The latest documentary produced by Britain’s controversial Channel 4, Sri Lanka’s Easter Bombings- Dispatches was fair enough to quote both the ‘whistleblower’ Asad Moulana and the Head of State Intelligence Service (SIS) Major General Thuan Suresh Sallay on the latter’s purported meeting with the leader of the National Thawheed Jama’ath (NTJ), Zahran Hashim, before the Easter Sunday bomb attacks, which killed 269 innocent people.
Maulana in the documentary tells Channel 4 that he arranged a meeting between the Head of the Main State intelligence arm and the Head of the terrorist organization in January 2018, on the instructions of the former.
Sallay on the other hand, denies it in the very same documentary, claiming that he was in Malaysia, during the period Moulana had mentioned, as he had been posted at the Sri Lankan Embassy in Kuala Lumpur then.
Did Channel 4 investigate both claims and find who was right and who was wrong with credible evidence? Is it fair for the viewers of the documentary to just place the two claims of an issue of this magnitude, before them, though doing so may be fair by Sallay and Moulana?
Also, the question arises if this is professional journalism, as this will only lead to dogfights in the country with various people clinging to the stances they prefer to believe.
The essence of the claim that is presented by Moulana through the Channel 4 documentary (Or by Channel 4 through Moulana) is that the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) leaders, former LTTE cadre –turned politician State Minister Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan alias Pillyan and SIS Chief Sallay had conspired in 2018 to launch a terrorist attack using NTJ, in order to create an chaotic situation in the country with a view to pave the way for Gotabaya Rajapaksa to win the Presidential election of 2019.
Sallay, it is said that, had used Moulana to find a link with the NTJ and to arrange a meeting with the leader of the terrorist group.
This is a theory that is very difficult to prove or dump straight away as there remain unanswered questions that seem to be helpful to the theory as well as its denial.
Whether Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his party, the SLPP engineered this macabre crime or not, the party used it and the chaotic situation that followed to the hilt to stir communal tensions for months, in order to create a demand in the minds of the people for a tough leader who can deal with terrorism.
By the time Gotabaya had already earned such a reputation or the Mahinda Rajapaksa Government had created one.
The main argument of the leaders of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) is that nine extremist Muslim Terrorists would not sacrifice their lives to bring a Sinhalese Buddhist leader to power.
Certainly, it’s a compelling argument. However, despite the absence of concrete and credible evidence establishing a clear connection between Gotabaya and Zahran Hashim, politics has shown itself capable of crafting peculiar and unbelievable narratives.
Can one expect a Sri Lankan President who is looking forward to win the next Presidential Election as well, as providing weapons to a deadly, ruthless and unreliable rebel group that fights the state armed forces? President Ranasinghe Premadasa did so.
Can an extreme Sinhalese Buddhist nationalist leader provide funds to an extremely racist Tamil rebel group that fights to carve out a separate Tamil State within the territory of Sri Lanka?
Tiran Alles, the current Public Security Minister told a few years back at a meeting that Mahinda Rajapaksa Government did so and it happened at his office.
One can still view the video footage of the meeting on YouTube. Besides, intelligence officials and rebel groups sometimes create links among them for varied purposes. They sometimes plant their agents in each other’s ranks. Sometimes members of insurgent groups are paid by State intelligence arms in order to obtain information.
SLPP Parliamentarian Namal Rajapaksa dismissed the allegation against his party contending that the victory of his party at the Presidential election had already been assured by early 2019 by the fact that they had won 70 percent of local government bodies at the 2018 LG elections.
The claim that SLPP had won 230 out of 340 Local Government bodies in the 2018 elections was true, but the party obtained only around 50 percent votes countrywide at that election.
Besides, no party would take a chance at a Presidential election whatever huge victory it had already achieved at a Local Government election.
Similarly, the prisoners, who have been incarcerated for underworld activities would easily rubbish Pillayan’s argument that a prison cannot engage in this kind of political conspiracy.
However, on what grounds we should believe Moulana’s claims, when an important point he had made – the one on the meeting between Sallay and Zahran – is being denied by Sallay, even throwing a challenge to check his travel documents.
The major part of the documentary had been dedicated to demonising Rajapaksas, instead of focusing on substantiating the main allegation, despite the allegations such as attacks on media during the Mahinda Rajapaksa administration are undeniable.
Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith says he has been pushed to believe the SLPP hand behind the Easter Sunday carnage due to Gotabaya Rajapaksa Government’s lethargic attitude towards the investigations into the attack. Yet, it was the same reason that created a rift between him and the Yahapalana Government as well.
Though the contentions that Moulana is making these allegations while seeking asylum in Switzerland and Channel 4 is an anti-Rajapaksa media outlet have strong grounds, the allegation of a purported link between the SLPP leadership and the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks has been circulating since 2020 and has for some extent rooted in the minds of a considerable segment of the people.
Since it might have prejudiced many in the society either this way or that way, it seems that only an international investigation might find the truth, as the Cardinal and Pillayan have demanded.
Although the purported Rajapaksas’ hand behind the terrorist attacks is yet to be proved by Cannel 4, and Moulana, the fact that the SLPP unashamedly used the carnage for its last Presidential Election campaign, bringing the country to the brink of another bloodbath similar to the 1983 Black July, by dangerously stirring communal feelings is a fact.