ECONOMYNEXT – An intelligence officer who had been arrested in connection with Sri Lanka’s 2019 Easter Sunday bombings was transferred to the custody of military intelligence before a statement could be recorded, opposition MP Harin Fernando told parliament today.
Investigations by former Criminal Investigation Department (CID) Director Shani Abeysekara had revealed that the suspect had had discussions with the perpetrators of the attack, Fernando said. The officer’s connection to the bombers had been traced through an IP address, the MP said.
Taking him to their custody, military intelligence had said the suspect was “one of their projects”, claimed Fernando.
The Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) parliamentarian said the officer is not featured in the report submitted by the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) that probed the deadly bombings that killed 269 people and injured over 500.
The MP was repeatedly interrupted throughout his speech, with backbencher MPs in the government hurling insults and vitriolic personal attacks, angered by Fernando’s own insults name-calling.
According to Fernando, the officer’s alleged link to the bombings was mentioned in the testimony given to the PCoI by former office in charge (OIC) of the CID’s Digital Forensic Laboratory Sampath Kumara Senaratne – testimony that Fernando claimed is omitted from the commission’s final report.
“Four CID directors have been transferred since then,” he said, claiming that all CID officers who were investigating the attack were transferred.
Sparking outrage from government MPs, Fernando said that that Maulavi (Islamic preacher) Mohamed Ibrahim Mohamed Naufer who the government claimed had masterminded the bombings was not brought before the presidential commission.
“The so called mastermind was not brought to testify,” he said, amid howling protests from the other side of the aisle.
Fernando further alleged that a single individual who represents President Gotabaya Rajapaksa controls the country’s intelligence apparatus.
“It’s CID officers who are supposed to go to the Attorney General’s Department, but instead it’s this representative of the president that was recently there,” he claimed.
“If you need to find the mastermind, remember that this person is the mastermind,” he added, without elaboration.
On April 06, Public Security Minister Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekara said Maulavi Naufer and one Rasheed Hajjul Akbar, both of whom are in custody, have been identified as the only confirmed masterminds of the attack.
The minister told reportesr that no other suspect had been identified as having masterminded the attacks and stressed that the government has no intention to hide its findings.
Weerasekara was responding to a question about allegations levelled by the opposition that information about those who might’ve planned the attack was not forthcoming.
He said the Maulavi had been promoting ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s brand of Islamic state ideology in Sri Lanka since 2014.
“It was he who brainwashed Zaharan [Hashim, the ringleader of the suicide bombers and founder of the National Thowheeth Jama’ath (NTJ)]. Zaharan came on board in 2016,” said Weerasekara.
Naufer is among 32 individuals against whom criminal proceedings are to be initiated, he said, who are in turn among 211 suspects in remand custody in connection with the bombings. (Colombo/Apr20/2021)