ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s current intelligence chief, Suresh Sallay, was complicit in the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings that killed 279 people, including 45 foreign nationals, a British newspaper claimed Monday.
Major General Suresh Sallay hatched the plot while working for the directorate of military intelligence and with the objective of creating instability to clear the way for Rajapaksas to return to power.
The Times newspaper said Sally was involved with the Easter Sunday bombers to destabilise the country.
The paper was quoting from an interview with an insider to be aired on Tuesday on Britain’s Channel 4, in which an interviewee claims the deadly bombings were orchestrated by Sri Lanka’s military intelligence.
Sallay was promoted as head of the State Intelligence Service (SIS) no sooner Gotabaya Rajapaksa came to power in November 2019. He was given a one-year service extension by President Ranil Wickremesinghe recently.
Islamic extremists set off suicide bombings at two Catholic churches, a Christian church and three hotels. The attacks were later claimed by the Islamic State group.
The insider identified as Azad Maulana, a former top aide of chief minister Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan alias Pillayan, had spoken of Sallay planning the attacks for about three years.
“Suresh Salley came to me and told me the Rajapaksas need an unsafe situation in Sri Lanka, that’s the only way for Gotabaya to become president,” Maulana was quoted as saying.
“The attack was not a plan made in just one or two days, the plan was two, three years in the making.”
There was no immediate response from the Sri Lankan government or the SIS.
Maulana fled Sri Lanka last year fearing for his life and has sought asylum in Europe.
Sri Lankan authorities failed to act on warnings issued by an intelligence agency in neighbouring India 17 days before the coordinated suicide bombings, according to several investigations into the attacks.
Accusations of the involvement of Sri Lankan intelligence operatives, has already been reported to courts. However, this is the first time Sallay is directly accused of plotting the attacks.
The Sunday Times said in a letter to Channel 4, Salley called the allegations “outright false”
and denied any contact with the individuals who were in the video report.
He was not in Sri Lanka on the dates the alleged contact with the bombers and had no connection with the bombers.
Sallay had previously threatened to sue a Catholic priest who had implied that the military intelligence unit headed by him at the time was responsible.
The head of Sri Lanka’s Roman Catholic Church urged the United Nations in March last year to investigate the Easter Sunday bombings calling it a “political plot”.
Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith demanded a mechanism to probe the attacks, which the authorities have blamed on local Islamist radicals.
“The first impression of this massacre was that it was purely the work of a few Islamic extremists,” Ranjith said.
“However, subsequent investigations indicate that this massacre was part of a grand political plot.”
The Church has previously suggested that the attacks helped Gotabaya Rajapaksa win the presidential elections in November the same year.
Rajapaksa went against tradition by appointing Sallay to head the SIS, a position previously held by a senior police officer.
Rajapaksa was ousted from power in 2022, initially fleeing to Singapore and Thailand, but has since returned under tight security. Sallay remains the head of the intelligence service. (COLOMBO, Sept 4/2023)