By Kamalika Pieris
Those who planned the Easter bomb explosions used two methods of attack, suicide, and truck. The suicide attacks are well known, but not the truck attack. The truck attack was planned for Kochchikade. The van was parked in the vicinity of the St. Anthony’s Gate 04 harbour entrance. The owner of the van was identified as Mohamed Azam Mohammed Mubarak, alias ‘Abdullah’, who detonated the bomb at the Kingsbury Hotel.
The bomb in the van was a remote-controlled one laden with high amounts of explosives. The bomb was meant to go off one hour after the church blast. If the timer failed they had arranged that the bomb would explode when someone tried to open the car door. Investigators later found that the bombers had been experimenting with a timer when they exploded the bike at Kattankudy. Fortunately, the timer failed and no one tried to open the door, said analysts. The bomb was defused by a controlled explosion.
Shamindra Ferdinando has added something new to the discussion as to why churches and hotels had been targeted. He pointed out that there was deliberate targeting of Tamil Christians. The biggest church in Batticaloa had been selected, St Mary’s and also the Tamil service at St. Anthony’s Church, Kochchikade. Over 60 Tamils perished in the Batticaloa and Kochchikade bombings. Over 100 received injuries. If St. Mary’s Cathedral had been bombed many more Tamils would have perished. Shamindra also noted that the Tamil National Alliance had not shown any concern about this. TNA has not said anything about it.
In May 2019, Parliament appointed a Special Select Committee to probe the bomb explosions that took place on April 21st. The Committee, chaired by Deputy Speaker Ananda Kumarasiri, consisted of Rauff Hakeem, Sarath Fonseka, Ravi Karunanayake, Kavinda Jayawardana, Ashu Marasinghe, Jayampathy Wickramaratne, M.A. Sumanthiran, Nalinda Jayatissa, and Rajitha Senaratne.
This was a political committee, not a fact-finding one. This was evident in the questions asked. This committee was set up to whitewash the explosions, not examine them, said, disgusted critics.
There was a stark contrast between the Committee and the witnesses who appeared before it. The witnesses coming before this absurd Committee were experienced professionals appearing in their official capacity. Many of them were themselves experts in investigation and interrogation. And all of them were well experienced in answering questions. They were far more competent than the investigating committee and they knew it.
The witnesses dealt effortlessly with the clumsy questions asked by the Committee, to the delight of the watching audience. While taking care to defend their own actions the witnesses also made sure that they threw up valuable observations. They knew the public was watching. So was the media. Newspapers and television picked up these observations and publicized them.
Archbishop of Colombo Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, who heads the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka, is today the severest critic of Yahapalana’s role in the bomb explosions. It is his flock who was affected and he is both angry and sad. He is pounding the issue. He is talking about it every day and everywhere.
The Cardinal called for a truly independent commission with full powers to probe the terror strikes. He said: “We don’t want compensation. We seek justice. Tell us the truth as to what happened and who caused the tragedy. The probes so far launched lacked impartiality and transparency.
Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith has repeatedly asked for an independent commission to probe the Easter bomb explosions. He wants a commission that can take legal action against persons. ‘I wrote to the President about this but there was no favourable response,’ he said.
The Catholic Bishop Conference in Sri Lanka (CBCSL) also spoke on the matter. Bishops of Badulla, Jaffna, Kandy, Kurunegala and the Auxiliary Bishop of Colombo, together with Cardinal Malcolm Ranjth, issued a statement where they made an earnest appeal to the government that an impartial inquiry be held and the perpetrators brought before the law.
A just, fair and impartial investigation has not yet taken place, the bishops said. We observe that several committees have been established and their main focus appears to be to find out those responsible for the serious lapses in security. Even though this effort is useful, we insist that as a matter of justice, the final aim of the inquiries should be to ascertain who the perpetrators are and who aided and abetted in any way in this dastardly acts. Unfortunately, we do not see any positive signs in this direction. An independent and impartial inquiry as a matter of utmost urgency. Everyone is still in fear and there is uncertainty in the minds of the people, concluded the statement.
Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith let go at the reconsecration of Katuwapitiya Church in July 2019. At its first mass after the bomb blast, Cardinal said many things, which were reported on television news. He said that the bomb blasts could have been avoided. Yes definitely”. The Indian High Commission had told him that they had sent three sets of information to the government. But the government, selfish, power-hungry ignored it.
The government was passing the buck without taking the responsibility for the loss of lives and those injured and maimed, he continued. They wish to brush all this under the carpet. They plan to set up committees and commissions and get the reports written the way they want it.
The government is bowing to foreign powers. That is why these matters are hidden. The report of the committee appointed by the President is not accessible to the public. I was told that the Attorney General will decide what to do about the report.
This government has dismantled the intelligence agencies that were once very strong. This was done to fulfill the needs of international organizations and NGOs. When the security forces detected a training camp used by extremists at Wanatha willuwa, the extremists who were arrested were freed.
Though the government repeatedly assured that those who had been involved with the Easter Sunday attacks were either dead or apprehended, the Catholic Church wasn’t convinced. .Leaders of the country were assisting in the objectives of the foreign powers. They were acting according to the whims and fancies of external forces this is not how they should behave.
The government should immediately resign and allow those who were capable of governing the county to take over. They must hand over the government to those who can carry it out, concluded the Cardinal. We cannot trust these people. This irresponsible, heedless set of leaders should now go home.
Pathfinder Foundation’s Milinda Moragoda has proposed that the President, the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader jointly nominate a Presidential Commission of Inquiry to investigate into bomb explosions.
Moragoda said: “It is very apparent that our society as a whole is seeking to understand exactly what happened and heal and reach closure with these seemingly incomprehensible events. There are much resentment and frustration in society that this national tragedy has been relegated to political theatre. It is therefore of national importance that a truly bipartisan and credible investigation be carried out immediately to get to the root causes and to bring closure for the victims.
Many religious and national leaders have joined in a call led by Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith for an independent and credible inquiry into the horrific terrorist attacks that took place in Sri Lanka on the 21st of April 2019. Although there have been two separate investigations initiated thus far by the President and the Parliament, these have been perceived by the public to be mere exercises in buck-passing and finger-pointing and thus lack the confidence of the country, concluded Moragoda.
Yahapalana politicians assured the public that the bomb threat is over, all have been arrested. But Army Commander Lt. Gen. Mahesh Senanayake, said in August 2019 that Islamic terrorists were still operating at various places in the country and the threats they posed were far from over. Some Islamic terror suspects were still at large and there were confirmed reports that they were still carrying out clandestine operations.
Derana News 19.8.19 reported that two Saharan trainees were arrested. One was 21 years, from Geli Oya. The other was a civil engineer 24 yrs from Galle. They were trained at Saharan’s training facility at Nuwara Eliya. Another 15 members of JMI have also been arrested at Ampara.
It has now dawned on the public that the reason the army and police moved so fast, to arrest persons after the bomb explosion in April was not that they were trying to catch the culprits, as we thought, but because they alone, knew that other bomb explosions were on the way.
Field Marshall Sarath Fonseka said that although it is claimed in some quarters that terrorism has been eliminated, the problem is not over. There is a police list of 130 of which only 60 have been arrested. Saharan and Co have trained about 1000 at 17 training camps.
Yahapalana leaders do not seem to understand the gravity of this, like a crab swimming in a pot over a stove, said Fonseka. It will take about eight years to eradicate this particular terrorism. But the government is not carrying out any specially directed program for this, he said. He cannot see any dedicated program to eradicate the Muslim threat. (CONCLUDED)