Sri Lanka Easter bombings PCoI report incomplete, does not meet public expectations: JVP
ECONOMYNEXT – The final report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) on the 2019 Easter bombings is incomplete, betrays a lack of impartiality and does not reveal the real forces behind the attack, the opposition Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) said.
JVP-led National People’s Power (NPP) MP Vijitha Herath told reporters this afternoon that the PCoI report, a copy of which was sent to the parliament library yesterday, has failed to meet the expectations of the public.
Acknowledging that the report recommends criminal proceedings against individuals whose negligence allowed the attack to happen, Herath said it does not, however, mention any specifics about who might’ve masterminded it – whether it was the work of a foreign hand or local elements.
“The report even notes that the leader of a terrorist organisation is unlikely to blow themselves up in a suicide attack, which means [Zaharan Hashim] was not the leader of the outfit. Which begs the question, if it wasn’t him, then who was?” the MP said.
If Hashim, who was widely reported to have been the ringleader of the terror outfit that carried out the deadly bombings, was not in fact the one in charge, Herath reiterated, it follows that someone else had moved the pieces behind the scenes.
“You can recommend criminal proceedings against various parties [for their negligence], but because the report makes no mention of the real mastermind, they must still be out there. This is a massive shortcoming,” said Herath.
“It is vital that a report such as this sheds light on who was behind it, what might’ve motivated them, and whether it was political or religious in nature. The report does not mention any of that,” he added.
The NPP parliamentarian also questioned why the PCoI had not recommended criminal proceedings be instituted against former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe the way it did against President Maithripala Sirisena.
“The prime minister of a government cannot be absolved of his responsibility. Even without defence being conferred on him during the president’s absence, he is still the head of government. As the head of government at the time, [Wickremesinghe] was responsible. He should’ve at least notified parliament that he was not entrusted with the defence portfolio and that he was not invited to the Security Council meetings. He failed to do that,” said Herath.
This was a serious error on the part of Wickremesinghe, said the MP, against which the PCoI has for some reason not recommended legal action.
“There is a certain disparity here. There seems to be a lack of impartiality in this report,” he added.
The MP further said that the report doesn’t say anything groundbreaking. The public already knew about most of its content through media reports and there was no question that the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government must be held responsible since the attack happened on its watch.
“It was that government’s weakness that failed to prevent the attacks. The people’s main expectation has not been met. This seems like just another commission report,” he said.
Herath hesitated, however, to call the PCoI a waste of taxpayer money.
“I won’t say the commission was entirely useless. A commission must be appointed after such an incident. However, a comprehensive report is expected at the end of that commission, which this report does not seem to be,” he said, adding that the NPP has yet to study the report as MPs still haven’t received a copy.
“This report must be publicised. It should’ve been made public the day it was handed over to the president. Instead, another sub-committee was appointed to study the report, which became a joke in the eyes of the people,” said Herath.
Asked about some of the recommendations made by the PCoI against a number of alleged extremist groups including the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), Herath said that several organisations have been recommended to be banned, and the government, upon further inquiry, must take action and implement the law after looking at the evidence.
The PCoI on the Easter bombings was appointed by former President Sirisena on September 22, 2019, to investigate the series of bombings that killed 267 people and injured at least 500, many of whom were Catholic or Christians of other denominations. The final report of the commission was handed over to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in late January this year. (Colombo/Feb24/2021)
Reported by Imesh Ranasinghe; edited by Himal Kotelawala