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Terror cell fully neutralised but vigilance needed – Navin

The immediate threat posed by the National Thowheed Jama’ath (NTJ) has been fully neutralised, with all leading members of the outfit either dead or behind bars, Minister Navin Dissanayake told journalists today.

“We have completely eliminated the NTJ cell and neutralised in the short term and intermediate term the threat posed by it. However, I won’t say it’s a long term defeat, as this is like a germ that attempts to make its way back into the body after being taken out. We must remain vigilant,” he said.

Around 200 people directly or indirectly involved in the Easter attacks are currently held on detention orders under the Emergency regulations now in place, said Dissanayake.

“The CID is carrying out all investigations. There is no political interference whatsoever, and the security forces have been given complete freedom to do their job,” he said.

Noting that the police and the security forces were given a free hand to maintain law & order and ensure national security in the immediate aftermath of the attack, the Minister said: “The Army was given that authority. The STF was active. Every Muslim house was searched. We did get some criticism for that. But we let the forces carry out their [search] operations.”

It was the Muslims who helped neutralise NTJ

Dissanayake also expressed his gratitude to the Muslim community whose assistance, he said, was instrumental in neutralising the NTJ threat.

“The Muslim community cooperated immensely. It was Muslims that provided useful information that helped identify suspects,” he said.

Commenting on the incidents of communal violence that occurred in parts of the country, the Minister said certain politically motivated forces were attempting to destabilise the country, weeks after the Easter bombings.

“In most countries, there might be racial tension in the aftermath of such attacks. Communities may start fighting, there may be a lot of ill feeling among different communities.”

“This isn’t unique to Sri Lanka. However, we were able to sustain our coexistence. But three weeks later, we again saw minor incidents taking place in Kurunegala and Minuwangoda,” he said.

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“There is a systematic plan to destabilise the country. We have to identify this and face it. We have the strength to face it as a government. Our country’s future is at a crossroads,” he added.

Referring to the mass resignation of Muslim Government Ministers yesterday, Dissanayake cautioned against repeating past mistakes.

“In 1983, the government of the time took a wrong decision to remove Amirthalingam. My father was a powerful minister in that government, too. We created an environment for a democratically elected political leader to be removed from parliament undemocratically. A vacuum that was subsequently filled by the LTTE. We must not create the space for extremism to crop up,” he said.

“There are attempts to sideline moderates. It has become dangerous for moderates to come forward. I urge the media to think about the country,” he added.

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