Easter attacks: Senior police officer admits to not forewarning churches about bombings
Posted on May 20th, 2020

Courtesy Adaderana

SP Shantha Wickremasinghe, in charge of Colombo Central District 01 at the time of Easter attacks, admitted to the Presidential Commission of Inquiry that although there were instructions given prior to the bombings to increase security at catholic churches, no action was taken believing that such warnings would have created public panic.

This was revealed when the Presidential Commission of Inquiry probing the Easter Sunday attacks heard evidence from senior police officials from the Colombo Central Division 01 and the Colombo Fort Police Station, who were tasked with ensuring security in the area at the time.

Giving evidence, SP Wickremasinghe stated that, on the 12th of April 2019, SSP Upali Jayasinghe of Colombo Central Division had forwarded a 7-page document containing information about the Easter Sunday terror attacks.

The document consisted of Zahran Hashim’s photo and the details about the churches being targeted as well as clear instructions to inform the relevant parish priests on the threat.

At around 7.30 pm on the day prior to the attacks, DIG Lalith Pathinayake had communicated the high possibility of attacks, with instructions to tighten the security and surveillance on churches without delay.

SP Wickremasinghe noted that he had then issued instructions to all the OICs in the division, advising them to do so in a discrete manner to prevent public panic, hence warnings were not issued to the relevant churches.

The panel asked the witness of the distinction between informing the parish priests and the general public, however, he remained silent.

Subsequently, the Chief Inspector of Fort Police Sarath Kumarasinghe was summoned before the Commission to testify.

He told the panel that the OIC of the Fort Police failed to brief on any warnings of the attacks received within the days before he went on leave, adding that on the evening before the attacks, SP Shantha Wickremasinghe had telephones and instructed him to brief all officers on night duty of an imminent threat that night.

The Commission then questioned the witness on the steps taken to increase security and if checkpoints were placed at six key points in the area on April 20, 2019. He responded that due to the lack of sufficient police personnel at the time, only two checkpoints were manned.

The panel then asked him of the duties he engaged in that evening as the Acting OIC of the Fort Police Station at such a crucial time. He responded that he had engaged in a patrol around the Colombo Area. Including inspecting the checkpoints but failed to provide accurate details of the checkpoints in question.

The OIC of Fort Police then appeared before the Commission to witness hearing. The panel asked if Chief Inspector Sarath Kumarasinghe had informed him of the decisions taken during a briefing held on April 12, by the Colombo Central Division’s SSP regarding the warnings.

He responded that he had been summoned and briefed by the Chief Inspector Kumarasinghe before he went on leave.

However, when the Commission questioned the witness as to how the Chief Inspector could have done so if he had been on leave from April 13-18, the witness admitted that his previous statement had been faulty.

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