Sri Lanka Easter attacks | Ex-President Maithripala Sirisena named suspect

Mr. Sirisena asked to appear in Colombo court in October

September 16, 2022 09:38 pm | Updated September 17, 2022 09:15 am IST - COLOMBO

A Presidential Commission of Inquiry recommended that Maithripala Sirisena be prosecuted for his failure to prevent the incident, despite intelligence input from India

A Presidential Commission of Inquiry recommended that Maithripala Sirisena be prosecuted for his failure to prevent the incident, despite intelligence input from India | Photo Credit: AP

A Sri Lankan court on Friday named former President Maithripala Sirisena a suspect in a case pertaining to the 2019 Easter terror bombings and directed him to appear in court this October.

The Magistrate Court in Colombo’s Fort area gave the orders in response to a private plaint filed by Fr. Cyril Gamini Fernando, a member of the National Catholic Committee for Justice to Easter Sunday Attack Victims, local media reported.

For more than three years now, Sri Lanka’s Catholic Church, and families of the victims of the gruesome serial blasts — that killed about 280 people and left hundreds injured — have been demanding justice.

‘Grand political plot’

In March, Archbishop of Colombo Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith told the UN Human Rights Council that the incident was a “grand political plot”. Six months after the attacks, former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa ran for presidency promising national security, and won with a thumping majority. Members of the Catholic church and Cardinal Ranjith backed Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa in the 2019 polls, but later voiced disappointment over the lack of progress in the investigations.

The Cardinal has since contended that the attacks had a political or electoral motive.

The latest report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, released earlier this month, calls for the release of the “complete findings” of previous inquiries into the Easter Sunday bombings and establishment of a “follow-up independent and transparent investigation” with international assistance. President Ranil Wickremesinghe has said Sri Lanka would rope in Scotland Yard to help its investigators.

This is not the first time that the blame for the 2019 Easter bombings has fallen on Mr. Sirisena, who was President then. A parliamentary select committee appointed in May 2019, and tasked with probing the Easter bombings, accused President Sirisena of “actively undermining” government and security systems, leading to “serious lapses” ahead of the attacks that shook Sri Lanka a decade after its civil war ended.

In February 2021, a Presidential Commission of Inquiry recommended that Mr. Sirisena and his intelligence chiefs be prosecuted for their failure to prevent the incident, despite Colombo receiving an intelligence input from India, weeks before the suicide bombings that are attributed to a radical Islamist network in Sri Lanka. Mr. Sirisena has denied any prior knowledge.

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