Sri Lanka is to appoint a parliamentary committee to investigate allegations made by Britain’s Channel 4 that the then government may have colluded in the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings to create an “unsafe atmosphere” to help Gotabaya Rajapaksa win the presidential elections.
The attacks, which resulted in the deaths of 269 people, were blamed on local Muslims and led to a huge backlash against the Muslim community as a whole.
A Channel 4 Dispatches programme interviewed a whistleblower who said he arranged a meeting between a local ISIS-inspired group and a top state intelligence official to hatch a plot to create insecurity in Sri Lanka.
Azad Maulana said he arranged a meeting in 2018 between ISIS-inspired fighters and a top intelligence officer at the behest of his boss at the time, Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan.
Maulana said Chandrakanthan had met the group in prison and found they could be useful in creating insecurity in the country.
After security camera footage of the bombings was released, Maulana recognised the faces of the attackers carrying bomb-laden backpacks as those whom he had arranged to meet with the intelligence officer, Maulana said in the programme.
The programme also alleged that the government at the time obstructed investigations into the attacks.
Fears about national security enabled Rajapaksa to sweep to power, although he was forced to resign last year after mass protests over the country’s worst economic crisis.
Neither Chandrakanthan nor Rajapaksa has commented on the claims.
Speaking in parliament yesterday, Minister of Labour and Foreign Employment Manusha Nanayakkara said the Cabinet has proposed forming a special parliamentary committee to investigate the allegations.
Nanayakkara further said the government may seek international assistance to investigate Channel 4 claims.
“It is common practice for Channel 4 to publish such videos close to United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) sessions held in Geneva,” the minister was quoted as saying.
However, he added that the allegations “must” be investigated.
The Easter Sunday bombings of April 21, 2019, in Sri Lanka were a devastating series of coordinated suicide attacks that targeted churches and luxury hotels across the country, resulting in the loss of 269 lives and injuring hundreds more.
The attacks were carried out by a local group known as National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ), which had ties to ISIS.
In the immediate aftermath of the bombings, Sri Lanka was plunged into a state of shock and grief and witnessed a backlash against the Muslim community.
Mosques, homes, and businesses owned by Muslims were targeted, leading to violence and tensions between different religious communities.