ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka opposition lawmaker Harin Fernando arrived at the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) headquarters Wednesday (28) morning to record a statement on the 2019 Easter bombings.
The CID had summoned the main opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) MP to record a statement on a controversial speech he had made in parliament in April this year.
Speaking to reporters outside the CID, SJB and opposition leader Sajith Premadasa called for an end to the “witch hunt” of SJB parliamentarians.
“The focus should be on who masterminded and helped carry out this attack. That’s what the public wants to know. They’re not interested in a witch hunt of SJB MPs,” said Premadasa.
Fernando has been questioning the official narrative with regard to the masterminds of the Easter bombings, which killed 269 people and injured over 500.
According to Public Security Minister Sarath Weerasekara, Maulavi (Islamic preacher) Mohamed Ibrahim Mohamed Naufer and one Rasheed Hajjul Akbar, both of whom are in custody, are the only confirmed masterminds of the attack.
In his speech on April 20, MP Fernando claimed that the Islamic preacher was never brought before a presidential commission of inquiry that probed the Easter bombings.
Fernando also claimed that an intelligence officer who had been arrested in connection with the bombings was transferred to the custody of military intelligence before a statement could be recorded. Investigations by former CID Director Shani Abeysekara had revealed that the suspect had had discussions with the perpetrators of the attack, the MP said.
Recalling Fernando’s revelations in parliament, the opposition leader said the MP had simply voiced the findings of the presidential commission of inquiry that had probed the Easter attack and asked that the government fulfil its pledge to investigate it.
“I ask the government to stop this witch hunt. Let us instead get together and hunt those behind the bombings,” he said.
“Why does the cardinal continue to complain [of the state of the investigation]? The government has failed in keeping its word,” he added.
Premadasa was referring to Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith who has been a vocal critic of the pace of the investigations.
On July 13, the cardinal said the Catholic Church is sceptical of a politically compromised law enforcement’s ability to probe the “grand conspiracy” behind the attack.
There can be doubts about finding out what really happened with a “police that acts according to the wishes of the current political leadership, a criminal investigation department (CID) that follows the political leadership’s agenda, and a legal system and law enforcement personnel that political leaders are trying to control,” Ranjith said.
“The former Attorney General had said unequivocally that there was a grand conspiracy behind the attack. We have a right to know what that conspiracy was. Did he make his statement based on the contents of the commission report, or the contents of the 22 volumes that were hidden and submitted later because apparently they could not be released, we do not know,” he said.
Days before his retirement, outgoing Attorney General Dappula de Livera said on Ma 18 this year that there was clear evidence of a grand conspiracy linked to the bombings. (Colombo/Jul28/2021)