Easter Sunday carnage: Defence Secy. decries bid to implicate Prez, reiterates lawyer Hizbulla’s involvement

…acknowledges Geneva taking note of probe

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Defence Secretary Gen. Kamal Gunaratne says certain interested parties are propagating lies that the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks had been carried out to influence the electorate at the 2019 presidential election.

Gen. Gunaratne says attempts are being made to drag President Gotabaya Rajapaksa into the controversy.

The former General Officer Commanding (GoC) of the elite 53 Division said so at a media briefing at the Defence Complex in Akuregoda, Battaramulla on Thursday (9).

SLPP presidential candidate comfortably won the election. It was followed by the SLPP triumph at the general election in 2020.

Flanked by Navy Chief VA Nishantha Ulugetenne and IGP C.D. Wickramaratne, Gen. Gunaratne pointed out that consequent to investigations carried out by law enforcement authorities spearheaded by the CID, the Attorney General would now indict the accused before a Trial-at-Bar constituted by the Chief Justice to hear Easter Sunday case.

Gen. Gunaratne urged the public to be wary of despicable attempts to deceive them. Responding to continuing allegations made by the Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith as regards the Easter Sunday carnage, Gen. Gunaratne emphasized the police and the intelligence services briefed the Catholic Bishops’ Conference and the Mahanayakes, separately in that regard. Gen. Gunaratne dismissed accusations that the Easter carnage had been a conspiracy meant for wartime Defence Secretary’s benefit.

Towards the end of the briefing Gen. Gunaratne referred to the arrest of attorney-at-law Hejaaz Hizbullah on April 14, 2020 in connection with the ongoing investigations into the Easter Sunday suicide attacks.

The police apprehended Hizbullah in terms of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).

Commenting on continuing challenges faced by the country, Gen. Gunaratne said that the lawyer’s arrest had been raised at the highest level at the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council. In spite of representations made to the UNHRC on behalf of the lawyer, the Defence Secretary stressed they had irrefutable evidence regarding the detainee’s involvement in Easter carnage.

Sri Lanka Core Group at the UNHRC comprising the UK, Canada, Germany, North Macedonia, Malawi and Montenegro in late June 2012 raised the lawyer’s arrest along with several other cases, including the former CID Director SSP Sharni Abeysekera. The UK delivered the statement on behalf of the Core Group at the 47th session of the UNHRC.

Easter Sunday attacks claimed the lives of 270 and inflicted injuries to approximately 400 persons.

The Defence Ministry held the media briefing close on the heels of Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith accusing Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris of planning to undertake a visit to Vatican in a bid to deceive the Pope as regards the Easter Sunday carnage. Before leaving for Italy on Thursday night, Prof. Peiris told The Island that they never sought a meeting with the Pope nor received an invitation from the Vatican.

Prof. Peiris explained that the government conducted investigations in a transparent manner and briefed all those interested parties, including the Vatican. Fresh controversy erupted over the Easter Sunday investigation in the wake of Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith declining to meet Prof Peiris unless he received an assurance as regards the inquiry.

Director General, Legal Affairs, President’s Office, attorney-at-law Harigupta Rohanadeera is on record having dismissed accusations that Easter Sunday carnage was meant to give advantage to the SLPP presidential election candidate.

Rohanadeera explained against the backdrop of the debilitating setback suffered by the then ruling UNP at the Feb 2018 Local Government election primarily caused by the Treasury bond scams and the defeat at the presidential poll was inevitable following the failure to thwart Easter carnage despite having precise intelligence provided by India.

Both Gen. Gunaratne and lawyer Rohanadeera contradicted the conspiracy theory. Dappula de Livera, PC, caused a media furor a few days before his retirement in May this year when called the Easter Sunday carnage a grand conspiracy.

Gen. Gunaratne, VA Ulugetenne and IGP Wickramaratne addressed several other issues, including sustained efforts to eradicate powerful narcotics networks operating in the country. IGP Wickramaratne said that all property of those engaged would be confiscated.

VA Ulegetenne explained recent operations undertaken by the Navy on information provided by the State Intelligence Service (SIS) and the police. Referring to two specific operations in the seas off Beruwela and in high seas, VA Ulegetenne said the two detections in August and Sept led to the recovery of over 600 kilos of heroin. The Navy Chief appreciated the assistance provided by the Navy Intelligence, other intelligence services and the Air Force in anti-narcotics operations.

Gen. Gunaratne warned the fisher community to desist helping heroin and arms smugglers. According to him, a section of fisher community was deeply engaged in clandestine activities at the expense of their reputation.

Gen. Gunaratne also dealt with the role played by the armed forces and the police in assisting civilian health administration to fight the raging Covid-19 epidemic. The Defence Secretary explained how President Gotabaya Rajapaksa brought in the military in the wake of attempts to sabotage the vaccination rollout. The military had the capacity to undertake the large scale inoculation campaign regardless of other commitments, Gen. Gunaratne said.

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