President appoints committee to probe Channel 4’s allegations on Easter attacks
Posted on September 15th, 2023

Courtesy AdaDerana

President Ranil Wickremesinghe has appointed a three-member committee to investigate the allegations in the documentary aired by British television network Channel 4 on the 2019 Easter Sunday terror attacks in Sri Lanka.

The committee, chaired by retired Supreme Court Justice S.I. Imam, consists of retired Air Force Commander A.C.M. Jayalath Weerakkody and President’s Counsel Harsha A.J. Soza PC.

On September 06, Channel 4 aired a controversial documentary containing startling accusations relating to the bombings on Easter Sunday (April 21) in 2019 which targeted several Catholic churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka. The carnage claimed the lives of more than 260 people and left hundreds of others wounded.

Channel 4’s new ‘Dispatches’ investigation titled ‘Sri Lanka’s Easter Bombings’ is a nearly 50-minute-long videos with serious, yet straightforward allegations about the attacks. It was based on the testimonies of high-placed whistleblowers who alleged that senior governmental officials were complicit in this heinous act.

The main whistleblower Hanzeer Azad Maulana was a spokesman for LTTE’s breakaway group Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pullikal (TMVP) led by current State Minister of Rural Road Development Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan alias Pillayan.

According to the documentary, Maulana, who has sought asylum overseas after facing fraud charges here, has witnessed a meeting in Puttalam in 2018, between the suicide bombers and a top Sri Lankan intelligence officer prior to the Easter Sunday attacks.

Claiming that he had, on the directives of Pillayan, arranged the said meeting between then-army intelligence chief Major General Suresh Sallay and the National Thowheed Jamaath (NTJ) members including its leader Zahran Hashim, Maulana said the plot to create insecurity in the country to pave way for former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa to win the presidential election later in 2019 was hatched over 2-3 years.

The documentary, which recapped the country’s political situation, also gave a lengthy commentary on former presidents Mahinda Rajapaksa and Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s time in power and their attempts to return to power after election defeats.

Recalling the 2009 disappearance of journalist Lasantha Wickrematunga who was a prominent critic of the then-government, the ‘Dispatches’ investigation video claimed that Mahinda Rajapaksa’s administration had formed a clandestine death squad called the ‘Tripoli Platoon’ with the support of Pillayan’s group to crack down on anti-government media persons.

It had interviewed former senior CID officer Nishantha Silva who was investigating the disappearance of Wickrematunga. He claimed that he found phone record evidence putting ‘Tripoli Platoon’ members at the scene and that Gotabaya Rajapaksa had ‘direct monitoring’ of this death squad.

The documentary also presented testimonies from His Eminence Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, journalist Frederica Jansz who was a witness in the ‘White Flag’ case, the brother of journalist Lasantha Wickrematunga, former commissioner of Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) Ambika Satkunanathan and former diplomat Sarath Kongahage.

However, Kongahage later accused the British television network of distorting his comments from the interview. Calling a media briefing on September 12, the former ambassador said Channel 4 had used his remarks out of context.

Meanwhile, former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa also hit out at the documentary, deeming it an anti-Rajapaksa tirade aimed at blackening the Rajapaksa legacy from 2005 onwards and is a tissue of lies just like the previous films broadcast by the same channel.”

The Defence Ministry and Major General Sallay went on to categorically deny the claims that the latter was complicit in orchestrating the bombings.

A statement from the ministry stressed that the terrorists involved in the suicide attacks had never been on the government’s payroll, and vowed to unequivocally hold Channel 4 accountable for any unforeseen actions or repercussions stemming from their unfounded, malevolent and poorly substantiated” claims in the video.

However, opposition members including Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa and Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith have called for an independent, transparent and broad international investigation into the alleged plot behind the Easter Sunday carnage.

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