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Sunday February 25th, 2024

Sri Lanka’s Catholic church wants action against former president, PM over Easter bombings

FILE PHOTO – Navy personnel guarding the Kochchikade shrine after the Easter Sunday attacks/Pathum Dhananjana EconomyNext

ECONOMYNEXT – The head of Sri Lanka’s Catholic Church has written to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa seeking legal action against several key individuals including former President Maithripala Sirisena and then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe over the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings.

A letter to the president dated July 13 and signed by Colombo Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, six auxiliary bishops and 27 Catholic priests, called for further investigation into the findings of the presidential commission of inquiry (PCoI) that probed the Easter attack and the implementation of its recommendations.

“It has been 26 months since the Easter Sunday bombings on April 21, 2019. Nearly five months have passed since the final report of the PCoI into the attack was released. However, we would like to express our sincere concern that the perpetrators of this attack, the people who planned it, and the process of properly locating and prosecuting those responsible for preventing the massacre have so far been largely slow.” the letter said.

In its final report, the PCoI – appointed by Sirisena himself – recommended that criminal proceedings be instituted against former President Maithripala Sirisena and others over the incident. No action was recommended against Wickremesinghe, however, though the commission has faulted the former premier for not raising the issue of not being invited to security council meetings in parliament or cabinet and also for an alleged “lax approach” to Islamic extremism.

In the letter, the church has requested legal action against both Sirisena and Wickremesinghe for their failure to prevent the attack, former Chief of National Intelligence Sisira Mendis and former Director of State Intelligence Service Nilantha Jayawardena.

The letter also requested action against officials of law enforcement agencies who had allegedly neglected their duties, as recommended by PCol.

This includes 10 senior police officers including the former Inspector General of Police Pujith Jayasundara who is already being charged and two officials of the Attorney General Department.

Action is also sought against those who are alleged to have aided the attack, as mentioned in the PCoI report.

This includes former MP M L A M Hizbullah, MP Rishad Bathiudeen, his brother Riyaj Bathiudeen, Dr Muhamed Zulyan Muhammed Zafras and Ahamed Thalith.

The church also wants a fresh investigation into the whereabouts and the connections of Pulasthini Rajendran aka Sarah Jasmine who is suspected to have fled to India from Manner with the aid of a police officer attached to Kaluwanchikudy police station, who is currently in the custody of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID.

A military intelligence officer who had allegedly met with Jameel the suicide bomber who was supposed to attack Taj Samudra hotel but blew himself up later in a guest house in Dehiwala must also be investigated, the letter stated.

MPs Harin Fernando and Manusha Nanayakkara referred to this intelligence officer on April 20 this year in parliament claiming that, when the officer was arrested through tracing an IP address by the former CID Director Shani Abeysekara, the army had released him saying he was “one of their projects”.

The bishops have also asked that former Attorney General Dappula de Livera’s claim that there was a “grand conspiracy” behind the attack be also probed.

Days before his retirement, the outgoing Attorney General on May 18 this year said there was clear evidence of a grand conspiracy linked to the April 21 2019 bombings that killed 269 people and injured over 500.

At a press conference Tuesday (13) announcing the letter, Cardinal Ranjith said he is sceptical of a politically compromised law enforcement’s ability to probe this “grand conspiracy”.

There can be doubts about finding out what really happened with a “police that acts according to the wishes of the current political leadership, a criminal investigation department (CID) that follows the political leadership’s agenda, and a legal system and law enforcement personnel that political leaders are trying to control,” Ranjith said.

Related: Sri Lanka Easter attack probe: Cardinal sceptical of politically compromised law enforcement


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Sri Lanka could get US$500mn from ADB in 2024

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka could receive 500 million US dollars in support from the Asian Development Bank in 2024 based on the progress of policy reforms, Country Director of the Manila-based lender, Takafumi Kadono said.

The ADB expect to go to its Board around March or April with a 100 million US dollar power sector loan subject to the cabinet of ministers of approving a revised electricity reform bill.

A 100 million dollar loan to support SMEs could also be approved in the early part of the year. Sri Lanka is setting up a credit guarantee agency to support credit for small firms.

A 200 million dollar credit for financial sector was also slated for the year. The ADB gave the first tranche of the financial sector policy loan late last year.

A $100mn for the water sector could also be approved later in the year.

Sri Lanka could get around 200 to 300 million US dollars a year at the lowest rate, or concessional ordinary capital resources (COL) rate of 2 percent.

The balance of would come at the ordinary capital resource rate linked to SOFR.

The ADB has also started work on a ‘Country Partnership Strategy’ for Sri Lanka covering the 2024-2028 period, Kadodo said. (Colombo/Feb25/2024)

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Sri Lanka’s multi-aligned foreign policy based on friendship: Min

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s multi-aligned foreign policy is based on friendship to all and enmity to none, its Minister of Foreign Affairs has said.

“Non-alignment means not becoming a bystander. Non-alignment means you are not forced or coerced into a camp to take sovereign decisions… you make your own choices. Whether it is commercial, security, regional or otherwise,” M U M Ali Sabry said on X (twitter).

“I have repeatedly stressed that sovereignty is the right to have your own opinion on what’s right and wrong, and to stand by your principles. Our multi-aligned foreign policy is based on friendship to all and enmity to none,” Sabry was quoting from his speech at the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies (LKI) Foreign Policy Forum, on the theme ‘Reassessing Non-Alignment in a Polarised World’.

Sri Lanka is one of the founding members of the Non-Aligned Movement.

The strategically located island has been increasingly walking a fine line between opposing global factions as it seeks to come out of a financial crisis. (Colombo/Feb24/2024)

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Sri Lanka’s Commercial Bank Dec net down on tax provisions

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Commercial Bank of Ceylon reported profits of 6.9 billion rupees from the December 2023 quarter down 21 percent, despite an improvement in net interest income and lower provisions, amid a change in tax provisions.

Pre-tax profits were 8.89 billion rupees up from 2.4 billion rupees. There was a 6.4 billion tax reversal last year compared to a 1.7 billion rupee tax charge this year.

Commercial Bank reported earnings of 5.26 rupees for the quarter. For the year to December 2023 earnings were 16.07 rupees per share on total profits of 21.1 billion rupees, down 11.3 percent.

Net fee and commission income was down 1.2 percent to 6.1 billion rupees.

Net interest income went up 16.8 percent to 25.5 billion rupees, with interest income rising marginally by 1.3 percent to 73.0 billion rupees and interest expense falling 5.45 percent to 47.5 billion rupees.

Loans and advances to customers grew 4.06 percent to 1.17 billion rupees in the year to December. Debt and other financial instruments fell 10.5 percent to 649 billion rupees.

Financial assets measured and fair value through other comprehensive income was at 287 billion rupees, up from 117 billion rupees.

Impairment charges were 13.1 billion rupees, down from 19.6 billion rupees last year.

Gross assets were up 6.45 percent to 2.36 billion rupees. Net assets were up 5.51 percent to 214 billion rupees. (Colombo/Feb24/2024)

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