Supreme Court orders Ex-President Sirisena and five others to pay Rs 31 crores for failing to prevent Easter Sunday Attacks | Sunday Observer

Supreme Court orders Ex-President Sirisena and five others to pay Rs 31 crores for failing to prevent Easter Sunday Attacks

15 January, 2023

April 21, 2019 was yet another dark day in Sri Lankan history. The Easter Sunday attacks that shook the world killed 277 people, including children, and hundreds of children lost their parents and friends, leaving an indelible scar on Sri Lanka’s history. The victims of the Easter Sunday attacks, which shocked the world, are still speaking out for justice.

One of their main accusations is that such a series of attacks could have been prevented if intelligence about the series of attacks had been received ahead of time. This type of attack would not have occurred if more emphasis had been placed on issues such as carelessness, neglect of government responsibilities, disregarding such intelligence information despite the fact that the danger had been identified in advance, and security chiefs failing to fulfil their responsibilities.

A total of 13 Fundamental Rights Petitions were filed by a group of victims and activists including Nandana Sirimanna, a father who lost his two children in the bomb attack, Janath Vidanage, a tourist businessman, three Catholic fathers including Sarath Iddamalgoda, lawyer Moditha Ekanayake, who was injured in the Shangri-la bomb attack, Janaka S. Vithanage, lawyer Nagananda Kodithuvakku, Saman Nandana Sirimevan, Dinuka Lakhnath Perera, Sunil Perera, Rev. Ashok Stephen, Hilmi Ahmed, President’s Counsel Saliya Peiris, Seerangan Sumitra, Visakesa Chandrasekaram, Kasun Puswella, Attorney Moditha Tikiri Banda.

The following respondents were accused of failing to act to prevent the Easter attack despite receiving intelligence that a group of extremists would launch a terrorist attack.Therefore, the petitions sought an order to take legal action against them for default.These petitions were filed before a seven-member bench of the Supreme Court stating that the authorities, including former Inspector General of Police Pujith Jayasundara, former Defense Secretary Hemasiri Fernando, and former President Maithripala Sirisena, did not act to prevent the Easter Sunday attack despite receiving intelligence information. It was decided on November 16, 2021, that it should be examined, and it was examined for the first time on March 14, 2022.Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya, justices Bhuvaneka Aluvihare, L. T. B. Dehideniya, Murdu Fernando, S. Thurairajah, A.H.M.A.D. Nawaz, and Shiran Gunaratne were included in the bench, and the hearing of these petitions was delayed from time to time due to the COVID situation.

The judgement in the case filed alleging violation of basic human rights was announced recently, adding another historic judgement to history. For the first time in history, a former president was forced to pay the maximum amount of compensation from his personal funds in the event of a violation of fundamental human rights. That is former President Maithripala Sirisena.Former President Maithripala Sirisena was ordered to pay the highest compensation of 100 million rupees because he did not take steps to prevent the terrorist attack on Easter Sunday despite receiving intelligence information. An earlier preliminary judgement against a former president was pronounced on October 8, 2008, by Supreme Court Justice Shirani Thilakawardena.

It was to pay 3 million rupees to the government from the Waters Edge fundamental rights case filed by Sugathapala Mendis and others against former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and others. In this Easter verdict, the Supreme Court ruled that not only the former President but also the former Defense Secretary Hemasiri Fernando, the former Inspector General of Police Pujith Jayasundara, the former Chief of the State Intelligence Service Nilantha Jayawardena, and the former Chief of National Intelligence Sisira Mendis violated basic human rights.Furthermore, the Supreme Court ordered that the government pay $1 million in compensation and take disciplinary action against Nilantha Jayawardene, the former head of the State Intelligence Service.

The court has ordered the respondents to establish a “fund” for the victims of the attack and to credit the relevant compensation money to that fund. The court informed the respondents that the related compensation should be paid within six months and that the responsibility of supervising the activities of the fund has been assigned to the Attorney General.Announcing the verdict of this case, which consisted of 124 pages, Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya, who was the presiding judge of the seven-judge bench, made a long explanation about the ways in which various parties neglected their responsibilities.There have been warnings about Zaharan Hashim and other terrorists’ activities since 2015, but open warrants have also been issued for Hashim. Also, Maithripala Sirisena, who was the president when the Easter attack happened, is not only the defence secretary but also the commander-in-chief of the three armed forces. According to the Constitution, the president has all the executive powers.

At the time of this attack, the three armed forces, the police, and the State Intelligence Service were operating under former President Maithripala Sirisena, and the President was entrusted with the power to implement the Prevention of Terrorism Act as well as the Public Security Act. The President was on a visit to Singapore at the time of these incidents. But even though the President has been given the above powers by the Constitution, the court has emphasised that he cannot escape responsibility by saying that the officers under him did not give him information after this incident.

The verdict also emphasised that there was no sensitive mechanism to efficiently obtain sensitive information related to national security. The Security Council meeting was also mentioned as another shortcoming that would not be addressed properly in the near future. Thus, the Supreme Court ruled that the former president’s failure to fulfil his responsibilities has violated the rights guaranteed by Articles 12(1) and 14(1)(e) of the Constitution.In this judgement, the court severely criticised the role and responsibilities of the former Inspector General of Police, Pujith Jayasundara. The fact that the National Thawheed Jamaad organisation was preparing to launch an attack on Easter Sunday and that the former heads of the State Intelligence Service only forwarded the information to four Deputy Inspector Generals of Police and did not follow up on it was highly criticised.

Not informing the President and political authorities, as well as not arresting Zaharan Hashim despite the various reports of information about them, was severely criticized.Another point that has been strongly emphasised is that although the former director of the State Intelligence Service, Nilantha Jayawardena, gave the Secretary of Defense the information he received regarding the Easter attack, he did not act on the sensitive intelligence information he received. But he has only forwarded that information to the Inspector General of Police and the National Intelligence Chief. Also, the Secretary of Defense, who was the head of the weekly National Intelligence Review meeting, has strongly emphasised not emphasising these points. Because of this, the former Defense Secretary negligently neglected his duty and violated the rights guaranteed by the provisions of 12(1) and 14(1)(e) of the Constitution. The Supreme Court ruled that compensation should be paid to the victims.Nilantha Jayawardena, the former director of the State Intelligence Service, received information from a foreign intelligence service, but he only forwarded that information to the Inspector General of Police and the National Intelligence Chief. He also did not discuss it in the National Intelligence Review meeting held on April 9. If the information was discussed in this way, the attention of the security chiefs as well as the Army Commander could have been drawn to it. On April 14, 2019, on the Sinhala New Year, these respondents met the President and congratulated him, but the court found fault with the fact that the President was not informed about this.

This shows that they have neglected their responsibilities and taken them for granted.The court’s conclusion is that National Intelligence Chief Sisira Mendis has also seriously neglected his duties. He had not informed the president or the security chiefs. Although the information was forwarded to the Inspector General and Defense Secretary, no follow-up was done. This judgement has clearly defined the responsibility of a government in terms of national security. The responsibilities of a president, the duties and powers of the defence minister, the inspector general of police, and state intelligence chiefs have been emphasised again and again. The Supreme Court emphasised that their default has violated the rights guaranteed by Articles 12(1) and 14(1)(e) of the Constitution. Here, 12(1) means that everyone should have equal rights before the law. 14(1) (e) freedom to practise one’s religion, alone or in association with others, under the Ordinances.

However, the main role of a government should be to guarantee the right to life for individuals. Dereliction of responsibility to the extent of playing with lives despite receiving intelligence through state intelligence is something that cannot be judged by money.

Because of this, the Supreme Court emphasised that the National Security Council should be legalised, the services of competent officers should be employed for the intelligence agencies, the scope of the national intelligence chiefs should be clarified, and the officers should be employed.Although the Easter attack victims received some form of relief, money cannot dry the eyes of their children and their families. They are still crying. If everyone had fulfilled their responsibility as emphasised in the judgement, everyone would be happy today.