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Sri Lanka’s ex-prez dodges court over Easter attack remarks

Maithripala Sirisena recently made explosives claims that he knows the ‘real masterminds’ behind the 2019 bombings
Sri Lanka's ex-president Maithripala Sirisena in seen in this file image.

Sri Lanka's ex-president Maithripala Sirisena in seen in this file image. (AFP)

Published: April 05, 2024 11:41 AM GMT
Updated: April 05, 2024 12:01 PM GMT

Former Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena refrained from attending a court hearing over his controversial statement claiming he knew the ‘real masterminds’ behind the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings.

Sirisena’s lawyer informed Maligakanda Magistrate's Court of Colombo on April 3 that since he had provided a comprehensive statement to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the police that lasted five hours, it was not possible to appear in open court, media reports said.

The presiding judge accepted the motion on April 4 and has scheduled April 10 for the next hearing.

On March 22, Sirisena sparked a national debate after he told the media that he was ready to testify in court to reveal confidential information about the masterminds behind the deadly terror attack.

On March 25, the CID summoned him to record his statement over his explosive claims.

Local media reported Sirisena told investigators that India and its spy agency were involved in the attacks, which he came to know from a diplomat about three weeks ago.

Archdiocese of Colombo spokesperson Father Cyril Gamini Fernando wondered whether Sirisina’s remarks were aimed at gaining political advantage as the country is scheduled to go for presidential elections later this year.

“The former President declared that he came to know the facts just three weeks ago and will reveal the facts through courts. We don’t believe in this claim at all,” the priest said at a press conference in Colombo on April 4.

The issue was also raised in the Sri Lankan parliament by lawmakers.

Opposition leader Sajith Premadasa on April 1 urged the government to inform the House about the statement provided by Sirisena.

A minister said the statement was forwarded to the Attorney General for further action.

On April 2, Premadasa told the House that if he is elected in the upcoming Presidential elections, he would appoint a fresh Presidential Commission of Inquiry. It will have local and international experts who will probe the attacks afresh.

The opposition leader said that the government failed to respond to the questions he raised in the matter on the previous day.

The Sri Lankan Church also expressed concerns about the ongoing investigations carried out by the CID.

The CID comes under the purview of Inspector General of Police (IGP) Deshbandu Tennakoon whose appointment recently was strongly opposed by the Catholic Church.

The Presidential Commission of Inquiry, which probed Easter Sunday attacks, had recommended disciplinary actions against Tennakoon for failing to carry out his duties.

“We cannot trust the CID’s investigations since the department reports to him [IGP]. He is facing charges for failing to prevent the attacks," Father Fernando said.

Earlier, police declared that nearly ninety percent of investigations were concluded but with recent claims by former President Sirisena, it is evident that was not the case, he added.

Tennakoon came under renewed criticism from Catholics after he paid a visit to St. Sebastian's Church in Katuwapitiya, one of the three churches bombed in 2019, on Easter Sunday.

He also visited affected families of victims and distributed aid to them.

“It is regrettable that the IGP is engaging in this kind of token measures of providing dry rations for affected families without taking any steps to ensure justice for the victims and those affected in the attacks,” the priest said.

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