Sirisena stirs up a hornet’s nest



Tuesday 2nd April, 2024

SJB MP Dr. Harsha de Silva has lashed out at his former boss, ex-President Maithripala Sirisena, for what is described as an attempt by the latter to implicate India in the Easter Sunday carnage (2019). Simply because Sirisena makes an allegation, nobody will hasten to blame India or any other country for having orchestrated the terrorist attacks here. At the same time, it is not prudent to rule out the possibility of an external involvement in the carnage.

As we have pointed out in a previous editorial comment, about a dozen prominent witnesses told the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCOI), which probed the Easter Sunday carnage, that there had been a foreign hand in the terror attacks. They were Archbishop of Colombo, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, Sirisena, Rauf Hakeem, Rishad Bathiudeen, Azath Salley, Mujibur Rahman, former SIS Director SDIG Nilantha Jayawardena, former STF Commandant M. R. Lateef, former Chief of Defence Staff Ravindra Wijegunaratne, former SDIG CID Ravi Seneviratne and former CID Director Shani Abeysekera.

It may be recalled that in July 2019, the then SLFP General Secretary and Yahapalana MP Dayasiri Jayasekara made a statement similar to what Sirisena has claimed recently; he said an investigation had to be launched to ascertain why one of the Easter Sunday attackers had not blown himself up at Taj Samudra, Colombo, and also find out who was in that hotel on that fateful day.

Sirisena’s utterances may remind us of Matilda, who ‘told such dreadful lies’ making ‘one gasp and stretch one’s eyes’, but that is no reason why what he says about acts of terrorism which happened on his watch as the President, Defence Minister and the Commander-in-chief, should be rejected out of hand as baloney. His claim at issue should be investigated thoroughly before conclusions are drawn thereon.

How can Dr. de Silva, or anyone else, say for sure that Sirisena has told a lie? He and other SJB stalwarts who were in the Yahapalana government have a history of making wrong judgments and defending malefactors either wittingly or unwittingly. They had a slew of footnotes incorporated into the second COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises) report on the Treasury bond scam, counterarguing its thrust. They were proved wrong by the findings of the PCOI, which probed the racket subsequently. Hasty conclusions therefore should not be made about the innocence or guilt of anyone.

The former Yahapalana MPs currently in the SJB have no moral right to bash anyone over the Easter Sunday carnage. They fully backed Sirisena in the 2015 presidential contest, and became ministers in his government. The PCOI report holds the entire Yahapalana government accountable for the tragedy. It says: “The Government including President Sirisena and Prime Minister [Wickremeisnghe] is accountable for the [Easter Sunday] tragedy.”

No conclusive evidence has so far been ascertained to identify the mastermind/s behind the Easter Sunday carnage. All those who claim to have found out the person/s responsible for attacks have acted just like the proverbial blind men who tried to figure out the shape of an elephant and came to various conclusions by touching different parts of the animal’s anatomy. There is a need to keep an open mind when investigating anything, especially a crucial matter such as a terror attack, and concentrate on the bigger picture.

Some MPs have chosen to advance their political agendas by basing their claims about the mastermind/s behind the Easter Sunday terror on the report of the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on the tragedy. That document should not be rejected despite its biases, but it is not advisable to expect a PSC full of members with prejudices to get to the bottom of an issue, much less get at the truth. One may recall the sordid manner in which a PSC probed the then Chief Justice Dr. Shirani Bandaranayake and paved the way for her ‘impeachment’.

There is a pressing need to conduct a thorough, impartial probe into the Easter Sunday carnage on the basis of the PCOI and PSC reports thereon, among other things. The tragedy must be investigated from all angles including the possibility of an external involvement therein.