The final report, of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) on the April 21, 2019 Easter Sunday Suicide Attacks, was handed over to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa by PCoI Chairman, Supreme Court Judge Janak de Silva at the Presidential Secretariat on February 1 in the presence of the other members of the Commission -- Appeal Court Judge Nissanka Bandula Karunaratna, retired Supreme Court Judges Nihal Sunil Rajapaksha and A.L. Bandula Kumara Atapattu, former Justice Ministry Secretary W.M.M.R. Adhikari and PCoI Secretary H.M.P. Buwaneka Herath.
The then President Maithripala Sirisena appointed the Commission of Inquiry on September 22, 2019 to investigate and report on the series of terrorist attacks and to recommend necessary action based on its findings.
Shock waves ripped through the country on Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019 when eight terrorists carried out well-coordinated suicide attacks on St. Anthony’s Shrine at Kochchikade in Kotahena, St. Sebastian Church at Katuwapitiya in Negombo and Zion Church in Batticaloa and on three luxury hotels in Colombo, the Shangri-La, Kingsbury and Cinnamon Grand while during search operations, two terrorists killed themselves at Dematagoda and Dehiwala. The suicide attacks resulted in some 270 devotees and guests including foreigners and children being killed and more than 500 injured, some maimed for life.The Commission recorded evidence from 457 people including politicians and security services personnel over a period of 214 days with the report consisting of 472 pages, 215 annexures and six volumes.
In an apparently significant development in the wake of President Gotabaya’s address to the nation at the 73rd Independence Day celebrations where he vowed to take action against those responsible for the Central Bank Bond Scam and the Easter Sunday Attacks; weekend media reports said the PCoI in its final report had recommended that criminal charges be filed against former President Maithripala Sirisena, former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, former Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando, former IGP Pujith Jayasundara and former National Intelligence Chief Sisira Mendis. It had also recommended that criminal charges be filed against those who failed to prevent the attacks, despite the intelligence reports received days prior to the attacks.
“I have now received the final report of the Presidential Commission appointed to inquire into the Easter Sunday Attacks. I have already given instructions to implement its recommendations. Simultaneously, taking into account the recommendations of the previous Parliament’s Sectoral Oversight Committee on National Security, action will be taken against all parties involved in this tragedy. We will not allow those responsible for designing and enabling this tragedy to escape justice. We will never allow extremism to raise its head again, in this country,” the President said in his address to the Nation on February 4.
Meanwhile, last week, the Colombo High Court indicted former finance minister Ravi Karunanayake and Perpetual Treasuries Ltd., (PTL) owner Arjun Aloysius in a case filed by the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) in September 2020 on charges of committing a punishable offence under Section 19 (c) of the Bribery Act. Subsequently High Court Judge Aditya Patabendi directed that the two suspects be each released on a cash bail of Rs.500,000 with two sureties of Rs.5 million. With that being said, on a more positive note last Saturday, Sri Lankan health officials reportedly said more than half the number of health workers and frontline military and police personnel have so far been vaccinated against COVID-19 during the vaccination programme launched last week.
The Health Ministry had initially planned to vaccinate 150,000 health workers and 115,000 military and police personnel and by Saturday 156,310 of them had been vaccinated. The ministry also said Sri Lanka had also ordered 18 million more doses of COVISHIELD vaccines while China has assured it would provide 300,000 vials of Sinopharm vaccine this month.
We hope the vaccination programme, which appears to be progressing smoothly will result in a sizeable reduction in the number of Sri Lankans falling prey to the deadly virus, which had as of yesterday infected 71,211 people countrywide with Tuesday’s detection of 976 COVID patients being the highest in a day. More importantly we also hope there would be a drop in the number of deaths, which has risen to 370 as of yesterday.
The next few days if not weeks will give us an idea as to how successful the Health authorities have been with their immunization programme and thus its battle against COVID-19. Returning to normal will ultimately depend on the largest number of people being immunized and how effective the vaccines are when it comes to providing immunity to withstand the onslaught of the viral infection.