EASTER SUNDAY BOMB BLAST IN SRI LANKA Part 4
Posted on May 10th, 2019

KAMALIKA PIERIS

Revised 12.5.19. 17.5.19

India had sent three alerts about the Easter Sunday bomb blasts. The first alert was on April 4.  The second alert was sent on the 11th. A third alert was sent two hours before the first suicide blast, it had the names of three churches. According to Hindustan Times  there was also a fourth alert sent on the 16th, the day the device was tested in a motorcycle In Kalmunai”

The alerts gave specific information. They indicated the targets and the day of the attack. The targets would be churches and    hotels. The   day would be Easter Sunday. The method would be suicide bombers. The names of those who would be carrying out the attacks were given, such as Zahran Hashim.  The exact locations were also given,   said Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, who had been shown one of the alerts.

These alerts were superb actionable” Grade A intelligence. It identified the group that was planning the attack, the name of the leader and the modus operandi of the attack, which was suicide bombers. It was received 17 days prior to the attack. There was plenty of time to prevent the attack.

The State Intelligence Service of Sri Lanka, on receiving the alerts, had added other names from their own files, with telephone numbers, addresses and ID numbers and forwarded the alert to Chief of National Intelligence, who sent it to Inspector General of Police who sent it to the DIGs. DIG Special Security Range has sent a Memo to the Security Divisions of the Ministers, Diplomats, Judiciary and the Retired Presidents alerting them to possible attacks. The purpose apparently had been to protect those persons. The Army Commander was not informed.

The intended target is usually the first to be informed.  Yahapalana government however, had totally neglected to inform the targets. The information was not conveyed to Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, or to the management of the affected hotels, so that action could have been taken to avoid the damage.

Archbishop of Colombo Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith expressed his deep displeasure about this. Easter Sunday attacks could have been avoided had the Government dealt with the information seriously without passing letters to one another, he said. Had he known about the threats he would have cancelled the Easter Mass services, and avoided the carnage.  ‘When I got to know the incident, I immediately instructed all churches to stop Holy Mass and send people home.’

In view of the grave nature of  the intelligence received and the need for immediate action, Chief of National intelligence and Secretary of Defence should have met and discussed security measures required, said experts. They should  have summoned the chiefs of the armed services and the police and their intelligence heads, for a conference. Necessary safeguards should have been put in place,  such as strengthening security at the airport, the hotels and the churches. Yahapalana government did not do so.

The defense authorities took the matter lightly. Hemasiri Fernando, Secretary of Defence,  said  in response to a query from a foreign journalist , “We never expected an attack of this magnitude. We expected a few attacks but not this.”Clearly they were not going to take any action to prevent those few attacks either. Fernando repeatedly smiled as he answered questions, said critics. Fernando’s callous attitude shocked me said  DEW Gunasekera  .

But there is evidence that some at least of the Cabinet ministers knew of the  planned attacks. Catholic cabinet ministers  did not go to   church on Easter Sunday. This is very significant. They are usually seen prominently, in the very first pew. Mano Ganesan said at a   media briefing that his Chief Security Officer  had warned about a Easter Sunday attack, several days before  the attack. 

Harin Fernando told a news conference that his father had told him not to attend Easter mass because he had been told by an retired CID friend of his that churches would be attacked on Sunday. He specifically mentioned St. Anthony’s church in Kochchikade. Harin brushed this advice aside, but did not go to Kochchikade and did not warn anybody else.

Dinesh Gunawardena, scoffed at claims that our leaders were unaware of intelligence reports in the days leading up to the attacks. It is clear that the Government knew. Chief of National Intelligence (CNI) reports to the Defence Secretary, observed Sarath Fonseka. We know that the CNI had  notified the IGP. If so, then it would have been sent to the President and the Defence Secretary as well, he said.

There is a “distribution list” at the National Intelligence Agency. The first two copies would be sent to the President and the Minister of Defence.  Copies would also be submitted to the Secretary of Defence and the Chief of National Intelligence. Further copies would be distributed among Chief of Defense staff (CDS), service commanders and the IGP, depending on necessity.

Sheer commonsense would tell us that much of this was known beforehand. No other explanation is conceivable, said Kishali Pinto Jayawardene. Jayadeva Uyangoda, speaking the first anniversary of Sinhala weekly Anidda frowned on President Sirisena and Premier Wickremesinghe’s repeated claims that they weren’t aware of impending Easter Sunday attacks”. We have never in our history, ever had a Prime Minister who claimed he did not know, said critics.  

In 2019,    months before the April blast ,a delegation from the All Ceylon Jamiathul Ulema, the main  organization of Muslim clerics, met the President  to warn him and the government of the impending danger from terrorist groups backing the ISIS. They named Mohamed Cassim Mohamed Zahran, as the leader of the local group and gave a detailed memorandum listing their activities.  President Sirisena handed  over the information to Secretary of Defence, Fernando  who it appears did nothing about it. Therefore, Yahapalana cannot say they were not warned. The Muslim community itself, by then quite desperate,  had gone to the highest authority.

The Yahapalana government has failed  to heed an early warning and caused over 200 deaths and many injured. This  is criminal negligence, observed Don Manu. Yet no preventive action was taken. The brushing aside of specific warnings by Indian intelligence, seems to indicate far more than mere carelessness, said Kishali Pinto Jayawardene. Was it a deliberate decision, not disseminating the information given by India and not acting on those warnings, asked Rajan Philips.

President was away in India and Singapore on a private visit from 16 April.  No Acting Defense Minister had been appointed. President  said  he  was not officially informed even in Singapore. I learnt  the news from others in Singapore,” President Sirisena said. President  returned only at midnight  on Sunday, in spite of two earlier flights being available. Why did it take 15 hours for him to return from Singapore which is only four hours away. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe also said that  he was not informed.  The President  and the Prime Minister owe this country an explanation, beyond their asinine ‘I did not know’ stories,  said Kishali .

Yahapalana  government  is not  a normal government and  in this case, it certainly did not  behave like a normal government .Twenty government ministers and MPs participated in a   telecast press conference  on 22.4.19 to speak about the bomb blast.  The MPs  were smiling and laughing  as they   spoke of the bomb blasts. We are very sorry as a government and want to apologize to the people and other affected parties about this incident,” they said, cheerfully.  Grinning Ministers  spoke to us on national television at  a press conference after the attack” said Kishali.

These MPs   focused on  money  not life. They kept repeating that those affected would be given money. The government has decided to pay Rs.100,000 as funeral expenses and Rs. one million for the families of those who died as compensation. Those who have injured will receive compensation ranging from Rs.100,000 to Rs.300,000 according to the severity of the injury, they said.”

The foreign  interviewers were  openly startled by this callous  attitude. In one interview, Ranil Wickremasinghe was asked, but how did you feel when all this happened, did it not affect you. He  thought a bit and said ‘I was shocked’. For the PM, the loss of a human life would appear to be something to be shrugged upon as tough luck ,commented Sanjeewa  Jayaweera. Rajan Philips referred to the Prime Minister’s insouciance.

The public are furious over the bomb blasts and the many deaths and want the government to go, reported the media. This government is part of the problem. It is a security threat to the entire population, said Malinda Seneviratne. This government  is not acting in the national interest. It  must go, the quicker, the better, said the LSSP.

The President and the PM of this country should resign forthwith, said critics. In any other country, the government would have resigned in the wake of such a national calamity. Here no one took responsibility.   After a disaster of this scale,, not a single person has willingly resigned, said Ryp Van Winkle.

The country is angry but instead of the hysteria ,panic and  confusion the western powers hoped to see,  the  country is lookingforeffective strategies to contain the situation. For instance, SriLankan Airlines has asked The Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) to deploy sky marshals on SriLankan Airlines flights. The Air Force  is looking into the existing regulatory framework and international legal obligations on the matter. The SLAF has also beefed up security measures in and around BIA.

There was a massive response for blood: around 4500 people had thronged the blood banks of hospitals. Blood was taken from 3,700 of them. The others, he said, were sent back after details of blood group types, name and contact numbers were taken down. Over 2500 turned up at the National Blood Centre in Narahenpita.

The elite charged that  certain Muslim MPs were  associated with NTJ and JMI. They named Rishard Bathiudeen,   Azath Salley, Mujibur Rahaman  and M.L.A.M. Hizbullah.  UNP Colombo Municipal Councilor Noordeen Mohamed Thajudeen  was arrested over the discovery of 46 swords in a Mosque, at Slave Island.  The National Joint Committee wanted  all military camps that were in operation on 19th May 2009 be re-established.

The resilience of a shocked and angry nation has been remarkable, said Kishali The courage of police officers and security forces conducting relentless investigations, despite loss of lives, has been commendable. This exemplifies the best of Sri Lanka.  

The country is  very much aware of the possibility of foreign intervention. The Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) wondered whether  the bomb blasts were simply   Islam,  or whether it was something far more sinister involving the CIA. This whole attack has similarities with events abroad that have been attributed to the CIA of the USA. It is known that the CIA and USA think tanks are operating here with the support of the Government. USA has had a long history of hand-in-glove association with terrorism. They have created terrorist groups and fought against them, sometimes creating other terrorist groups for this purpose. ISIS  was created by USA.

US and the UK sent teams here soon after the bomb blasts. Many an eyebrow was raised over the swift  arrival of  these two teams, said Shamindra. USA sent not one, but two separate teams. One was from the FBI, USA’s secret service and the other was from the US navy Pacific Command. Both were viewed with great suspicion.

 The FBI landed here within two days, evidently they were ready for the call, commented LSSP. Why  did a team some from the US navy. This is part of the US military, said critics. The USA and its intelligence services are not required and are a positive danger. They must go, said the LSSP. They can now take over our intelligence set up, take over ‘the fight against terrorism’ and the end result will be to make Sri Lanka a battle field like Syria.

Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command  of the UK  also sent a team of specialists. Britain’s Minister for Security and Economic Crimes, Ben Wallace, came on a two-day visit. Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith and Ven Omalpe Sobitha  were suspicious and said so at a media conference from Bishop’s House, Borella.

India’s offer of assistance was also met with suspicion. The offer comes at a time when Sri Lankan police and military are doing brilliant work in swiftly tracking down suspects, detecting weapons, explosives and information in almost every province said Lasanda Kurukulasuriya . There is no need for the Indian National Security Guard, NSG to come in. We don’t need foreign soldiers. Our forces are capable enough. We just need to give them powers and freedom,” said  Mahinda Rajapaksa .

This essay closes with a statement by Mahinda Rajapaksa:

In January 2015, I handed over a completely secure and peaceful country to the new President. We had strengthened the intelligence services so that there would be absolutely no threat to the national security of the country. Our intelligence services worked closely with other intelligence services of neighboring countries and other international intelligence services to ensure the security of the country. Whenever we got wind of a threat to national security, we acted on it. The Easter Sunday attacks would never have taken place under our government.

The present government is squarely responsible for the terrorist attacks that took place last Sunday. The police had issued early warnings of an impending attack. However what action did the government take with regard to those warnings? They never informed the Church leaders about those warnings and neither did they provide extra security to the possible targets. All that the leaders of the present government did was to ensure that they themselves were nowhere near a possible target. On important occasion such as Easter, representatives of the government usually attend Mass, but this time there were no such representatives in the Churches.

From the moment this government came into power in January 2015, they have been persecuting the members of the armed forces and the intelligence services that ended that war. How many of our armed forces personnel have they jailed over the past four years? How many times have they hauled former army commanders and commanders of the navy and air force to the CID to be questioned?

The armed forces personnel who carried out their duties on behalf of the nation were harassed and hunted down by this government.. The government was preparing to repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act on the instructions of their foreign masters. If that Act had been repealed, what kind of a position would we be in today? Because the government was engaged in relentlessly persecuting its own armed forces, we became an easy target for terrorists. No other country in the world has persecuted and weakened its own armed forces and intelligence services in this manner. Terrorists observe these things and plan accordingly.

The Sunday attacks did not take place due to the negligence of one or two officials. We can now see that the government is preparing to sacrifice some officials and wash their hands of the matter. This incident occurred because of the conduct of this government from the time they came into power in January 2015. If anyone is to resign over these incidents, it should be the government. Despite the persecution that the intelligence services had been subject to, they did obtain prior intelligence relating to this attack and conveyed the information to certain quarters. But nothing happened thereafter. That warning had been sent to my security officers as well, but they did not keep me informed about the threat.

If I had known that there was an imminent threat of this nature, I would have immediately informed His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith and also curtailed my own movements. Instructing officials on the manner in which they should conduct themselves in relation to matters involving national security, is the task of the government. That is what people elect governments for. The signal sent by this government to officials at all levels is that national security is not important. That is the reason for all this mayhem. These incidents did not occur without warning. The recent destruction of Buddha statues in Mawanella, the attempt on the life of a close supporter of a Muslim Minister from that area, the discovery of over 100 kilos of explosives from Puttalam, are all connected. So this attack did not just come from the blues. Having received information that an attack can take place, all that the government did was to ensure that they themselves were safe.

The arrests of armed forces and intelligence services personnel that took place after this government came into power was very often not based on solid evidence. In order to please the Yahapalana government the CID obtains statements from certain people using various stratagems and then uses these statements to arrest members of the armed forces and intelligence services. Some of these so called witnesses have made special statements to Magistrates explaining how the CID obtained statements from them implicating various people. Stop this filthy practice at least now.

We had strengthened the intelligence services so that there would be absolutely no threat to the national security of the country. Our intelligence services worked closely with other intelligence services of neighboring countries and other international intelligence services to ensure the security of the country. Whenever we got wind of a threat to national security, we acted on it. The Easter Sunday attacks would never have taken place under our government.” Rajapaksa  concluded.  (Continued)

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