By Upatissa Pethiyagoda –
The PCoI appointed to probe the Easter Sunday bombings of April of 2019 has at long last submitted its report – said to be some 10,000 (?) pages long, has drawn nearly universal criticism. It is seriously accused of irrelevance, concealment and incompetence. In general, it is evident that its Report has very serious flaws. Has the mountain labored and only brought forth a mouse? It is suspected that the report presented to the privileged is incomplete and that some chapters (or volumes) have gone missing. At what point could this have happened and who stood to benefit by this loss?
Parliamentarians were privileged to be among those receiving the Report earliest. There is little doubt that every one of the 225 will read, understand and intelligently focus on the contents of this ponderous and keenly awaited document. Tons of paper, kilos of printing ink and loads of time would have been expended on this roundly rejected Report. What next?
Public money has been spent. Our cricket crazy citizens would know that the Captain of the offending team is punished by a denial of his match fee, although he cannot be entirely blamed for such offenses as a slow over rate. This is the price of leadership. In the political sector the reverse seems to apply – the “I factor”. I won the War, I restored 1,000 tanks, I built 10 hospitals, I laid 1,500 kilometres of Highways etc, while everyone mutters to himself, “You damn well did nothing of the sort”. Like “The Curate’s egg”, The PCOI Report has to be good in parts and thus can vindicate itself to some degree.
What can be done as a follow-up to an activity that is adjudged to have been of little value but has been paid for by the public? The public has a right to demand a recovery of costs.
The Report we infer cannot be deemed to be altogether useless. Therefore, this must be acknowledged and given some credit. Quality is not easy to quantify. One method may be to assess the number of pages that provide useful material that could lead to successful prosecution – for gross dereliction of duty, irresponsibility, or other unseemly actions, failing to act on received warnings etc. This could be a permissible discount on the costs incurred. This done, it would be unfair to load all the blame and costs solely on the Appointer. The appointees and all who figured should be penalized in a suitable pro-rated way. This may be a salutary way of reducing unnecessary Commissions of inquiry and discouraging “waffly” products.
The public has keenly awaited action to punish those who carried out this ghastly and barbaric act, their hidden promoters, financiers who conspired, those by whose lethargy and inaction by those who could have prevented this senseless crime. Otherwise, the citizenry will had nothing to do, except to grieve and agonize over this monstrous tragedy. It would be acutely unacceptable to merely sweep a defective Report under the carpet and allow time and a poor collective memory, to forget. This has happened before.
Appointing yet another Committee to look into the previous one, is emphatically pointless. If there is a stain or a patch on a wall, you cannot properly manage it by covering it with many coats of paint or varnish. Especially so, when no less a person than His Eminence the Cardinal, has queried the logic of appointing a “Parliamentary Committee” to look into the Report of a body of eminent (Judges?) to further probe the Report, some of whom are seriously intellectually challenged, with not even a GCE (Ordinary Level) pass to show.
Every one of our Governments since Independence in 1948, has been guilty in varying degrees, of nepotism, extravagance, misdemeanor and fraud. One of my most painful embarrassments was when a senior foreign investor in a prospective development project, said that some amount had been set aside for the routine and now customary, greasing of palms. His problem was in identifying the level at which the “gift” was to be paid.
We recall that President Kumaratunge once alleged that somebody offered her a sizeable bribe. Ex-President Sirisena declared that he, as Minister of Health was offered 50 million to not enforce some provisions of the Senaka Bibile Report, but he too was not prepared to either refer the matter to the relevant authority, or to name the bribe-giver. Unfortunately for our nation, credibility and truthfulness are not inviolable attributes of politics – even at the highest level. One of our Presidents was repeatedly and publicly referred to as a “congenital Liar”.
We remembe that a brief case containing some (25 Million) in cash, as initial payment of commission for a deal, was detected in the Car Park of a High-end Hotel, but no follow up was reported. It was said that an Australian Engineering firm was under investigation for failing to account for an entry in their books. Money has left the country, but the destination and purpose was not accounted for. The amount concerned was near the equivalent of 50 million in our Rupees.
Two items relating to the Easter Bombings, are imprinted deeply in my mind (i) the picture of young Samaneras, wielding Ekel Brooms, sweeping up the debris at the Katuwapitiya Church, following the Bombing. (i) An attempted derogatory remark that the Cardinal has become a Buddhist by his statements. Both the young Bhikkhus and His Eminence eloquently show us how engineered hostilities by bigots have tried to cloud the essential humanity of true religions.
If I may seem to digress a little, I seek the indulgence of the reader. The two incidents that I mention are symbolic of the essential common humanity of all religions. They all have the goals of mercy, empathy, decency and sympathy. The ways may differ but the unity and the goal remain – despite the actions of bigots. There is much that is common to all major religions. The goal is the same, although the Paths may differ. The intended derogatory reference to The Cardinal has failed. His Eminence has shown remarkable consistency, courage and Leadership. Qualities which to me, has enhanced my respect. He has displayedan admirable blend of patience and firm resolve.