Church defends media freedom, calls for investigation into Dappula’s allegation of international Easter Sunday conspiracy – The Island
By Shamindra Ferdinando
Former Catholic Church spokesman Reverend Cyril Gamini Fernando said the government’s continued efforts to curb the media, including social media platforms, are in fact a sign of weakness.
Reverend Fernando insists that the current administration cannot suppress the truth by muzzling the media because no government has ever succeeded in doing so.
Reverend Fernando, currently parish priest of St. Anne’s Church in Kurana, said The island that the government could easily silence what it saw as hostile media by changing its strategies.
Responding to another question, Rev. Fernando stressed that the government should reconsider the post-2019 presidential election against promises made by the then Joint Opposition (JO) in the run-up to the change of government.
Unfortunately, the waiver in place used tough tactics in addition to threats and intimidation from sections of the media considered hostile to the government, Rev. Fernando said.
The Church’s senior spokesperson said the recent disclosure to parliament of an alleged attempt to silence Sirasa TV underscored the need to be vigilant. Recalling the suppression of the media by successive governments since the 1980s, Rev. Fernando stressed that no one can achieve this despicable goal.
Regardless of the state resorting to terrorist tactics and various other underhanded methods, the media as a whole could not be controlled or influenced to follow the agenda desired by those in power. The SLPP government appears to have mistakenly recognized the media as an emerging threat and taken steps to neutralize that challenge, Reverend Fernando said.
When asked if the Church would take up these contentious issues with the government, Rev. Fernando said the Catholic Bishops’ Conference and Archbishop of Colombo Rt. Rev. Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith regularly commented on the issues of interest public to such an extent that following the carnage on Easter Sunday 2019, some accused the Church of supporting the opposition at the time.
“The opposition then is in power today. He enjoys an almost two-thirds majority in parliament after supporting Gotabaya Rajapaksa in the presidential election. But today we are struggling to convince them of the need to bring the perpetrators of the Easter Sunday carnage to court, ”said Reverend Fernando. The priest said the attorney general’s office and police owed an explanation for the latter’s failure to question former attorney general Dappula de Livera, PC, over a controversial statement he made several days ago before his retirement at the end of May 2021.
Rev. Fernando asked how the government could ignore de Livera’s statement that there is clear evidence of a grand conspiracy linked to the 2019 Easter attacks in Sri Lanka. De Livera said the information available to the State Intelligence Service (SIS) “with times, targets, locations, method of attack and other information is clear evidence that there was a large plot in place regarding the attack of April 21, 2019 “.
Rev. Fernando stressed that the investigations could not have been completed without the CID recording the statement of the former attorney general. Pointing out that De Livera made the statement on May 18 about a week before his retirement, police had yet to interview an outspoken former official, who fearlessly led the grilling of those involved in the Bond scams outside the special presidential commission of inquiry which probed the daring heist involving some of the most senior individuals in the yahapalana government and others.
The church official alleged that the government conveniently forgot the Presidential Commission report on the Easter Sunday carnage. “What did they do with it? Despite the great rhetoric, the government has not implemented the recommendations of the PCoI. In fact, we wonder why the Select Parliamentary Committee (PSC) and the PCoI were appointed, ”Reverend Fernando said, alleging that those in power apparently carried out massive fraud against the people.
After reviewing the debates of the PSC, PCoI as well as speeches made in Parliament, Rev. Fernando said he could not understand how the government continued to suppress the truth. Reverend Fernando said that you don’t need the skills of a Sherlock Holmes to realize that those who carried out the real bombings were not the masterminds of vile crime.
Reverend Fernando said those who try to suppress the truth would find fault with the Church and independent media for raising concerns. The Church believed that the government could not absolve itself of the responsibility of ensuring justice.
The priest urged the media to courageously report what was happening. Recognizing the role played by social media, Rev. Fernando said parliamentarians should not be blind to reality. The recent controversy over rising fuel prices has led to the disclosure of the pathetic state of the national economy, Rev. Fernando said. The admission that two key state-owned enterprises, the CPC and the CEB, owed state banks 737 billion rupees and could cause the banking sector to collapse was shocking, the priest said.
Referring to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s statement that the country had to meet annual loan repayment obligations amounting to $ 4 billion should be examined in the context of allegations of waste, corruption, irregularities and to neglect, said the priest.
Reverend Fernando has also strongly criticized the deployment of police to break up legitimate protests against the government. The decision to exploit recent instructions on the Covid-19 preventive health guidelines to crack down on those who oppose government plans must be condemned, Reverend Fernando said, citing police intervention to break up a protest peaceful against the Kotelawela Defense University bill as a case indicate.
After taking power with a huge mandate, the SLPP government was doing its own thing to upset the public, Reverend Fernando said. The hasty decision to ban chemical fertilizers without taking the necessary steps to introduce organic fertilizers, the destruction of X-Press Pearl in Sri Lankan waters, the financial crisis and the general collapse of law and order resulting in a drop in public trust should be of serious concern, the church spokesman said.
Reverend Fernando said the government’s failure to ensure a transparent immunization program was also a serious problem. Reporting of Covid-19 monitoring “operations” and the vaccination program have been mired in controversy, the priest said, urging the government to take concrete action to address public concerns.