Si Lanka: Former AG laments lack of quality investigators


The retiring Attorney General was not wrong in saying he could not file indictments based on incomplete investigations, as indictments can only be served on the basis of a complete set of evidence.

by Javid Yusuf

Shortly before his retirement, Attorney General Dappula de Livera made a statement that he would not be able to file indictments in respect of the Easter Sunday attacks prior to his leaving of office, as the investigation files submitted to him were not complete. The statement took even Public Security Minister Sarath Weerasekera by surprise. He called for a report from the Police Inspector General on the matter.

The retiring Attorney General was not wrong in saying he could not file indictments based on incomplete investigations, as indictments can only be served on the basis of a complete set of evidence.

He probably made his position clear before his retirement so that he would not be blamed after his retirement. Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith and the Catholic Church have been calling for justice for the victims of the Easter Sunday attacks, and have been repeatedly highlighting the lethargic pace at which investigations have been going on. Dappula de Livera clearly did not want to be made the scapegoat for the delay in serving justice to the victims after he left office.

In a pre-departure interview, Mr. de Livera said COVID-19 had brought the administration of justice in Sri Lanka to a grinding halt, a time when delays in the system are already a perennial problem. The retiring Attorney General speaking to News First went on to detail the challenges faced by the justice system and he said delays caused by COVID-19 were a curse to the system. He said it will have serious repercussions and consequences in the administration of justice in the country.

The Attorney General, who retired on Monday (24), said Sri Lanka Police, the Attorney General’s Department and the Judiciary are mandated to bring about justice and all three bodies must work together and move together to ensure that justice is served to the country’s people.

Mr. de Livera said one of the main reasons for delays is the delay in detecting and investigating crimes by the Police in addition to the delay in crimes being reported to authorities.

“Victims of crimes are also reluctant to come forward to testify as a certain percentage of them have a lack of confidence in the system. They believe they will be subject to secondary victimisation by the system that should protect them,” said the retiring AG.

He also noted that this attitude was present mainly due to the delays and because the system is not user-friendly.

Explaining the delays in high profile cases, Mr. De Livera said that such cases are often complex in nature and are delayed due to the slow pace of investigations.

He said after he was appointed Attorney General, he took on the challenge of expediting these high profile cases which are of public interest.

Over the past two years he had moved the Chief Justice to appoint 14 Trials-at-Bar to try the high profile cases in Sri Lanka.

These cases are:

01. The Rathupaswala shooting in 2013

02. The Welikada Prison massacre in 2012

03. The abduction and enforced disappear     ance of 11 youth by Navy personnel

04. The abduction and enforced disappearance of journalist Prageeth Ekneligoda

05. The Elephant trafficking case of known trafficker Ali Roshan

06. The Avant-Garde high seas arms trafficking case

07. Central Bank Treasury Bond Scam of February 27 2015

08. Central Bank Treasury Bond Scam of March 29 2016

09. Central Bank Treasury Bond Scam of March 31 2016

10. Damages to Buddha statues in Mawanella

11. The Wanathawilluwa explosives dump

12. Criminal Negligence case against Former IGP Pujith Jayasundara

12. Criminal Negligence case against Former Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando

13. Illegal financial activity by ETI

In addition, he had also called for Trials-at-Bar in regard to four cases connected to the April 21 2019 terrorist attacks.

“There are some cases that remain unsolved including the assassination of Lasantha Wickrematunge, the murder of Wasim Thajudeen and the assault on Keith Noyahr. These must be investigated,” he said.

“In the Wasim Thajudeen case, the two people accused of falsifying evidence are dead. The case on falsification of evidence will conclude, however the main case will and must continue to ensure justice is served.”

“Today’s Police personnel are having serious capacity issues as they do not have quality investigators. The Police have problems with efficient and productive investigations mainly due to the lack of experienced and trained officers,” the retiring AG said.

He also pointed out that at the Magistrate’s Court, often junior Police officers are leading the prosecution in certain cases.

The former AGs lament about the lack of experienced investigators contributing to delays in the administration of justice has increased relevance in terms of the investigations into the Easter Sunday attacks. While the absence of Shani Abeysekara, who made considerable headway in the investigations soon after the attacks, has slowed down the process, the withdrawal and transfer of several other experienced officers from the Easter Sunday attack investigations has caused even further delay.

Mr. de Livera went on to point out that there is clear evidence of a grand conspiracy linked to the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks, and he said information by the State Intelligence Service, “with times, targets, places, method of attack and other information is clear evidence there was a grand conspiracy in place with regard to the April 21 2019 attacks.”

While there is still a great deal of public speculation with regard to the mastermind behind the attacks, the retiring AG said the identities of those involved in the grand conspiracy must come by way of evidence.

Two weeks after the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks, the terrorist network was dismantled and over 200 people arrested.  Thereafter the pace of the investigations slowed down and the arrests made have been only of those suspected to have minor involvements.

No progress has been made with regard to apprehending Sara Pulasthi who is suspected to have fled to India. There is no indications as yet to several matters that have come to light in Parliament through Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) Leader Rauff Hakeem as well as Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) Parliamentarians Harin Fernando and Manusha Nanayakkara.

It is time the pace of investigations into the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks increased, and the masterminds behind these heinous attacks brought before the Law. Only then will the ends of justice be met.