Milinda Moragoda has issued the statement proposing that the President, Prime Minister and Opposition Leader Jointly Nominate a Presidential Commission of Inquiry to Investigate the 21/04 attacks. “It is very apparent that our society as a whole is seeking to understand exactly what happened and heal, and reach closure with these seemingly incomprehensible events. Our political leaders, despite their parochial differences that will intensify during this pre-election period, must seize the moral high ground and perform their roles as statesmen at this critical juncture,” he adds.
The full statement is as follows.
Many religious and national leaders have joined in a call led by His Eminence Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith for an independent and credible inquiry into the horrific terrorist attacks that took place in Sri Lanka on 21 April 2019. Although there have been two separate investigations initiated thus far by the President and the Parliament, these have been perceived by the public to be merely petty exercises in political bickering, buck-passing and finger-pointing, and thus lack the confidence of the country. There is much resentment and frustration in society that this national tragedy has been relegated to political theatre. It is therefore of national importance that a truly bipartisan and credible investigation be carried out immediately to get to the root causes and to bring closure for the victims.
In arriving at a possible mechanism for carrying out this investigation, the following successful examples could be considered:
a. At a local level, the Presidential Youth Commission set up by the late President R. Premadasa after the 1989 insurrection attempt was well-received across political and social lines in Sri Lanka. Secondly, the Lessons Learned Commission appointed by former President Mahinda Rajapaksha after the defeat of the LTTE in 2010, had acceptance at both the local and international levels.
b.The best international template for such an investigation would be the National Commission on the Terrorist Attacks on the United States known as the 9/11 Commission, that was established in the US after the attacks of 9 September 2001. This Commission, which was mandated by the US Congress and signed off by the US President, consisted of five eminent Republicans and five Democrats. Their mandate was stated as to:
“prepare a full and complete account of the circumstances surrounding the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, including preparedness for and the immediate response to the attacks…and to provide recommendations designed to guard against future attacks.”
Based on the fact that successful inquiries into traumatic events require that the process has public confidence, legitimacy and broad representation, it is strongly urged that the President, in consultation with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, jointly and by consensus appoint a fully-empowered Presidential Commission of Inquiry with an effective mandate to provide a comprehensive report within a predetermined period. The Commission could be composed of eight to ten members in order to ensure full representation.
It is very apparent that our society as a whole is seeking to understand exactly what happened and heal, and reach closure with these seemingly incomprehensible events. Our political leaders, despite their parochial differences that will intensify during this pre-election period, must seize the moral high ground and perform their roles as statesmen at this critical juncture.