Gota fires back at Cardinal, rebuts allegations

In a scathing rebuttal of allegations by Malcom Cardinal Ranjith regarding the Easter Sunday attacks, former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said Cardinal Ranjith either glosses over the responsibility of, or expressly absolves the two parties actually involved in the terrorist strikes.  

Cardinal Ranjith made the following allegations against former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at a recent media conference:

• That the day after the report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry on the Easter Sunday attacks was handed over to me, I had spoken to the Cardinal over the phone and said that I had difficulties in implementing the recommendations in that report as it would entail the arrest of individuals and even the banning of organisations that were supportive of me. 

• That I had delayed giving the Cardinal a copy of the first volume of the Presidential Commission report and that I had not given him the remaining volumes.

• That I had appointed a six-member cabinet sub-committee to selectively implement only a few of the recommendations made by the various Committees and Commissions appointed to inquire into the Easter Sunday attacks. 

• That I had transferred the CID officers investigating the Easter Sunday attacks and even imprisoned one such senior officer in order to sabotage the investigation.

In response, Mr. Rajapaksa said, “With regard to the first allegation, I categorically state that I did NOT speak to the Cardinal over the phone after the Presidential Commission report was submitted to me and tell him that the recommendations of the Presidential Commission could not be implemented because that would entail the arrest of people and even the banning of organisations allied with me. It is a well-known fact that the Muslim community in general did not vote for me or support my candidacy at the Presidential election, so I cannot possibly have had any allies in any organisation that would need to be banned over complicity in the Easter Sunday attacks. 

As for the second allegation, the report of the Presidential Commission was handed over to me on 1 February 2021. Having studied it myself and referred it to the Attorney General, it was handed over to the Speaker of Parliament on 23 February 2021 and by 1 March 2021 copies had been given to the Venerable Mahanayaka Theras, the Cardinal and the Catholic Bishops. There was no delay in handing over the report to the Cardinal. 

After the Presidential Commission of Inquiry submitted its report, I appointed a six-member Cabinet Sub-committee to prioritize and apportion to the relevant government departments and agencies the task of implementing the recommendations in the reports of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry and the Select Committee of Parliament on the Easter Sunday attacks. Those familiar with public administration will know that the departments and agencies of the government cannot act without such instructions from the Cabinet.

In November 2019 the then Director of the CID was transferred by the Police Commission on the recommendation of the then IGP. That was by the Police Commission appointed under the 19th Amendment by the previous government. A few weeks later this officer was interdicted by the Police Commission over an investigation into the leaked recordings of his telephone conversations with the then Deputy Minister Ranjan Ramanayake regarding the influencing of judges in an ongoing High Court case. Several months later, he was remanded by the Courts over an investigation into the alleged fabrication of evidence in a criminal case concerning a former police DIG. Hence, I reject the allegation that I transferred the CID Director and even placed him in remand custody in order to sabotage the Easter Sunday investigation.

This particular CID Director had been appointed to that office in 2017 and he continued to hold that position for over seven months after the Easter Sunday attacks. In the months prior to the Easter Sunday attacks, it was the CID that investigated the Vavunativu murders, the vandalizing of Buddha statues in Mawanella and the discovery of explosives in Wanathavilluwa involving the very same individuals and groups that perpetrated the Easter Sunday attacks. The Presidential Commission has observed that if the law enforcement authorities had been more vigilant, Zaharan and his group could have been apprehended before the Easter Sunday attacks took place. The failure to prevent the attack was a failure of the CID under that Director. 

In his speech mentioned above, the Cardinal accused me of not having brought the perpetrators of the Easter Sunday bombings to justice. However, criminals have to be brought to justice not by politicians but by the police, the Attorney General’s Department and the Courts system working together. That process is now ongoing and according to the media, 93 persons are now facing legal proceedings in court for offences relating to those suicide bombings. 

The Easter Sunday attacks were perpetrated by a group of Islamic extremists. The highest investigative arm of the then government - the CID - had for several months prior to the attacks, been investigating the activities of the very same individuals and groups that carried out the suicide bombings but failed to apprehend the terrorists before they struck. The public should take good note of the fact that His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith either glosses over the responsibility of, or expressly absolves the two parties mentioned above, while continuing to relentlessly attack and criticize me over the Easter Sunday suicide bombings,”

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