Government is duty bound to implement recommendations – G. L. Peiris | Sunday Observer
‘Easter Sunday Commission’:

Government is duty bound to implement recommendations – G. L. Peiris

11 April, 2021

Speech by Education Minister G. L. Peiris in Parliament at the last week’s debate on the report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Easter Sunday attacks

“The Easter Sunday Commission has done a great service to the country. There are many misconceptions. We must be clear that this Commission is not a court of law. Hence, it has no powers to name the offenders and say what punishment to be metered out to them. And it cannot carry out investigations and come to conclusions the way the police does, the commission does not wield such power. They have fulfilled an important duty within their mandate.

The government is duty bound to implement the recommendations of the Commission. That will be fulfilled and no one must have any doubts.

There are many misconceptions about the Cabinet Sub Committee headed by Chamal Rajapaksa appointed to study the Commission report. Their mandate is not to do another independent investigation on the findings of the Commission that was headed by a Supreme Court judge.

It has a separate mandate. This report has hundreds of pages and many recommendations. It is highly complicated. The government must decide where to begin implementation and what recommendations need to be given priority.The Sub committee will study the PCoI findings and make recommendations to that effect.

To have an idea on the government action on Easter Sunday Commission report, we must try to understand the role of the Government, the role of the Attorney General, and the role of the Judiciary. If not it will be very confusing.

The government will operate via the police - basically through the TID (Terrorism Investigation Dicision) and the CID. So far a great deal of work has been done in this area. By today 99 people have been arrested in connection with this incident. A total of 36 investigations related to this attack have been completed.

I studied the report with interest. This Commission report has clear reference to people, incidents and places. They are not simple statements. For example there are quite a few recomendations on the detection of weapons and ammunition haul at Wanathawilluwa . There are even names mentioned as to the people involved in that incident.

Investigations have been carreid out on these revelations.

The Cardinal moved the Appeal Court seeking a ruling to expose 6000 numbers of swords which are allegedly being hidden and intiate an inquiry to bring out the truth. Even without a ruling from the Court, the police can take action to seize those weapons. IGP, has deployed two units to probe this allegation.

It is a very serious situation, these daggers and swords can be used to commit crimes in the future. These weapons were brougth from overseas, then who sactioned its release from the customs, such a huge consignment of weapons. The police is probing the truth behind this also.

The other fact is overseas connections. Even the LTTE, during their time, could not carry out eight coordinated bomb attacks from Colombo to Baticaloa within hours. It should have been planned for years. Who funded this deadly project, who created this ring, and who aided and abetted these people ? The Sri Lankan government is committed to finding answers to these questions.

The government is liasing with foreign governments to investigate overseas cells and individuals. To my knowledge, 54 Sri Lankans from five countries have been arrested so far in keeping with these investigations and 50 are already repatriated. The government is making efforts to get the others repatriated.

The report says in 2020 a number of people have been arrested in Qatar. Some are not Sri Lankan citizens. A few of them have travelled to Australia and they have been investigated by the Australian authorities. The government has enthusiastically followed up on these leads, not only to punish the perpetrators but to prevent such tragedies from recurring, which is the most important thing.

The Commission has also addressed the question whether funds were channelled from overseas sources. The report says a Turkish organisation has provided funds for this project. This organisation is a deadly organisation fighting against the current Turkish government.

The government has already completed these tasks. The Police have completed several investigations and the files have been sent to the Attorney General for the purpose of initiating court cases.

The AG must take an independent decision on the question whether the available proof is enough to serve indictments. On behalf of the Government, I would like to state this with honesty, that this process will not be a witch hunt. At the same time we will not hesitate to take action against any person irrespective of their power and status, culprits will be brought to book.

It is impossible to file 36 court cases at once. But if there are completed cases, I believe it is timely to initiate judicial processes on such cases without delay. This is a humanitarian issue, we must not look at it in a political view point. Small kids, young couples who were engaged to marry, died in the tragedy. Their bodies were torn into pieces.

A father had to leave his job to look after a young child since the mother perished in the attacks. We can understand Cardinal’s sentiments. Naturally the priests at Katuwapitiya church are seeking his intervention.We call upon the Attorney General to expedite court cases on those of which investigations have been completed.

In addition to the above short term action, the Report has recommended a number of long term actions. Several pages of the report have been allocated to spell out recommendations on Madrasas. These come under the purview of the Education Ministry.

Currently there are about 365 registered Madrasas in the country. Apart from that there are different types of such unregistered religious schools.

We need to have standards and regulate these places. Children below 16 years of age are prohibited from attending such institutes under the current law.

If they attend such institutes, they will not acquire necessary skills to find a job in the future. Their future will be ruined.

The government has a major responsibility to look into their curriculum, who teaches the children in them and who is funding these places. The report has very practical recommendations to address these issues.

The government plans to bring in amendments to update the present law on areas such as foreign funding, extradition, money laundering and counter terrorism to secure existing loopholes and streghten the provisions.There are recommendations to improve on the Executive and Legislature as well as the Judiciary.

One such recomendation is to appoint a special Court to hear the case on Easter Sunday terror attacks and hold sittings on a daily basis. To implement this recommendation the Chief Justice’s views will be sought.

The government has done all that is possible to push this forward, and ensure that justice is served and perpetrators punished. On behalf of the government I will vouch that it will do its utmost to protect the people and ensure that there will not be room for such tragedies in the future.