Sri Lanka bishops deny support for extending attorney general’s mandate

Sri Lanka bishops deny support for extending attorney general’s mandate

MUMBAI, India – Sri Lanka’s reported plans to extend the mandate of its attorney general was not made after a dialogue with the South Asian country’s Catholic Church, according to the nation’s bishops’ conference.

Local newspapers said President Ranil Wickremesinghe was extending the tenure of Attorney General Sanjay Rajaratnam for six months, saying he was “pivotal” in working with the bishops about the investigation of the 2019 Sri Lanka Easter bombings. The attack on three churches and several other buildings killed at least 269 people and was contributed to the ISIS Islamist terrorist group.

Local newspapers reported the president told politicians that the report of the Presidential Commission appointed after the Easter Sunday attacks was presented to the President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Sri Lanka, Bishop of Kurunegala Harold Anthony Perera and appointed President’s Secretary Saman Ekanayake, Chief of Staff Sagala Ratnayaka and Attorney General Sanjay Rajaratnam to discuss it. The attorney general is a member of this Committee.

According to the newspapers, the president said that he had decided to extend his service until the end of the discussions as he is continuously holding discussions with the members of the Bishops’ Conference.

The president reportedly said that if a new attorney general is appointed, he will need more time to study these matters and added that he had decided to extend the service period of the attorney general. The president then said that if anybody has an issue regarding that, he could inquire about it from the bishops.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Sri Lanka (CBCSL) said on June 6 the articles reporting the extension of the secretary general being tied to the Church are “unfounded.”

“The articles further claim that the Attorney General is performing a fundamental role in this committee to coordinate with the CBCSL on future steps regarding the investigations into the Easter Sunday attacks. They also state that Mr. Rajaratnam has been in constant dialogue with the CBCSL, which is completely false,” the bishops said.

“We, the members of the CBCSL, vehemently deny these misleading claims. There has never been any such dialogue between the Chairman of the CBCSL and the Attorney General at any time,” the statement says.

“Additionally, the articles imply that the Attorney General is being granted an extension of his term as he is due to retire shortly. We are astounded by the suggestion that the President is exploiting the Easter Sunday attacks and the CBCSL to justify this extension,” the bishops continue.

The statement expressed “grave concern” that Rajaratnam, who was appointed attorney general on May 26, 2021, “has failed over the past 36 months to implement the recommendations in the Easter Sunday Attacks Presidential Commission of Inquiry Final Report.”

“During the tenure of Mr. Rajaratnam, the Catholic Church has consistently written to and called upon the Attorney General to bring justice to the victims of the heinous Easter Sunday attacks,” the bishops continue.

“We categorically state that the CBCSL has absolutely nothing to do with the extension of the Attorney General’s term. The President’s reported intention to seek an extension by exploiting the Easter Sunday attacks and involving the CBCSL is wholly condemned. We are also deeply concerned with the statement attributed to the President, reported in the article, which suggests that questions regarding the extension of the Attorney General’s term should be directed to the CBCSL,” the statement says.

“Therefore, this insinuation that the CBCSL is responsible for the extension of the Attorney General’s term is false, misleading, and malicious,” it adds.