At long last, he is begging for forgiveness.
After doggedly refusing to acknowledge responsibility for any part of the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings that killed and maimed hundreds, and ruined many families, Maithripala Sirisena wants to be forgiven.
Why this sudden about-face, nearly four years later?
Clearly, there are two issues on the former President’s mind; the recent court verdict ordering him to pay, from his private funds a hundred million rupees as compensation to the victims, and his plans to contest the presidency in 2024. Regarding the latter, he even likened himself to Nelson Mandela, stating that despite the setbacks, he is certain of being, like Mandela, elected President.
What audacity! What an insult to Mandela!
Addressing the media on January 30th, Sirisena took no blame or responsibility. He glibly stated that no Catholic bore malice against him and went on to list his “good works” for Catholics, during his Presidency; a church in Polonnaruwa, renovation of Bishop’s House, Jaffna and declaring the Madu church and surrounding land a sacred area.
And of course, he failed to ask forgiveness from the Zion Church, Batticaloa which lost many members, primarily children and victim families of the three Colombo hotels that were also targeted.
The Court verdict apportions no blame to him, he said, but merely states he is responsible for the actions of officers he appointed during his Presidency. He now has to pay compensation, he added, for the actions of others.
Oh dear, what victimhood!
As we have seen and heard before, Sirisena has never accepted responsibility for failing to hold regular security council meetings, and for his decision to exclude the Prime Minister from those meetings. Not once has he accepted responsibility for ignoring intelligence information on the imminent attack, though officers say he had been briefed.
Nor has he ever shown remorse.
In an interview with the BBC in 2020 he reiterated that he is not accountable for the actions of officers in his administration. A President, he said does not get involved in arresting rapists, drug dealers etc., and is only concerned with setting up policies and procedures. He must be forgetting the active role he played, as President, in tackling the drug trade. Unless, of course, that too was all for show!
Sirisena seems to believe that providing material support to the Church brings atonement. What he fails to understand or accept is that the Easter bombings destroyed lives and changed forever the aspirations of hundreds of families. No amount of material support to the Church could compensate for that. In 2019 he was President, Minister of Defence, Head of the Security Council and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, yet failed miserably to prevent the Easter bombings, but repeatedly absolved himself of any responsibility for the carnage. Had he taken responsibility in the immediate aftermath of the bombings the anger and grief not only Christians, but all Sri Lankans experienced may have lessened. That's what people of stature do.
Now like Lady Macbeth, he wants to ‘Out’, his ‘damned spot,’ in hopes of winning the support of Catholics (he constantly forgets that there are many other Christian sects, like the Zion Church) and the general public to once again, take on the reigns of President. And this request for forgiveness is all about that, nothing else.
Forgiveness plays a large role in Christianity, but Sirisena must learn, that to be forgiven, he must first be truly contrite. It cannot come with strings like a 2024 Presidency attached.
His plea now for forgiveness simply rings hollow!