27 October 2020
Easter Sunday Bombings & the Catholic Leadership
Article 9 of the Sri Lankan Constitution requires as follows:
[9. The Republic of Sri Lanka shall give to Buddhism the foremost place and accordingly it shall be the duty of the State to protect and foster the Buddha Sasana, while assuring to all religions the rights granted by Articles 10 and 14(1)(e)]
Articles 10 & 14 are in the Fundamental Rights section of the Constitution. This means that the President could be sued for breaching the provisions covered by these two articles which state as follows:
[10. Every person is entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including the freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice.
14. (1) Every citizen is entitled to –
(e) the freedom, either by himself or in association with others, and either in public or in private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching;]
As per the Ceylon Today article headed ‘Sirisena and Jayawardena conversed via phone’:
[According to telephone data reports, a 159-second telephone conversation had taken place between former President Maithripala Sirisena and then Director of the State Intelligence Service (SIS), Senior DIG Nilantha Jayawardena at 7:59 a.m. on 21 April 2019, before the Easter Sunday bombings.
Also, another telephone conversation had taken place between the two on 20 April 2019 at 6:16 p.m. In addition, there had been about 20 telephone conversations between Sirisena and Jayawardena from 4 to 21 April 2019, after the foreign intelligence information that a group including the Leader of the National Thowheed Jama’ath (NTJ), Zaharan Hashim could launch a terrorist attack, being received by the SIS.]
These confirm serious breaches of fundamental responsibilities placed by the Constitution on the Government and in terms of security on President Sirisena who was then the Defence Minister. The Constitution is the Consolidated Mind of Parliament’s elders.
As per the above report:
the above “ was revealed when the former President testified before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Easter Sunday bombings on 24 October. President’s Counsel Shamil Perera, appearing for the Archbishop of Colombo, Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, cross-examined the witness.”
The question that comes to my mind is as to why Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith did not initiate a fundamental rights action against the president for failing to take measures to develop a system that would protect and provide enough security through the armed forces to non-Buddhists? One who is in deep pain would have taken action irrespective of whether s/he was likely to win or lose. I did and hence my conclusion.
On 23 May 2019 – just a couple of days over a month after the Easter Bombings The Hindu reported as follows, under the heading ‘Sirisena pardons firebrand Buddhist monk’
[The Buddhist priest, who leads the reactionary group Bodu Bala Sena (Buddhist Power Force or BBS), was serving prison term following conviction for contempt of court. Widely known for his hate-speech against Muslims, he has in the past also been accused of inciting anti-Muslim violence – a troubling post-war trend in the island.]
Why did the Catholic clergy not use the adversarial system and oppose the President by filing fundamental rights action in relation to Easter Bombing negligence?
As they say – there is more than one way to can skin a cat. The evidence that is surfacing through the inquiry would be useful in politics – as we learnt here in Australia. As per my understanding whether it was the inquiry into the conduct of our NSW Premier or that of the former President of Sri Lanka – they are political trials. When led by the People as happened in the case of the Chicago Seven who were arrested during protest against America’s role in Vietnam war, they become People’s power. The above were found guilty by the Judiciary but won the hearts and minds of the People whose children were recruited to fight as per government’s mandate. Not different to the plight of both Tamils and Sinhalese combatants in the Sri Lankan war. Former was fighting to promote Indian influence and the latter to promote the anti-Indian Sri Lankan government.
The weaker our common belief, the stronger the need for intellectual bridge between communities of diverse culture. Mr Sirisena lacked both in the case of non-Buddhists. In terms of Sinhala Catholics, he had some connection through language. In terms of Muslims it was so wide as to cause separatism. This was confirmed by the above mentioned pardoning. At least now, Sri Lankan Catholic leaders need to take action against the former president who failed in his duty as Defence Minister. Failure to do so would weaken Sri Lankan Catholics further. When action is taken on the basis of belief – it naturally promotes separation of powers and therefore invokes natural powers accordingly – confirming that Sri Lanka is not a unitary state.