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Sri Lanka ex-prez defaults on payouts for Easter attack victims

Maithripala Sirisena, top officials were ordered by Supreme Court to deposit 310 million rupees (some US$980,000) by July 12
Sri Lanka's former president, Maithripala Sirisena, seen here in a photograph taken on June 6, 2019, has failed to pay for compensation to victims of the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings as ordered by the Supreme Court in January last

Sri Lanka's former president, Maithripala Sirisena, seen here in a photograph taken on June 6, 2019, has failed to pay for compensation to victims of the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings as ordered by the Supreme Court in January last. (Photo: AFP/ UCAN files)

Published: July 12, 2023 11:47 AM GMT
Updated: July 12, 2023 11:55 AM GMT

A former Sri Lankan president, top defense ministry and intelligence officials have failed to pay compensation totaling 310 million rupees (some US$980,000) ordered by the country’s top court for victims of the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings.

Sri Lanka's Supreme Court on Jan. 12 ordered former president Maithripala Sirisena to pay 100 million rupees and others to pay a total of 210 million rupees from their personal funds.

The total amount of 310 million rupees was to be deposited with the government's Office for Reparation within six months, before July 12.

However, the former president has so far paid only 15 million rupees.

Sirisena requested the Supreme Court for an extension of time to pay the outstanding amount of 85 million rupees through a series of ten equal installments until 2033.

Sirisena's request, submitted through his lawyers, said he receives a pension of 97,500 rupees and 54,285 rupees as a member of parliament, excluding allowances. He sought more time to fulfill the terms of the court order.

Among the others, the national intelligence chief and former inspector general of police have paid about 4.1 million rupees while the former defense secretary has paid only one million rupees.

The federal government has deposited one million rupees through its treasury on behalf of the defense ministry. 

The Supreme Court order had pointed to the “reckless” intelligence failure that led to the serial blasts on April 21, 2017.

A total of 279 people died and some 500 were injured in the incident that shook the island on Easter Sunday.

The top court’s order said the amount deposited by Sirisena and other officials should be utilized to establish a “victim fund" at the Office for Reparation, which must formulate a scheme to award the sums ordered as compensation in a fair and equitable manner to the victims and families.

Dr. P. Mahanamahewa, a former human rights commissioner of the country said failure to pay up shall amount to “a contempt of court.”

Father Rohan Silva, chairman of the Center for Society and Religion (CSR), who fought for justice for the Easter attack victims, said that all those ordered by the Supreme Court are bound to pay the full amount as per the order.

“Otherwise they will have to inform the court before the end of the six months,” the Oblate priest added.

Nalini Fernando, a victim, said that 50 months have passed since the bombings, but many like her are still suffering.

"Those responsible are not bothered to pay us the compensation,” she regretted.

Fernando wanted the politicians and government officials to be punished for their failure to stop the serial bombings.

"According to the media reports some officers who are responsible for the attacks are getting promoted by the government,” she added.

Dexter Fernando, president of a group called April 21 Foundation for Justice, said President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was the prime minister at the time of the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings, must ensure justice for all victims.

“The president now has the opportunity to do justice to the victims. The Attorney General is still silent. Where is justice?” he asked.

Fernando also regretted that the real masterminds behind the bombings are yet to be found.

The Catholic Church has been highly critical of the lack of progress in the probe into the Easter Sunday bombings.

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo has repeatedly raised the issue inside the nation and also at global forums, including the Vatican and the United Nations Human Rights Council, alleging that the incident was “not purely a work of extremists, but a grand political plot.”

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