It is for the US to decide…

It is for the US to decide…

By N Sathiya Moorthy

Criminal jurisprudence in most democracies state that ‘confessions made to a police officer are not valid in law’. But even they do not have a provision that such a confession made to a Catholic priest has any temporal value, especially under modern laws and in modern courts.

Yet, we have Colombo Archbishop, Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, telling unnamed culprits behind the Eastern bombings that he and his Church and priests are ready to accept the confessions if they came forward and did so. This throws up two distinct questions of law, especially when His Eminence also continues to hold that the findings of the two presidential commissions and the unending police investigations are faulty, through and through.

One, is the good Cardinal ready to accept whoever appears before his confessional with regard to the Easter blasts, without questioning or cross-examining him or them, from the other side of the window, to arrive at the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Two, having granted him or them divine pardon, will the Cardinal hold back such information from the police investigators, the nation and the world, for he had taken it up with the Holy See some years ago, and has also been demanding an international probe?

Or, will Cardinal Ranjith, or his priests, whoever administers the confession, be willing to talk to international investigators, if at all appointed and on record about what the Divine Will has ordained that they do not spill out? Then, there is the secondary / tertiary question of who would constitute a honest international probe team in the eyes of the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka / Colombo?

After all, even the International Criminal Court is manned by political appointees of individual governments, and so are decisions at the UNHRC taken by a vote that is influenced wholly by the political disposition of individual governments, that too at a given time. That way, what is voted not as a crime in either of these forums, or any other of the kind, one day, could become a crime, months or years down the line? Does it meet with divine approval, for the Cardinal to accept – whether or not he or his priests share the ‘confessions’ with whoever is tasked by the world, the western world, in this case, as ever?

Then, there is a peripheral declaration by the Cardinal that the presidential commission on the Easter blasts had said that 15,000 people knew of the impending attack – and still nothing was done about it. Granting the number with fewer or more zeroes, this fact is generally accepted. The Supreme Court too has penalised then President Maithripala Sirisena and four senior officials, by slapping hefty fines on them, for not acting on the early ‘Indian tip-off’. It was the first time in the nation’s history that the higher judiciary had taken the Executive President to task this way – and hopefully the last time, too.

Channel IV and more

What thus needed further investigations is if there were more people behind the blasts than the nine suicide-bombers, led by one Zahran – and not how many people knew of it in advance, even granting the number 15,000 as being impossible. In the eye of the law and even otherwise, they are two different aspects, though emanating from the same issue.

It is here that the recent British Channel IV expose come under the microscope. The on-camera ‘confession’ made by Azad Maulana, the estranged political advisor of former Eastern Province Chief Minister, Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan, better known as Pillaiyan, needs closer questioning.

It is nobody’s case that Maulana is not telling the truth. It can also be nobody’s case that he is telling the truth. The possibility of the latter out-weighs the former, for the simple reason that the US Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) had long ago concluded otherwise.

Yes, three Americans were among those killed in the Easter blasts, and as was its wont, the FBI stepped in. Unlike the politics-centric officials of the Office of the Human Rights Commissioner of the UNHRC, the crime-focussed FBI then declared that the Sri Lankan authorities had extended their team full cooperation in what tantamount to ‘independent investigations’ uninfluenced by domestic players – even if it was not a ‘international probe’ in the strict sense of the term. In its affidavit filed in a Los Angeles court, the FBI did not spin the kind of tale that Channel IV has since aired.

According to news reports from those days, crime investigators from various other countries, whose citizens had died in the blasts, too had sent out their teams for follow-up probes. This included India’s NIA, the central agency for terror-investigations. Incidentally, it was India that that given early and continual alerts to Sri Lanka about the impending blasts, with great details. It was ‘actionable intelligence’ in professional terms, the last one going out on the very morning of the blasts, hours earlier, on 21 April 2019.

Today, the UNHRC has commenced its current sittings, and is scheduled to take up Sri Lanka, as has become a regular feature over the past years. It is anybody’s guess who is stone-walling whom – is it the ‘international community’ (read: West) blocking the national government by laying down conditions that are not conducive to the domestic situation, or the other way round, as alleged, now again by High Commissioner Volker Turk?

As the prime-mover and/or spirit behind the UNHRC resolutions since it all began post-war, it is now for the US to take a call. Is Washington going to join the chorus at Geneva, for an international probe into the Easter blasts, as can be expected after the well-timed Channel IV ‘expose’, or is it going to stand by the FBI? One will be letting down the allies who want Sri Lanka ‘fixed’ whatever the reasons and justifications. The other will be questioning the FBI, whose credibility then would suffer, not just on the American turf, but also across the world.


(The writer is a policy analyst and political commentator, based in Chennai, India. Email:

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