Chief Government Whip Minister Johnston Fernando told Parliament that the Government will never use the Easter Sunday attacks as a means to an end. He said, “We never mix politics with the Church. We have never even asked for a preferential vote in the Church. I ask the Opposition not to use the Easter Sunday tragedy for political purposes.” The Minister said the Opposition should make a public apology for causing the Easter Sunday carnage. Instead, they are simply wearing black as a publicity stunt.
Minister Fernando was responding to a speech made by SJB Parliamentarian Manusha Nanayakkara regarding the Easter Sunday attacks in Parliament on Wednesday (April 21). The Minister was critical of the MP and the Opposition for making ‘false statements’ on the Easter Sunday attacks as an attempt to mislead the public.
He said, “The Government will not spare anyone who is responsible for the tragedy. The President and the Prime Minister believe that the culprits of the Easter Sunday carnage must be brought to justice. If the Opposition is keen on doing the same, I request them to go before the CID and give statements. Every move made by the Government concerning this tragedy was made as per the instructions given by the Attorney-General.”
Parliamentary proceedings were adjourned for ten minutes on Wednesday (April 21) following a tense situation that erupted over the issue of the initiation of the debate on the Report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry to investigate and inquire into and obtain information pertaining to alleged political victimisation against public officers, public servants, members of the Security Forces and the Police from January 8, 2015 to November 16, 2019. The parliamentary session resumed after being adjourned for 10 minutes.
An argument broke out in the House when Chief Opposition Whip MP Lakshman Kiriella said it was the Opposition that called for a debate on the report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry on Political Victimisation and therefore, it is the Opposition that needs to open the debate. However, Leader of the House Minister Dinesh Gunawardena told Parliament that at the Party Leaders meeting it was decided that the ruling faction will produce the report first and then proceed with the debate.
Minister Gunawardena said supporters and associates of the ruling party were subject to political victimisation and the present Opposition worked on taking revenge on them. However, MP Kiriella said it is the present Chief Justice, the then Attorney General who filed action mentioned in the PCoI report.
The argument took a tense turn when Opposition lawmaker Nalin Bandara slammed the Government for showing a lack of interest in the PCoI report on the 2019 April attacks, while showing a keen interest in the PCoI report on Political Victimisation.
MP Bandara said, “If there were proper interest on the report by the PCoI on the April 21, 2019 attacks, the real perpetrators and killers could have been identified.” Chaos ensued in Parliament thereafter, forcing the speaker to adjourn the session for a short period. Footage shared by Opposition MPs on Facebook showed MPs from both sides in the well of the House in a heated confrontation.
A minute’s silence
Parliament on Wednesday (April 21) observed a minute’s silence to remember the victims of the Easter Sunday terror attacks. Following the special statement by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa at the commencement of Parliament, he requested Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardana to permit a minute of silence in memory of the victims.
Thereafter, the Government and the Opposition Members observed a minute’s silence. Opposition lawmakers presented themselves at Parliament on April 21 wearing black in commemoration of the Easter Sunday attacks. They displayed posters of Easter Sunday attackers in Parliament, following which proceedings were adjourned by the Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardene for ten minutes.
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa told Parliament that all those responsible for the brutal Easter Sunday terrorist attacks on April 21, 2019 would be brought to justice. He said the Government has taken all possible measures to prevent such an unfortunate situation from reoccurring. He said that the report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry appointed to look into the Easter Sunday attacks and other documents had already been sent to the Attorney General to institute legal action.
The Premier said, “Innocent people had to pay with their lives and limbs for the criminal neglect and evasion by the previous Government. They mixed up their political agendas with national security. Parties responsible for the attack are spreading various lies, influencing investigations and diverting social attention even to date.
“We feel sorry for such groups. While remembering all those who died, we as a Government are taking every step to prevent such an unfortunate situation from ever recurring. I would like to state that we will bring to justice all those responsible for this heinous attack.” He said even though we do not wish to intervene with the judicial process, as a Government we are ready to provide any assistance required for the success of those actions.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said the changes to the country’s education system will be introduced soon. He said that the objective of the Government is to endow a future generation that is productive and able to directly contribute to the economy.
The President was speaking during the Certificate Awarding Ceremony of the first phase of the National Program titled Ratak Watina Pothak (A book that is worth a country) to author ten thousand books, which was held at Temple Trees on Wednesday (April 21).
The President said that 100 selected creations are expected to be printed and the writers presented state awards. The President symbolically awarded certificates to 30 students representing the nine provinces. President Rajapaksa said that it is essential to make the children read more books with the intention of making them as productive citizens who love the country and the world. The President emphasised that a country can be developed only through quality education.
Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith said that the authorities have failed to conduct an impartial, comprehensive investigation into the Easter Sunday terror attacks that left the country in shock on April 21, 2019. He was addressing a ceremony at St. Anthony’s Church, Kochchikade on April 21 in commemoration of the victims of the near-simultaneous blasts two years ago. The Cardinal said this is a result of corruption and power struggles.
He said that players in global geopolitics and their local agents find religious extremism a useful instrument to achieve their goals. He also urged the authorities not to sweep the truth under the carpet, while noting that political reasons have stalled some of the investigations.
The Cardinal said people have defeated the attempt made by various political and other forces to create animosity between the Christians, the Sinhalese and the Muslims. “We are happy that we have not reacted in a way that could have led to such disasters. We have to remember that we have always advocated that we must not hit back at our detractors because that would lead to violence and unnecessary, uncontrollable situations.”
He said it is important that we work together as religions and not one against the other. “Even though we wish to forgive all these things, we would like to know what really happened. We should know who did it, and whether they repent about their actions and whether they are worthy of receiving our pardon.”
Exchange of words
A tense situation arose in Parliament on Friday (April 23) after concerns were raised by the Opposition lawmakers on the attempt to arrest SJB Parliamentarian Harin Fernando over a statement made in connection to the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks.
Opposition Leader MP Sajith Premadasa told Parliament that there is an attempt to arrest MP Fernando under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) over statements he had made in Parliament. This led to a heated exchange of words between the ruling party and Opposition MPs over the matter. Chief Government Whip Minister Johnston Fernando assured the Opposition that the Government and ruling party MPs had not requested for MP Fernando to be investigated.
The Minister said that MP Fernando has been summoned by the CID for making contradictory statements in connection with the Easter Sunday attacks. He said MP Harin has been found to have made the contradicting statements while speaking to the CID on a previous occasion and later during the debate on the Presidential Commission Report on the Easter Sunday attacks. However, a tense situation arose again with the Opposition and Government MPs engaging in a heated argument over the statement.
SLPP National List MP Jayantha Weerasinghe said the former Yahapalana Government led by the UNP victimised their political opponents in a grave manner than ever before in the political history of the country. He was seconding the adjournment debate on the report by the Presidential Commission of Inquiry appointed to probe incidents of Political Victimisation moved by SLPP Parliamentarian Nalin Fernando in Parliament.
He said that the priority of a newly appointed Government is to formulate laws for the betterment of the country and public whereas the Yahapalana Government gave priority to a Gazette similar to Hitler’s Gestapo policy to victimise its political opponents.
It contained background to set up the Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID), which was totally illegal and it was moved as their first Gazette published 12 days after the election. He said that the former Yahapalana Government outdid Hitler and Idi Amin by taking vengeance from the family members of their political opponents. They remanded the family members as well. The illegal FCID was set up within a month of their election.
Former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Thursday (April 22) issued a statement regarding the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill and urged the Government to discuss the matter with all parties and safeguard the powers of the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. Wickremesinghe said that in 2016 he proposed the creation of an international financial centre in Colombo to the Cabinet of Ministers and that they also decided to set up this centre in the Port City.
He said that laws were drafted for this financial centre as it was Government’s responsibility while developing the infrastructure of the Port City and other affairs was the company’s responsibility. “We have also safeguarded that.” However, he said that this new draft bill introduced by the incumbent Government is much more dangerous and that the powers of the legislature, judiciary and the Cabinet have been completely stripped. Wickremesinghe said, “No such thing has occurred in any other country adding that they would like to know as to why this is being done.