‘Grand plot to gain power’

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  • Cardinal reiterates demand for independent international commission to conduct full probe into Easter bomb blasts

The graves mark the names of the innocents who were killed in the Easter Sunday bomb blasts in 2019 but they do not reflect the still continuing trauma and anguish of the loved ones they left behind. Nor do the graves of those that lie beneath give a sign of resurrecting the truth interred beside their dust; nor offer a ray of hope to the families that their long heartbreak search for justice for the dead will ever end.

The crosses above their graves serve as reminding sentinel who keep watch lest they are robbed of the Truth concealed behind the Easter Sunday mass attacks on two main Catholic shrines in Colombo and Negombo and of the Protestant faith. But while their families’ search for elusive justice has brought them no nearer to the truth, those seriously wounded in the blast four years ago, still wait with dying hope for the relief the Gota Government vowed to grant in its aftermath before the flood of sympathies had ebbed.

EASTER’S BLOODY CARNAGE: A statue of Jesus survives undamaged in the midst of the debris at St Sebastian’s Church, Katuwapitiya in Negombo

Though no financial compensation can bring back the dead nor instantly heal the disfigured or disabled maimed, the promised compensation by the Government can certainly help both dependents of the dead and the five hundred-odd injured to meet the future with more confidence with the means to keep the wolf from their doors. The Government reneged on its relief pledge, stinted on the aid doled out, and, if and when it came, it flowed in measly dribbles that were grossly insufficient to meet their despair.

These victims of a bloody carnage that had shocked and moved a nation to demand a change of government, especially a strong one to beef up the island’s internal security, now lie forgotten, left alone to grieve their fates and nurse their wounds. Denied the justice they still seek, with the ‘who dun it and why’ mystery still shrouded in dark clouds, dependent solely on the special fund set up by Cardinal Malcom Ranjith to eke out a bleak existence, these are the wolf’s black sheep best kept penned in isolation, lest their pathetic plaintive bleats give rise to much alarm among the rest.

But the revolting dastardly act that shocked and earned the wrath of heaven and earth cannot go unpunished nor be erased from memory. The question on the world and Lanka’s lips today after the British government-owned Channel 4 allegations were aired this week of a political conspiracy behind the Easter Sunday tragedy, to bring the Rajapaksas back to power with Gotabaya as President, is the same as the families of the dead and the wounded asked then and still ask.

THE CARDINAL MALCOM RANJITH: Urges international probe

Whether the Muslim suicide squad who did perpetrate this outrage, did so out of their own accord because they harboured a death wish to die and find in heaven their reward of 13 brides or whether their fanatical belief was ruthlessly exploited by some hidden hand in the pursuance of its own diabolical interest is still an open question that has not been yet resolved.

If the last part of the conundrum is indeed the case, then what was the purpose, the gain, and for whose benefit was the plot hatched?

Two years ago on May 18th, a week before retirement, the Attorney General Dappula de Livera made the startling claim that the Easter Sunday bomb blasts were a conspiracy.

In his comments to Sirasa TV’s NewsFirst, de Livera claimed that, ‘it is not possible to confirm if the Islamic preacher Mohamed Naufer’ – whom the Gota regime regarded officially as the mastermind and held in custody – ‘was the mastermind though he is the leader of the group. The suicide bombers are the people who executed this conspiracy and they’re not among the living’.

Three days before his TV claims, de Livera had written to the IGP stating that he was ‘unable to press charges or file indictments against the conspirators and abettors of the Easter Sunday attack as the CID had not completed its investigations and though Naufer was a key conspirator, he couldn’t be considered the mastermind of the terror attacks.’

In Channel 4’s investigative documentary on Easter Sunday’s blasts, its foremost whistleblower Hanzeer Azad Maulana was a long-time former top aide to Pillayan, the ex-LTTE terrorist turned Government agent and present State Minister for Rural Road Development. Azad Maulana claims, he ‘set up a 2018 meeting between a senior military intelligence official, Suresh Salley, and Islamic State-affiliated bombers to hatch a plot to destabilise Sri Lanka and facilitate the Rajapaksas’ return to power.’ He also claims, ‘the attack was not a plan made in just one or two days, the plan was two, three years in the making.’

Azad Maulana further claims, his former boss Pillayan immediately saw the utility of extremists only interested in “death, death, death’’, and told him. ‘We can use them, they are not interested in anything in the world.’

In a letter to Channel 4, Salley – who was promoted to head of military intelligence when Gotabaya Rajapaksa won power six months after the Easter Sunday attack – called the allegations “outright false” and denied any contact with the individuals who spoke to the filmmakers. He said he was not in Sri Lanka on the dates the alleged contact with the bombers was made. ‘I have no connection whatsoever in the Easter Bombing’, he wrote.

Britain’s ‘The Times’ in a preview report published on Monday stated that ‘Azad Maulana fled Sri Lanka last year and has presented his testimony to European intelligence agencies and the United Nations. They are treating his claims as credible and investigating.’

CHANNEL 4’s WHISTLE BLOWER: Azad Maulana

Channel 4 stated that neither Pillayan nor the Rajapaksa family responded to Channel 4’s requests for comment.

But after it was aired on Tuesday night, Gotabaya and Pillayan reacted to Channel 4’s allegations. Gotabaya Rajapaksa said that the latest programme by Channel 4 is primarily an anti-Rajapaksa tirade aimed at blackening the Rajapaksa legacy from 2005 onwards.

He denied all claims of his involvement and described the allegation that a group of Islamic extremists launched suicide attacks in order to make him President, as ‘absurd’.

In a statement released to the media on Thursday, he further said: ‘I have personally done everything possible to help the Roman Catholic community when I held government office.’

Pillayan, too, denied all claims to his involvement in the dastardy; and he denounced his former longtime aide, Azad Maulana as ‘a con man who betrays others for his survival’. He said: ‘It is an extremist Islamic group that masterminded the Easter Sunday attacks and this fact should be understood by many including the Catholic Church. They should remember that there are terror groups such as the Taliban still existing in the globe’.

The Government’s response to the allegations was given by its spokesman Manusha Nanayakkara – who left the SJB and joined the ruling SLPP ranks last year. He told Parliament on May 5, that ‘a special Parliamentary Select Committee will be appointed to probe Easter Sunday’s bomb blasts’.

This was contemptuously mocked by Opposition leader SJB’s Sajith Premadasa who told the House, ‘Parliament Committee? That would be like asking the rogue’s mother to read the crystal ball’. Instead, he urged for an international probe, and said: ‘The Sri Lankan government should be ashamed that a disclosure has been made on the Easter Sunday attacks. The government should have come up with a disclosure instead. Accordingly, an international-level probe on the Channel 4 disclosure is a must.’

The Cardinal, who had for long been at the forefront to find justice for his flock; and was determined to uncover the puppeteer who pulled the strings of the suicidally bent marionettes and sent them on – without a qualm – their ghastly suicidal mission of death to massacre the innocents while praying at their Catholic churches on Blessed Easter Sunday morn, addressing a press briefing on Wednesday, pooh-poohed the idea of a select committee to probe the Easter blasts and said, ‘it will once again be a waste of time and resources’.

Instead, the Cardinal, who described to Channel 4 the attacks as a ‘grand plot to gain power’, demanded a ‘free and impartial, transparent independent international team, assisted by local officials of the CID who were originally sought by the government and later transferred, to investigate Channel 4 allegations.’

The Easter Sunday massacre in churches and top tourist hotels was undoubtedly a crime against humanity. This senseless terrorist attack claimed the lives not only of Lankans but also of 43 foreigners from Britain, Denmark, Portugal, India, Turkey, Australia, the Netherlands, Japan, Switzerland, Spain, Bangladesh, the US and China.

International jurisdiction for all terrorist attacks transcends state borders and all states — especially the States which had lost their own citizens — should be mobilised to urge the United Nations to set up a UN investigation to probe the tragedy.

Fourteen States have suffered, including Sri Lanka and mere condemnation alone would not suffice to grant those who were killed the justice they deserve but only a concerted action to bring before a court of law all those responsible will do.

As JVP’s Anura Kumara Dissanayake told the media this week, a telling idiom in Sinhala has it that ‘villagers know who the poacher with the hidden gun is when they notice him returning home with the spoils of the hunt’.

Health Minister Rambukwella: Survives to die another dayThis Sunday morn, perhaps Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella intends uncorking the chilled bubbly he had kept reserved to celebrate his parliamentary triumph. Congratulations.On Friday evening he had plain sailed to victory with the assured support of the ruling SLPP whose block vote of 113 MPs – not to forget some valuable help from 38 MPs who had conveniently walked out from the House, perhaps to answer urgent calls of nature, and missed the crucial voting hour – secured for him his moment of egoistical pride when the expected outcome showed the no-confidence motion brought against him by MPs from the SJB had been defeated by 113 to 73 votes. 

RAMBUKWELLA: Plain sailing with SLPP support

But though defeated as predicted, the SJB MPs had waged the good fight and for that the nation’s thanks are justly due.  These MPs had revealed the chaotic state that exists in the Health Ministry under Rambukwella rule and tenure. Referring to reports and quoting facts and stats, they had exposed corruption and incompetence. Heavyweight, Kiriella and former Heath Minister Ranjith Senaratne revealed how statuary exceptions to the rules have become the new norm, resulting in a flood of substandard drugs from unregistered Indian firms  which had led to the deaths of patients.

Another former SLPP State Minister of Health, now an independent MP, Doctor Sudharshani Fernandopulle, asked in Parliament why the nation needs a Health Minister who blames mysterious deaths on the patients’  ‘karume’  or an NMRA chief who quotes the ‘Kisa-Gotami story’ when asked about defective drug deaths.

But if there is euphoric joy in Rambukwella’s arrogant inflated breast, is there disquiet at SLPP’s party headquarters? Though they remain glad they had followed the Mahinda doctrine of ‘shape and shield’ any party loyalist however wayward they maybe, is there a sense of brooding gloom that cast a shadow on their victory? Had they, perhaps, signed their death warrant and sealed their own fate?

Can they hear the hard knocking blows of the last nail being driven home into SLPP’s collective coffin by a people who unanimously had, on Friday night, passed a no-confidence resolution against the SLPP leadership and its enslaved MPs?

SLPP Health Minister Rambukwella shouldn’t tarry raising a toast with his chalice of triumphant wine. Like the condemned man granted the last feast he desires, he should not let this last chance slip by.

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