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Sri Lankan religious leaders decry police statement

Police officers claim they have been unjustly victimized by Easter attack commission

UCA News reporter, Colombo

UCA News reporter, Colombo

Published: August 27, 2021 04:18 AM GMT

Updated: August 27, 2021 04:36 AM GMT

Sri Lankan religious leaders decry police statement

A Buddhist monk walks through the grounds of Kelaniya Temple in Colombo during the Poya religious festival on July 23. Senior Sri Lankan police officers recently met Buddhist leaders to seek their help. (Photo: AFP)

Interfaith leaders in Sri Lanka have condemned a statement by senior police officers named by the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Easter Sunday attack that investigations and legal work connected to the probe had a racist and religious dimension.

"The statement appears to have a nefarious purpose of pushing the investigation and legal action of the Easter Sunday attack to a racist and religious level," Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu and Catholic leaders said in a statement on Aug. 25.

"We urge the authorities to remain steadfast in the face of such extremist statements and to conduct investigations and legal action regarding the Easter Sunday attack in a fair and transparent manner without political interference.” 

Father Jude Chrysantha Fernando, Father Cyril Gamini Fernando, Ven. Parakaduwe Saranankara Thera, Ven. Beligala Amarasiri Thera, Shivashree R. Darshaka Sharma and several other religious leaders signed the statement.

The commission has recommended legal action against senior police officers.

The senior police officers, who met chief Buddhist monks recently, requested the monks intervene to rectify the unjust verdict given by the commission, which they said had caused serious prejudice to those who had served with their lives.

It is not at all acceptable for top police officers to visit Buddhist leaders and try to evade the allegations leveled against them

Senior deputy inspector general Nandana Munasinghe and Deshabandu Tennakoon claimed they had been unjustly victimized by the commission and questioned whether they had been charged because they were Sinhala Buddhists.

The officers said the commission has done an injustice to many police officers who made sacrifices to end Sri Lanka's 26-year civil war.

"Even the retirement of these people has become a problem. The officers on duty in the area are being harassed, which is detrimental to the morale of the entire police force," said the two police officers.

Rights activist Nuwan Abayadeera said the Police Commission should conduct an investigation into senior police officers who left their areas of jurisdiction in uniform and met with top Buddhist monks and expressed their views in front of the media, committing a disciplinary and immoral act.

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"They should face legal action and they can prove it before the law if they are correct. It is not at all acceptable for top police officers to visit Buddhist leaders and try to evade the allegations leveled against them," said Abayadeera.

Bishops, civic rights activists and opposition parties have expressed concern and displeasure with the current investigation.

C.D. Wickramaratne, inspector general of police, addressed the nation through the media and said all the suspects involved in the Easter Sunday attack will be arrested and legal action taken against them.

"Some 723 people have been arrested in connection with the Easter Sunday attack, of which 311 have been detained and the investigations are ongoing," Wickramaratne said on Aug. 25.

Indictments have been filed against 46 of the suspects and about 100 files related to the investigation have been handed over to the Attorney General's Department.

"Many scholars and intellectuals were arrested in connection with the attack. A large number of documents were found in the possession of the suspects and about 100,000 phone numbers of the suspects have been investigated," said Wickramaratne.

"The money and property belonging to the suspects have been confiscated and the series of attacks is not just a single crime planned by a group in a short period of time.”

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