed to pay the aforesaid sums out of their personal funds. We also direct the Office for Reparations to invite any generous benefactors and donors to contribute towards the Victim Fund, by way of notifications in the media. A progress report on the scheme of payment and the details about payments made by the above respondents and any benefactors must be made available to this Court within 6 months from today.”
The Court also directed the Attorney General to coordinate and liaise with the Office for Reparation in giving effect to this order and added that the Office for Reparation must also investigate the alleged underpayment and nonpayment with regard to the cabinet decision taken to compensate the victims in the past.
The Court expressed its shock and dismay at the deplorable want of oversight and inaction … seen in the conduct of affairs pertaining to Security, Law and Order and Intelligence.
“Before we proceed to summarize the compensation payable and part with the judgment, we must express our shock and dismay at the deplorable want of oversight and inaction that we have seen in the conduct of affairs pertaining to Security, Law and Order and Intelligence. There are glaring examples of a lack of strategic co-ordination, expertise and preparedness that need a critical examination as to the way forward. The failures that eventuated in the Easter Sunday attacks and the concomitant deaths and devastations have left behind an indelible blot on the security apparatus of the Country and this Country which is blessed by a multi-cultural and multi religious polity cannot be left to the vagaries of these follies and made to suffer leading to violence, fear, apprehension and uncertainty. These events must recede into oblivion but they remind us starkly of the necessity to effect legislative, structural and administrative changes.”
“It is evident from the evidence placed before us that there is an urgent need to place the National Security Council (NSC) on a statutory footing and its composition specified with clarity so that there are no maneuvers to manipulate hostile exclusions and selective inclusions. The affidavit testimonies and the large volume of documents we have perused highlight the necessity to revamp the security systems and intelligence structures so that the expanding threats of terrorism and emerging challenges could be nipped in the bud and arrested as this Country cannot descend into anarchy once more. The course of conduct we have scrutinized, demonstrates a woeful lack of expertise in intelligence gathering and dissemination among important individuals entrusted with the task. For instance, the office of Director, SIS and CNI must be occupied by individuals with necessary skill and expertise and the conduct of the Respondents who held the office, upon receiving sensitive intelligence, shows a lack of awareness and understanding of strategic vision. We recommend that the duties and functions of the office of Chief of National Intelligence (CNI) must be stipulated with definite certainty and the office should be occupied by a person having the necessary expertise, training and qualification.”