British broadcaster: Rajapaksa officials behind Easter 2019 attacks
by Melani Manel Perera

An investigation aired yesterday on Channel 4 implicates the former president for the Colombo massacres. In a documentary with unreleased material, a source revealed that a meeting was arranged between the current intelligence chief and Islamic extremists. The current executive says it will support an international investigation, but ministers contradict each other.

Colombo (AsiaNews) - Some officials close to the family of the former Sri Lankan president have facilitated the organization of the 2019 Easter attacks - in which over 260 people died - to favor the Rajapaksa family's return to power.

The revelation, made by a high-level source, is contained in an investigative documentary of the "Dispatches" program aired yesterday on the British broadcaster Channel 4. In the video, the source admits that in 2018 he had organized a meeting between the current of military intelligence, Suresh Salley, who was then working for the national intelligence directorate, and some militiamen of the National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ), an extremist organization affiliated with the Islamic State.

The goal was to hatch a plot to destabilize the country and ensure that Gotabaya Rajapaksa, effectively elected president in November 2019 after promising to shed light on the attacks, came to power.

Six suicide attacks took place on Easter Sunday against churches and luxury hotels in the capital Colombo, killing 269 people and injuring around 500. Since then, law enforcement has had difficulty arresting those responsible for the tragedy and thoroughly investigate the massacre.

The broadcast of the documentary immediately generated a parliamentary debate, following which the ministers also contradicted each other. Labor minister Manusha Nanayakkara said yesterday that the current president, Ranil Wickremesinghe - appointed after street protests last year ousted Rajapaksa - will support an international investigation. At the same time, he added, the executive will set up a "special parliamentary commission" to look into the matter.

Opposition leader Sajith Premadasa has also called for an international inquiry to be launched, while MPs from Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna, the party still led by the Rajapaksa family, argue that the British broadcast is trying to create internal divisions of the country, and that the population had already decided, before the attacks, to vote for the election of the former president.

Later, the government spokesman and Minister of Transport and Mass Media, Bandula Gunawardena, denied in a press conference that there had been a discussion between the Council of Ministers regarding the matter of the documentary: "We only discussed what it was on the agenda,” he said.

Both Gunawardena and Nanayakkara have argued that Channel 4 has in the past broadcast its documentaries before sessions of the UN Human Rights Commissions to tarnish Sri Lanka's reputation.