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Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Easter compensation balance of Rs. 277 Mn: Respondents can be held in contempt: BASL

  • Says petitioners will make appropriate applications   

While emphasising that compliance with Supreme Court (SC) judgements is mandatory, the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) has stated that the failure by the relevant respondents to settle the total compensation amounts to the victims and families of the 2019 Easter Sunday terror attacks could be considered contempt of court and therefore, the petitioners intend to make appropriate applications to the SC.

The Office for Reparations maintained the fund to which the respondents – including former President and Defence Minister and incumbent Opposition Parliamentarian Maithripala Sirisena, former Inspector General of Police Pujith Jayasundara, former State Intelligence Service Director and incumbent Senior Deputy Inspector General of Police (SDIG) – Administration Nilantha Jayawardena, former Defence Ministry Secretary Hemasiri Fernando, former Chief of National Intelligence and retired DIG Sisira Mendis – and the Government and State were required to deposit the relevant sums of compensation by Wednesday (12), as ordered by the SC.

Of the respondents, it was only Mendis who had deposited the complete sum of compensation – Rs. 10 million – to the relevant account.

The BASL was one of the petitioners. Speaking to The Daily Morning on the matter, BASL President Kaushalya Nawaratne said that a judgement issued by the SC must be complied with and that non-compliance with the judgement in question clearly violates the fundamental rights (FR) of the victims as well as the petitioners. “These sums of compensation were ordered to be paid so that the victims could be compensated monetarily to some extent. The loss of life, the damage this terror attack caused to them, and the mental trauma that they went through and still go through cannot be monetarily assessed, but the SC delivered this judgment so that the victims could be monetarily compensated to some extent.”

Noting that the respondents have been ordered to pay the relevant compensation sums within a certain period of time (six months), he said that compliance with the judgement is mandatory. “Our position is that if it is non-compliance, appropriate applications will be made to the court, not only for the recovery of the money but also against the respondents who have not complied with the SC order.”

In response to a query regarding whether the non-settlement of the complete compensation sums by the deadline would amount to being in contempt of court, Nawaratne said: “It could be interpreted as such. It is a matter that is entirely in the hands of the courts. However, if the money was ordered to be paid by the original court and it is not paid, there is a possibility that it could be argued as being in contempt of court.”

While the deadline set out by the SC for Sirisena and the others to pay compensation sums amounting to Rs. 311 million expired on Wednesday, the relevant fund received a total of only about Rs. 34 million.

The sum includes Rs. 15 million deposited by Sirisena on 28 June, Rs. 1,725,588.87 deposited by Jayasundara on 20 June, Rs. 4.1 million deposited by Jayawardena on Tuesday (11), Rs. 2 million deposited by Fernando on 9 June and 10 July, Rs. 10 million deposited by Mendis on 6 July and Tuesday (11), and Rs. 1 million deposited by the Government and the State.

Delivering the judgement with regard to a total of 12 FR petitions filed by several parties, including the BASL, the SC, on 12 January 2023, held that Sirisena, Fernando, Jayasundara, Jayawardena, and Mendis had violated fundamental human rights by not preventing the Easter Sunday terror attacks and ordered them to pay compensation to the victims from their personal funds.

13 July 2023 | BY Buddhika Samaraweera/ TM

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