Opinion

Religion and responsibility!

Summary

The recent news article in The Island, published on November 13, 2021, under the headline ‘INSS Director General says no proof Zahran met Intelligence Operatives’, is of immense relief to us, the general public, who still have faith in the state watchdogs to protect the nation.

The recent news article in The Island, published on November 13, 2021, under the headline ‘INSS Director General says no proof Zahran met Intelligence Operatives’, is of immense relief to us, the general public, who still have faith in the state watchdogs to protect the nation.

Professor Rohan Gunaratne, an expert on terrorist behavioural patterns, after studying the statements given by Zahran Hashim’s wife to the relevant law enforcement authorities, including the 300-paged evidence submitted to the PCoI, has confirmed that there is no mention in her statements of Zahran meeting any intelligence operatives. Furthermore, here is an expert who had personally interviewed the wife of the suicide bomber, and his observations and conclusions on the matter appear to have been formed after careful analysis of documented facts.

On the other hand, a priest has chosen to make absolutely irresponsible statements, in public, offering not an iota of proof to substantiate his allegations. He has agitated the public, planting seeds of insecurity in all our minds, which in turn may have serious adverse consequences on the security and stability of our country; as it delivers a severe blow to the confidence we have placed in the main watchdog of the country to ensure our safety. We expect such irresponsible conduct from local politicians of all colours, whose credibility and reliability have reached a less than zero rank, but not from the revered clergy.

When a damning statement is made, undermining the integrity and honour of a well-respected high rank officer, it is the correct course of action for the CID to record his statement and verify the truth of the same, especially as it will assist the ongoing investigation. If the allegations are exposed to be false, then appropriate legal action could be and should be initiated. Such a course of action is by the book, and the public expects the authorities to act by the book. In fact, they are and have been in the past, criticised by the Church and the public for not going by the book.

Therefore, if the allegations are of merit and substance, why did the Reverend Father shy away from giving his statement until now? Instead of doing the right thing, as expected from the Clergy, without fear or favour, Reverend Father Cyril Gamini Fernando first filed a Fundamental Rights application in the Supreme Court, seeking an order to prevent any attempt being made by the Criminal Investigations Department to arrest him, after being summoned by the CID to record a statement. Why did he assume that he was to be arrested, if he had sufficient proof to back his claim? In any event, if he has proof, why should he keep it in his possession without presenting it even to the public, if he doesn’t want to visit the CID? His conduct merely gives us the impression he is avoiding being questioned as he has no proof to offer … hence the public melodrama and shift of focus from accuser to victim.

When President Gotabaya Rajapaksa assumed duties, he visited the Head of the Catholic Church and offered a seat at, or active participation in the PCoI investigating the Easter Sunday bombings. The Revered Father therefore, had the opportunity to go before the Commission and present evidence that he allegedly possessed. Neither the Reverend Father nor the Catholic Church presented this evidence. On the contrary, the Cardinal claimed he was satisfied with the PCoI. Even today, the Cardinal’s complaint is that PCoI recommendations are not implemented, not that no opportunity was given for presentation of evidence.

There is another angle to the whole saga. Had the Reverend Father presented the so-called evidence, either to the public or the PCoI, and there indeed is evidence of liaison between Zahran and a state watchdog in the past, these facts by itself need not necessarily have any nexus to the Easter bombing. There are many examples the world over, of secret services and undercover operatives establishing contact with terrorists, for the simple necessity of information gathering for the greater good of protecting the nation. This is common knowledge. Assuming such a clandestine meeting had occurred, can the Reverend Father conclude that the Easter bombing was a result of such a meeting? In the mind of a reasonable man, such a conclusion will not surface.

Father Fernando is emulating the style of many politicians who appear before TV cameras with files in hand, claiming to possess proof of corruption, but never presenting the evidence to the relevant authorities.

From time immemorial, religion has played a very decisive and significant role in the election and sustenance of political power in Sri Lanka, if not worldwide. The State control of its people depends considerably on the blessings of the respective religious leadership. It is indeed extremely irresponsible for religious leaders, having full knowledge of the impact their speeches make on the general public, to resort to such conduct akin to politicians. In fact, it is to their own detriment that they do so, as most of us will very soon, if we have not already, lose the respect we had for these religious leaders who behave like political clowns.

His Eminence Malcom Cardinal Ranjith is a much-loved public figure and his words of wisdom on any subject, whether religion or otherwise, are well received and respected by the public. His own image is at risk of being tarnished, when some of those, who serve under him, resort to these cheap theatrics, with obvious hidden agendas to harm State Intelligence Officers, who have served our country through successive regimes. Of course, we are thankful that one rotten apple has not spoilt the cart, as another Catholic priest, obviously a gentleman worthy of the white cloth, whose name was not familiar to me, on a YouTube clip being circulated through social media, quite rationally and rightly, requested the media not to incite religious or racial disunity, by professing unnecessary comments and reminders, unrelated to the subject being reported. Such men of honour still exist, and all religious leaders must nurture them, whilst not making those unworthy, cardboard heroes of the hour, at the expense of the public. The Catholic Clergy has hitherto, been far more disciplined and responsible than some members of the Buddhist Clergy in matters of politics, and it is our fervent wish that these standards prevail.

Our State Intelligence Service has done its best to protect us and they cannot be blamed for the actions of politicians who fail to heed their advice. State Intelligence Service personnel no doubt work as hard or more than those of the Tri Forces, but get very little credit and are never in the limelight. Please do not tarnish their image in vain.

C. J. N. JINADASA

Source: island.lk

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