BY Buddhika Samaraweera
The Catholic church has questioned President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the Government as to why they are not investigating the alleged plot to assassinate then President and incumbent Government Parliamentarian Maithripala Sirisena and current President Rajapaksa, which led to the arrest of then Terrorism Investigation Division (TID) Director Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) Nalaka de Silva, who is said to have been working to arrest the late National Thowheeth Jama’ath (NTJ) Leader Zahran Hashim in 2018.
Addressing a media briefing held yesterday (21), National Catholic Social Communication Centre Director Rev. Fr. Cyril Gamini Fernando claimed that when Zahran was about to be arrested, DIG de Silva was arrested and detained based on a statement made by one Namal Kumara that there was a conspiracy to assassinate Sirisena and Rajapaksa.
“(DIG) de Silva was arrested following a statement made by Kumara about an alleged conspiracy. He came and said that there was a conspiracy to assassinate Sirisena and Rajapaksa, the latter of whom was not even a presidential candidate at the time. After the arrest of (DIG) de Silva, all attempts to arrest Zahran were halted and then no one came forward to arrest him (Zahran),” he said.
However, Rev. Fr. Fernando said that although Kumara had spoken publicly about such an assassination plot with evidence, it was not and is not being investigated. He claimed that there was no and is no investigation into matters such as who was to be assassinated in the conspiracy in question and who was involved in it.
“Now the question we are asking is, where are the investigations into this conspiracy? If there was a conspiracy to assassinate him, didn’t Sirisena have a duty to expose to the country as to who sought to carry it out or to investigate it?” he questioned.
Rev. Fr. Fernando further claimed that Rajapaksa is also not investigating the matter even after assuming the presidency.
He said: “Rajapaksa is also not looking for who conspired to assassinate him. Either this is a suppression of the truth, or this conspiracy was a complete drama. If it is a drama, then there is nothing to be investigated. Why was such a drama staged when there were preparations to arrest Zahran? Was it to prevent Zahran from being arrested? Shouldn’t these things be properly investigated and told to the country? Why hide these matters – to protect whom?”
He also commented on the ongoing investigation into the Easter Sunday terror attacks of 21 April 2019, stating: “To this day, neither we nor the victims know the truth behind these attacks. What we understand is that the truth is not allowed to be revealed. Seemingly, it is being hidden.”
Meanwhile, Rev. Fr. Cecil Joy Perera, during the same media briefing, commented on the remarks made by several parties regarding forgiving the Easter Sunday attacks’ perpetrators.
“Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa had referred to this at a function in Kegalle, but it is not only the Premier, there have been many other requests also. People have been asking this in the recent past, too. So it is not pointed to one person, but there have been requests. People have been asking ‘you are Catholics, you are Christians, so why don’t you forgive?’”
Claiming that they are prepared to forgive, Rev. Fr. Perera, however, said that even to forgive, they must know who the culprits behind the said terror attacks are. He noted: “We are prepared to forgive, but let us know who the culprits are, who exploded these bombs, and the reason why they did that. Let us know if there was any political plot and who did that. Then, of course, we can consider forgiveness. We are people of forgiveness and love; there is no doubt about it. However, we must know whom to forgive. Otherwise, how to forgive?”
On 21 April 2019, Easter Sunday, three churches (St. Sebastian’s Church in Katuwapitiya, St. Anthony’s Church in Kochchikade, and Zion Church in Batticaloa) and three luxury hotels in Colombo (Cinnamon Grand Colombo, The Kingsbury, and Shangri-La Colombo) were targeted in a series of co-ordinated suicide bombings. Later that day, another two bomb explosions took place at a house in Dematagoda and Tropical Inn Lodge in Dehiwala.
A total of 269 people excluding the bombers were killed in the bombings, including about 45 foreign nationals, while at least 500 were injured. All eight of the suicide bombers in the attacks were Sri Lankan citizens associated with NTJ founded by Hashim, who was one of the suicide bombers at Shangri-La.