In the midst of the ongoing sittings of the Parliamentary Select Committee to investigate the Easter Sunday bombings two senior officials in the public service have been arrested by the police. The charges against former Defense Secretary Hemasiri Fernando and Inspector General of Police Pujith Jayasundara are that they did not take sufficient action to prevent the bombings that led to over 250 deaths and injuries to over 500 persons despite having prior information.
Senior public officials do not need prior permission to take pro-active decisions and pre-emptive actions about issues that falls under their statutory duties. However, from the evidence that is available there appears to have been a systems failure that went beyond the two individuals who have been charged. This includes the exclusion of the prime minister, deputy defense minister and police chief from the National Security Council meetings after the abortive attempt at a constitutional overthrow of the elected government and the failure to hold meetings of the National Security Council in the period leading to the bombings.
In these circumstances, the pinning of blame for the failure to stop the Easter Sunday bombings on former Defense Secretary Hemasiri Fernando and Inspector General of Police Pujith Jayasundara feels unfair. We believe that it will be useful to apply Systems Thinking which can help us see that what may seem an isolated problem is actually part of interconnected network of related issues. Ignoring this interconnectedness will lead to many unintended negative consequences for Sri Lanka in the short and long term. Quick fixes do not help in the long term.
The National Peace Council calls on the government to come up with a comprehensive report speedily on the factors that lie behind the Easter Sunday bomb attacks and to identify the loopholes in the national security system prior to deciding on which individuals to target to punish. It is possible that persons higher in the chain of command may also be held accountable. In particular, we call on the President, Prime Minister and Opposition leader to put political motivations aside and to jointly formulate an accountability process that will punish the guilty and rectify the systemic shortcomings that led to the tragedy of Easter Sunday.