No international inquiry possible into 2019 Easter bombings: Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe

The President's Media Division said, "We cannot endorse the idea of international investigations into Sri Lanka’s internal matters."

October 07, 2023 12:49 pm | Updated 06:36 pm IST - Colombo

Ranil Wickremesinghe. File

Ranil Wickremesinghe. File | Photo Credit: AP

Dismissing the possibility of an international probe into the 2019 Easter terror attacks, Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe has reiterated that such an investigation into the incident was not permissible under the country's law.

Responding to Sunday's editorial in the Catholic Church's Messenger newspaper titled “An international investigation team is needed for an independent, transparent, and thorough investigation and monitoring”, the President's Media Division (PMD) said, "We cannot endorse the idea of international investigations into Sri Lanka’s internal matters." "The Constitution of Sri Lanka and all other existing laws do not provide for conducting international investigations. Consequently, carrying out such investigations would be in violation of the law," a press release by the PMD said on October 6.

Nine suicide bombers belonging to the local Islamist extremist group National Thawheed Jamaat (NTJ) linked to ISIS carried out a series of devastating blasts that tore through three Catholic churches and as many luxury hotels in Sri Lanka on April 21, 2019, killing nearly 270 people, including 11 Indians, and injuring more than 500.

The issue of the Easter attacks and its political undertone resurfaced in early September when the U.K.’s Channel 4 television station aired a documentary titled ‘Sri Lanka’s Easter Bombings - Dispatches’, alleging the involvement and complicity of certain government officials, including intelligence service chief Major General Suresh Sallay, in orchestrating the 2019 Easter suicide bombings.

It called the attacks a "crafted act” aimed at forcing a political change in favour of the then-powerful Rajapaksa brothers.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa announced his candidature three days after the attacks and was elected President seven months later. His elder brother Mahinda Rajapaksa was also the country's former President and Prime Minister. Both Rajapaksa brothers were forced to resign last year amidst the unprecedented economic crisis in the island nation.

“The Minister of Public Security, Tiran Alles, spoke to the Catholic Bishops Conference on Thursday and was informed that the Rev. Father Harold Anthony was in the process of studying a voluminous presidential commission report on the Easter attack investigation that had been delivered to him in April,” the press release said. It added that Mr. Wickremesinghe would meet the Catholic Bishops conference after they study the report.

During a fiery interview with the German state-owned broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) against the backdrop of Channel 4's allegations last week, Mr. Wickremesinghe dismissed the Channel 4 revelations and said that Sri Lanka will not have any international inquiry into the Easter blasts. "It is out," he said.

"The Sri Lankan government does not have international investigations. Full stop. Few people may want (it), but the Parliament doesn't," he said.

A prime panel headed by retired Supreme Court Justice SI Imam was appointed by Mr. Wickremesinghe to investigate the British channel's allegations. The Opposition, however, blames the President for going back on his earlier pledge to let Scotland Yard investigate the 2019 attacks.

They claim that Mr. Wickremesinghe is reliant on the support of the Rajapaksas to remain the President and, therefore, would not initiate an inquiry which could expose those behind the attacks. The attacks led to a significant political change in Sri Lanka. It has emerged that the then authorities had ignored prior intelligence on the attack by Indian intelligence agencies.

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