BY Buddhika Samaraweera
The Catholic Church has said that instead of naming former State Intelligence Service (SIS) Director Senior Deputy Inspector General of Police (SDIG) Nilantha Jayawardena as a state witness in the cases pertaining to the Easter Sunday terror attacks of 21 April 2019, he should be prosecuted for not having prevented the said terror attacks despite receiving prior warnings of such an attack.
Attending an online meeting with a group of Sri Lankans living abroad, Archbishop of Colombo His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith revealed that the last warning, which was given to Jayawardena before the terror attacks, contained all the information such as where the bombings were going to take place.
“Despite these warnings, he didn’t do anything. However, he could have, as a responsible police official, acted upon this intelligence information. Under the Police Ordinance, if a police officer comes to know that there is a threat to any citizen, it is their responsibility to take actions regarding it without waiting for orders from higher authorities,” he said.
Further pointing out that the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) into the Easter Sunday terror attacks has clearly recommended that judicial proceedings be instituted against Jayawardena, the Archbishop queried as to how he could be made a state witness. “I don’t understand Attorney General (AG) President’s Counsel Sanjay Rajaratnam at all. This is unacceptable behaviour on the part of any government or law enforcement agency. He cannot be made a state witness and should be prosecuted instead.”
Speaking further, the Cardinal mentioned that he had sent a letter to the AG mentioning 15 reasons as to why Jayawardena cannot be named as a state witness.
Furthermore, referring to the incident where two police officers were killed in the Vavunathivu area on 30 November 2018, the Archbishop claimed that when considering Jayawardena’s actions, it is very clear that he (Jayawardena) not only manipulated the evidence in the said case, but also attempted to hide the connection between the killing of the said two police officers and the National Thowheeth Jama’ath (NTJ) organisation led by Mohamed Cassim Mohamed Zaharan alias Zaharan Hashim (the suicide bomber who carried out the attack on the Shangri-La Hotel in Colombo on 21 April 2019, along with Mohamed Ibrahim Ilham Ahmed).
The Archbishop added: “It is very clear from the evidence that there was a deliberate attempt to pass the responsibility onto the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), whereas the SIS was aware that the guns that were in the possession of the two police officers were taken by the Zaharan-led group. There was a deliberate attempt on the part of the SIS to hide that.”
He also charged that Jayawardena has been promoted and given a very satisfactory appointment instead of being prosecuted. “Now he doesn’t talk anything about this matter. The promotion is kind of a bribe given to him to keep quiet. The authorities are protecting this man. Even when the PCoI has very clearly said that he has committed the crime of the culpable neglect of duties, this is the situation.”
Meanwhile, addressing the said online meeting, National Catholic Social Communication Centre Director and Kurana St. Anne’s Church Parish Priest Rev. and Fr. Cyril Gamini Fernando also commented on reports that Jayawardena is to be named as a state witness.
He said: “Everyone now acknowledges that there was a conspiracy behind the Easter Sunday terror attacks. This conspiracy could have been prevented if these attacks had been prevented. Therefore, our view is that these attacks were not prevented because they wanted to allow this conspiracy. Therefore, Jayawardena is not just a person who has neglected his responsibilities, but an accomplice in this conspiracy.”
Fernando further claimed: “What Jayawardena did was very serious. How can an accomplice in this conspiracy who allowed such an attack become a state witness in this case? If this is what is to happen, we doubt whether it is another conspiracy.”
He also claimed that the intelligence information received by Jayawardena before the Easter Sunday bombings contained all the facts, adding that no explanation had been given as to the basis on which they were considered general information. “The PCoI did not accept what he said. They say that the information he received was clear intelligence. The PCoI also does not accept that the then President Maithripala Sirisena was not informed about this. This shows that the former President was also aware of this.”
Meanwhile, during the said discussion, a presentation was made, which alleged that there is credible evidence that current SIS Director Maj. Gen. Suresh Sallay, who was the then Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) Director, and other intelligence agencies, had provided financial and other forms of support to the NTJ group, including Zaharan, prior to 2015.
The presentation, which was seen by The Morning, read: “Credible evidence exists that the NTJ terror group led by Zaharan was supported by the intelligence services, including the receipt of funding. Brigadier Suresh Sallay was the Director of the DMI. He had employed Zaharan and the group for intelligence work and kept the group in the payroll of the Defence Ministry. Sallay was removed during the United National Front-led Government. However, he was appointed to the Sri Lanka High Commission in Malaysia by President Sirisena for unknown reasons. He had been in India during the Easter Sunday terror attacks.”
Speaking at the time of the display of the said presentation, Fernando said that the intelligence services must have been aware of Zaharan and others who had been active since 2006.
“Sallay has been the Head of State Intelligence since 2009. We have seen the Thowheeth Jama’ath group active in the Eastern Province since 2006. During that time, there were several clashes between Sufi Muslims and extremist groups. The Kattankudy Police, the then Defence Secretary, and the President have been informed that such a group was being formed. Therefore, there is no doubt that the intelligence services were well aware of these groups.”
He also said: “Did the person in charge of the intelligence unit not know these things? If he had known, why hadn’t he taken any action on this? It has been shown that after the formation of the NTJ, an area like Kattankudy seemed to be completely under the control of the extremist group. Accordingly, the SIS and this person should be responsible for protecting these people and not bringing them before the law.”
Meanwhile, a complaint was filed at the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) against Fernando by Sallay yesterday (25) with regard to the aforesaid statements made in reference to him during the said discussion.
The Morning spoke to the Police Media Spokesperson Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Nihal Thalduwa, who confirmed the same.
“A complaint has been filed against Fernando and a few others by Sallay. The complaint was with regard to the allegations made by Fernando who claimed that Sallay had close contacts with Zaharan and the Thowheeth Jama’ath and that Sri Lanka’s intelligence units had provided financial and other forms of assistance to Zaharan,” said Thalduwa.
He added that additional details pertaining to the complaint cannot be disclosed as this would hinder the investigations.
“All I can say is that Sallay had mentioned in his complaint that he has never communicated with Zaharan or anyone affiliated to the Thowheeth Jama’ath. Sallay has also mentioned that the objective of these allegations is not only to mislead the public, but to deliberately tarnish his reputation, as well as to put his life and the lives of his family members in harm’s way,” he concluded.