ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s former president Maithripala Sirisena who was recently ordered by the Supreme Court to pay compensation for the victims of the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings has apologised to the Catholic community and announced his intention to run for president again.
Drawing comparisons to former South African president Nelson Mandela, a visibly emotional Sirisena said he will not back down in the face of any aggression and will confidently contest the next presidential election.
“Mandela was in prison for 27 years, but he came out and the people made him president.
“I will not back down in the face of anything. I’m not affected by any conspiracy. The people who made these cases are the conspira— [stops himself]. I respect the courts and the law and bow down to the court.
“I have read Mandela. No matter how badly I’m treated, I will contest the next presidential election with the support of my party, knowing that I can win,” said Sirisena, speaking at a Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) press briefing in Colombo on Tuesday January 31.
Sirisena also apologised profusely to Sri Lanka’s Catholic community which was affected by the devastating Easter attack in 2019.
“As far as I know, the Catholic people hold no grudge against me.
“As someone who read the Bible at 15, 16 years of age, I ask God for forgiveness that something like this happened during my tenure — though carried out by others and because of which I have had to pay compensation — I ask for forgiveness from those who died and lost their limbs and from God that an incident like this occurred during my term,” he said.
Though seemingly contrite in his apology, the former president took pains to stres that the attack occurred without his knowledge.
“This verdict does not say that I did anything wrong. It says if officials appointed by the president makes a grave mistake, the president is responsible. That’s what the paragraph on the verdict says about me,” said Sirisena.
In an unprecedented verdict, Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court ordered Sirisena and four top defence officials and the State to pay compensation totalling 311 million rupees to victims of the Easter Sunday bombings that killed 269 people.
The court held 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”.
The verdict was welcomed by the Catholic church, which also anticipates criminal proceedings against some of the respondents.
Head of Sri Lanka’s Catholic Church Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith said he was “very happy” with the verdict and expressed his hope that it will mark the beginning of a new era where equality before the law is entrenched in society and no public official or politician operates above the law. (Colombo/Jan31/2023)