Release Easter Tragedy Ministerial Report
Since the institution of the Second Republican Constitution of 1978, Sri Lanka has had instituted 11 Special Presidential Commissions and two Special Presidential Committees to probe alleged misdoings.
Of these, only one Commission Report has seen its recommendations implemented ‘to the full,’ while of the balance 10, one was aborted, in the case of another, its recommendations thrown to the dustbin on appeal to the Supreme Court (SC), in the case of the seven others, their recommendations are seemingly gathering dust in some cupboard, while in the case of the tenth, it’s still ongoing.
In chronological order, two of these Special Presidential Commissions were instituted by President J.R. Jayewardene, one by President Ranasinghe Premadasa, four by President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, one each by President Mahinda Rajapaksa and President Maithripala Sirisena and two by the incumbent President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
Additionally Sirisena and Gotabaya Rajapaksa also instituted a Special Presidential Committees of Inquiry, each to probe the Easter Sunday attacks that took place on 21 April 2021, killing more than 260 and wounding over 500.
While Sirisena’s Special Committee probing the Easter Sunday attacks preceded the appointment of the Special Presidential Commission appointed by him to inquire into the same that of Rajapaksa, however, was appointed to study the contents of this Special Presidential Commission Report and to make appropriate recommendations concerning the same.
Rajapaksa in this connection appointed a six-member Ministerial Committee headed by elder brother Chamal Rajapaksa. Their report was handed over to the President on 5 April 2021. However, the contents of their findings are unknown.
This related Special Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Easter Sunday killings alone has cost the taxpayer Rs 650 million. Therefore, it’s the bounden duty of the President to make known the contents of the findings of this Ministerial Sub-Committee report for the sake of the victims as well as of the taxpayer.
Meanwhile, Gotabaya Rajapaksa instituted a Special Presidential Commission to investigate cases of alleged political victimisation that took place under the immediately preceding Yahapalana Government. Though the final report was handed over to Rajapaksa last December, no action has seemingly been taken based on the findings of that Report neither has that report been made public. He also instituted another Special Presidential Commission of Inquiry to probe into alleged human rights abuse related to Sri Lanka’s LTTE war. The writ of that Commission however, expires in July 2021.
In related developments, the two Presidential Commissions instituted by Jayewardene were to look into the misuse and abuse of power by Premier Sirimavo Bandaranaike during her tenure of office from 1970 to 1977 which was the first of 11 Presidential Commissions instituted thus far and the second, to look into irregularities of Air Lanka, the predecessor of SriLankan, the national carrier.
The Bandaranaike Commission found her guilty of misuse and abuse of power during her tenure of office and recommended that she be stripped of her civic rights for a period of seven years. Accordingly Parliament, in October 1980, passed the required law, stripping Bandaranaike of her civic rights for seven years. However, prior to the expiry of seven years, Jayewardene granted Bandaranaike a special Presidential pardon and restored her civic rights on 1 January 1986.
Meanwhile, the Commission on Air Lanka was aborted by Jayewardene while hearings were continuing. The Premadasa Commission was to investigate allegations that the Israeli Secret Service, who, while training Sri Lanka’s Military were allegedly simultaneously training Tamil terrorists. That Commission Report however, never came to light.
The basis for the Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga’s four Commission Reports were to pin the blame on the UNP, more particularly on Ranasinghe Premadasa, for the deaths of her husband Vijaya Kumaratunga, former UNP strongman Lalith Athulathmudali and Lieutenant General Denzil Kobbekaduwa and alleged UNP misdeeds in respect of the Parliamentary Polls conducted in Jaffna in August 1994, with its then ally the EPDP.
Previously, magisterial investigations had proven that Kumaratunga was killed by the JVP in February 1988 for aligning himself with Jayewardene vis-à-vis the Indo-Lanka Peace Accord of 29 July 1987 which was anathema to the JVP, Athulathmudali by an LTTE assassin at Kirulapone and Kobbekaduwa by an LTTE landmine at Ariyalai, Jaffna in August 1992.
Two of the three Bandaranaike Kumaratunga Assassination Commission Reports vis-à-vis the Vijaya Kumaratunga and Kobbekaduwa killings came to nought, while in the case of the Athulathmudali killing, it blamed the Police for distorting evidence, in particular DIG Lionel Gunatilleke, CI Mohamed Nilabdeen and IP T. Jeyaratnam. Based on the findings of this Commission, the Police transferred Gunatilleke who was in charge of the Colombo Crimes Division to the Police Garage, whilst interdicting Nilabdeen and Jeyaratnam.
Nilabdeen and Jeyaratnam filed FR petitions against their interdictions before the Supreme Court which they won and were subsequently reinstated in the Police Department. In the case of the Jaffna Election Commission investigations, that too, came to nought, with the EPDP subsequently teaming up with the Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga Government.
Meanwhile, President Mahinda Rajapaksa instituted a Special Presidential Commission of Inquiry probing alleged human rights abuse during the closing stages of the LTTE war. However, the recommendations of that report were either not implemented or rescinded or were not fully implemented.