Colombo, July 18 (Counterpoint): In an apparent bid to fix former President Maithripala Sirisena, who scuttled his schemes when he was Prime Minister under Sirisena between 2015 and 2020, Acting Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe has decided to reopen the probe into the 2019 Easter Sunday multiple suicide bombings in the island. Making a special statement here on Monday, Wickremesinghe said that the fresh probe will be conducted with the help of British sleuths.
“The absence of a proper Easter Sunday investigation has meant that this issue has still not been fully resolved,” the Acting President said. He then went on to say that due to the incomplete nature of the Easter Sunday probe, he is requesting the assistance of the UK Government and their intelligence services. An external investigative agency is expected to bring out the gaps in the investigations carried out by previous governments including Sirisena’s, and name the guilty.
The other equally important reason for ordering a fresh probe is to placate the Catholic and Muslim minorities who have been complaining that previous investigations had not brought out the truths. The Catholics, having been the principal targets of the bombers, have been complaining about justice not being rendered. And the Muslims had suffered reprisals because the bombers were Islamic radicals.
The fresh probe also has immediate political relevance as it would sway Catholic and Muslim MPs to Wickremesinghe’s side in the Presidential election to be held on July 20. It is going to be a tight contest in which every vote will count and in which many MPs are sitting on the fence.
One of the grave flaws in the Sri Lankan Administration at the time of the blasts was that President Sirisena had kept Prime Minister Wickremesinghe away from National Security Council meetings. The President was also Defense minister at that time and had monopolized activities in the Defense Ministry. Though Indian agencies had warned about the possibility of such attacks repeatedly, the Lankan authorities had treated the intelligence warnings in a cavalier fashion.
Sirisena is now a Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLPP) MP. The party has 10 members in parliament. Sirisena who had been wanting Wickremesinghe to resign from the Premiership and the Acting Presidentship has declared that he is opposed to Wickremesinghe’s candidature in the July 20 Presidential election. His latest decision is to boycott the election.
In the rest of his statement, Wickremesinghe spoke about the state of the Sri Lankan economy and what steps he is taking to put it back on track. He said that when he took the Premiership on May 13, the economy had collapsed, with power cuts lasting 5 hours a day. In the two months since then, power cuts had been reduced to 3 hours a day, fertilizer had been provided to farmers and the gas shortage was ended, he claimed.
He had said that July would be a difficult period for the supply of fuel. However, diesel stocks have been secured and are being distributed. From the 21st of July petrol will also be distributed, he said.
Wickremesinghe noted that relief is being provided to the citizens of the country who are struggling due to the economic crisis. The Acting President stated that the loans taken by paddy farmers who had planted fields less than 2 acres in area have been cancelled. Due to the drop in world oil prices, fuel prices in the country have also been reduced.
The Acting President further said that negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are nearing conclusion, and discussions for assistance with foreign countries are also progressing.
On the current political crisis in the country, he said that it is due to the Executive Presidential system. Therefore, the 19th Amendment would be re-introduced which would address many of the concerns of the public.
The Acting President pointed out that there are elements within society which are attempting to disrupt peace in the country. He said that these elements would be prohibited from disrupting the country’s progress. However, peaceful protesters, who have legitimate concerns, will be engaged and solutions will be found for them.
The Acting President urged political parties in the country to put aside their differences and not allow the country to suffer from differences over an individual. He urged them to come together and form an All-Party Government which will allow the country to recover from the economic crisis.