Sri Lanka's Defence Ministry on Saturday defended the country's intelligence chief after he was accused by a British television channel as the plotter of the 2019 Easter Sunday suicide bombings which killed 270 people, including 11 Indians.
The move came two days after ousted former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s denial of Major General Suresh Sallay's involvement in the bombings and that he had benefited from the attacks to win the presidential election in November 2019.
UK’s Channel 4 television station on Tuesday aired a documentary titled ‘Sri Lanka’s Easter Bombings – Dispatches’ alleging the involvement and complicity of certain government officials in orchestrating the 2019 Easter suicide bombings.
It called the attacks a “crafted act” aimed at forcing a political change in favour of the Rajapaksa brothers.
“The Ministry of Defence vehemently denounces the accusation of orchestrating the attack and assisting the bombers against a dedicated senior military officer who has served the nation for 36 years," the ministry said in a statement.
The ministry maintains that Major General Sallay was serving at the Sri Lanka High Commission in Malaysia from December 2016 until December 2018.
“He left for India on January 3, 2019 and returned to Sri Lanka on November 30, 2019, after completing the National Defence College Course in Delhi”.
The ministry says since the attacks the successive Sri Lankan governments have taken action to uncover the truth.
“They have done so by facilitating transparent investigations conducted by both local and international professional agencies — the comprehensive investigation conducted by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the United States, along with the subsequent verdict rendered by the U.S. Department of Justice, have reaffirmed the findings of local investigations," it said.
Responding to the claims that Major General Sallay was a Rajapaksa loyalist, Mr. Rajapaka on Thursday said that Mr. Sallay was a career military officer who had served under many presidents and that all military officers are loyal to the State and not to private individuals.
Mr. Rajapaksa claimed that he had no contact with Mr. Sallay after leaving the position of Defence Secretary in 2015 and until he was elected President in 2019.
He added that Sallay had informed Channel 4 that he was not in Sri Lanka when the documentary alleged a meeting between the Major General and the suicide bombers.
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 on April 21, 2019, killing nearly 270 people, including 11 Indians, and injuring over 500.
On Wednesday, the Minister of Labour and Foreign Employment, Manusha Nanayakkara, told Parliament that the Cabinet decided to appoint a special Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) to probe into the allegations made by the UK’s Channel 4 programme.
The April 2019 Easter attacks led to a significant political change in Sri Lanka. It emerged that the then authorities had ignored prior intelligence on the attack by Indian intelligence agencies.
Then President Maithripala Sirisena and the entire top police brass were ordered to pay compensation by court during a hearing of fundamental rights petitions filed by the victims’ relatives.