16 April, 2024


Easter Sunday Carnage – Reminiscences 

By Rusiripala Tennakoon –

Rusiripala Tennakoon

Calendar shows a different date. But one year ago on a day like this, with tears in our eyes and fear in our minds we became a helpless nation. Last Easter Sunday. It was the day of the terrorist attack on Christian places of worship and some leading tourist hotels in the City. The murderous perpetrators were identified in no uncertainty as a group of Muslim religious extremists.  Our hearts still mourn for the innocent victims, with a toll of nearly 400 human lives and permanent incapacitation to several hundreds. Numbers injured physically and those who suffer tormented with the mental distress caused due to the shock, are many. The incident is still fresh in our minds and hearts. But the tragedy is, to date we have not been able to get a clear idea of the correct background to this episode and the villains responsible for this most inhuman atrocity apart from punishing the guilty  which remains still remote.  Governments and administrations have changed, high level commissions of inquiries are plodding on, but elements responsible continue inexplicably haunting unseen. 

Let us on this Holy day, observed by billions of people round the world, recall with grief filled memories, how the last year’s Easter Sunday became a funeral for the whole nation. The memories associated with this horrid event in the history of mankind unfolds the cruelty of the devil that poisons the human minds. Overcoming a great repugnance to ponder over this horrible scenario, the mental emotions compel me to recapitulate some of the happenings related to the incident. A chronological reference is therefore made as follows;

Date of the attack 21st April 2019

30th November 2018 – Two policemen were killed in Vaunathivu police area while on duty and their weapons removed.

22nd and  26th of December 2018- during the night a group of persons causing damages to 4 Buddha Statues in four different localities in the Kegalle Police area;

27th Dec. 2018- Police producing 7 suspects arrested in connection with this incident before the Mawanella magistrate { all 7remanded} Police have informed the Presidential Commission subsequently, while questioning the suspects they have found out that this group of persons have caused damages to statues of Buddhist ,Hindu and Christian religions, in 3 other locations in the police areas in Peradeniya, Welambada and Pothuhera. Police also found out that the group was led by 3 people named Mohamed Imbrahim Saheed, Mohamed Ibrahim Sadik and one Saharan.

Saheed and Sadik were residents of Mawanella but they had fled the area. Saharan was reported to be residing in the Kattankudy area but a police team sent by Kegalle Police division was unable to apprehend him.

On 28th Dec.2018 – SP Kegalle writes to Senior SP, Shani Abeysekera of the CID reporting the current developments of the incidents. In this report the SP has indicated that according to information revealed there appears to be an international organization behind this. He has therefore proposed the CID to initiate action in this regard. On 29th Jan 2019, SSP CID Shani Abesekera replies Kegalle SP informing him that he is unable to get the support of the International police  for want of details such as the name of the country, and the people involved and how.

On 14th Jan 2019 Senior DIG Sabaragamuwa has submitted a report to the IGP recommending the appointment of a special CID team to conduct further investigations. 

On 16th Jan 2019 on information received about the two absconding suspects in the Mawanella case, the CID team raids two houses in the Lactose Estate in vanathawilluwa in the Puttlam area. They find a huge collection of suspicious materials, and explosives used for making bombs and some weapons used by a group of persons who conducted a training camp there for terrorist activities. The two wanted suspects too have been there. Police arrest four persons who were in the camp at the time of the raid.         

On the day of this raid , four senior officials , one colonel from the Army Intelligence, DIG Puttlam, Intelligence officials of the Navy and an ASP of the National Intelligence Service have visited the scene. They have made on the spot observations of the raid and the items taken to custody.

On 30th Jan, 2019 OIC CID special investigations unit files a B report listing out details of the items ,explosives and the weapons taken into custody to the Mawanella magistrate and request the suspects in remand be further remanded.

CID also obtained an order from the magistrate preventing the person named Zaharan from leaving the country.

The four persons arrested at vanathawilluwa camp site were detained under special orders for 90 days. On 10th April 2019, two of these suspects are released by the magistrate on a special paper filed by the CID stating that they had no intentional involvement in the alleged terrorist activities. It is now known that this was due to heavy influencing by certain political heavy weights. It is clear from the laid down exceptional conditions for their release that this was something unwillingly done by the authorities due to political pressure.

On 13th March 2019 CID files a report in Mawanella Courts stating that they have detected foreign remittances to an NGO which later transferred to an account at the Amana Takaful which the police suspected to be the source of funds to the group involved in the suspected activities.

On 27th March 2019, CID has obtained an order preventing 6 more suspected persons from leaving the country.{ it is interesting to note that some of these names appeared in the leaked foreign intelligence report handed over to the authorities before the April 21 attack}.

On 8th April 2019 the now leaked foreign intelligence report was available to the SIS of the Police. The report as quoted carried the following information;

Quote, “as per an input Sri Lanka based Zaharan Hashim of National Thowfeed Jamat and his associates are planning to carry out suicide terror attacks in Sri Lanka shortly. They are planning to target some important churches. It is further learnt that they have conducted reconnaissance of the Indian High Commission of Sri lanka and it is one of the targets for the planned attack”

The input also indicated the mode of the attack. Suicide attack, weapon attack, knife attack and truck attack. The likely team members of the attack was also listed.

Zaharan Hashim,Jal Al Quithal, Rilwan,Sajid Moulavi, Shahid, Milhan and others.

It is to be noted that long before this leaked intelligence report the Police CID team investigating into the Mawanella incident from time to time between January and March 2019 had reported to Mawanella Courts the names of these suspects. Only thing is for some unknown reason they were not arrested.

On or about 8th April 2019 ,Chief of Intelligence Sisira Mendis informs IGP in writing about an Intelligence warning.

STF commander DIG Latiff receives  that letter on 9th April 2019 at 18.45 hours with another note as an annexure from the IGP written as, “FNA” with no other instructions.

9th April 2019, Director Terrorist Investigation Division (TID)receives this Intelligence warning. IGP forwards the same to him on 10th April 2019.He informs his officers that Zaharan was definitely attempting an attack. Instructions go to Kalmunai TID on 11th April 2019 to arrest Zaharan. The director TID contacts the Facebook and takes steps to block Zaharan’s FB account. On 15th April Facebook blocks Zaharan.

10th April 2019 DIG Latif contacts  the Indian High Commission about the warning and the counsellor confirms that they are aware of it and he provides security to them.

On 16th April 2019 an explosion takes place at Kattankudy and the police find out that it was due to an experimenting on a timer for bombing.

On 19th April 2019 Director SIS contacts DIG Latiff and seeks his opinion about the April 16th explosion.

Then comes the D Day 21st April 2019 Easter Sunday, innocent religious observers congregate for Prayers at Kochchikade Church, Katuneriya Church, and Zion Church Batticaloa.

Suicide bombers blast themselves killing several hundred in these churches. Simultaneously bombs go off at two leading Tourist Hotels, Shangri La and Kinsbury in  Colombo Fort killing many locals and foreigners, injuring several and causing heavy damages to property.

Bomber at Taj Samudra, fails to blast his mechanism and goes to his adobe at Dehiwala Tropical Inn and accidentally detonates it while checking the timer.

Country is terrified and shocked. The entire world was stunned with the news.

President of the country was overseas. Then Defense secretary Hemasiri Fernando, now released on bail after arrest, was seen going about in a limousine around Kochchikade Church area clad in full European attire. A video clip in TV media quoting him saying “we cannot provide security to hotels” !.

We also came to learn in this aftermath that the IGP of the country passing down a foreign intelligence warning about a pending terrorist attack to his subordinates with a note stating only “FNA”. And this he does at a time when several incidents of preparatory actions leading to confirmed terrorist attacks being revealed and acted upon by the police.

IGP gets interdicted 

Hemasiri Feranado resigned from the post of Defense Secretary on 25th April 2019. He then was holding several high profile positions simultaneously as Defense Secretary, Chief of Staff Presidential Secretariat,and Chairman Peoples Bank until he was relived from these responsibilities a few months later after the Easter Sunday attack.

AG initiated action in courts against them. Colombo Magistrate  refused to remand them  and decided to release these two on bail on 9th July 2019. But the AG applied against this to the High Court seeking a revision. The High courts granted it and these two suspects were remanded on 9th October 2019.

Parliament decided to appoint a Select Committee to probe the Easter Sunday Terrorist attack in July 2019. Sittings were held continuously over three days. Many witnesses from the Intelligence services, police were called before this PSC. Director SIS was questioned over 5 hours without the journalists in a location outside the parliament. Many hilarious instances came to light during this PSC such as the inability of the defense Secretary to talk with the President.   

Notwithstanding, a presidential commission of inquiry too was appointed on 25th September 2019 to investigate and inquire into and report or take necessary action on the bomb attacks on 21st April 2019 which is still proceeding.

Dereliction of duties, irresponsible behaviors of authorities, improper appointments, undue political interventions, sabotage, suspicious dealings, deceptive actions, ostensible policy pronouncements were in galore. Expectations of many remain high and dry.

The country owes a duty in appreciation of the role played by religious leaders including his eminence Cardinal Malcom Ranjith and few leading  highly venerable Buddhist nayake theros.

The Easter Sunday massacre led by extremist fanatics gives a message to the world how a relaxation of security could lead to a calamity. At the same time how tense situations could be managed and controlled through compassionate involvements of important religious figures. In our country it displayed how the communities living in peace tolerated the issue in harmony without any backlashes of communal or religious violence.

Let us pray that there will never be a repetition.    

 Our sympathies and best wishes go to the families of victims.

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Latest comments

  • 1

    Can’t wait to get my comments……US FOX NEWS Dubbed it Terror attack from a Terror-CELL From HELL….To Investigate Scotland yards to FBI to British Ausi Counter Terror experts were here….Guess what they make of it after the PRESIDENTIAL Election….the man that had the greatest threat for his life From LTTE — MAhinda RAJAPAKSA was just 700 YArds from the Kochchikade …talk about a Quinncidence OR “being at the right place at the right Time” Just exactly after 43 Minutes after the Explosion Mahinda RAJAPAKSA whining about ON DERANA network ” Yahaplana HAs Failed to protect the Public ” – after 1.45 Later he was at Negombo Hospital….Chanting the same Garbage…….How on earth did Mahinda RAJAPAKSA got security Clearance to Authorization to go to these places……well That’s what All the Security EXPERTS were baffled Except of course for SL Military…….Get the point……If you have the Guts to see it…..there were so many Hi Profile churches in Colombo to Kandy why Supposed LOCAL ISIS choose these Churches LOCATED at Low Income DEMOGRAPHIC Regions…….still didn’t get the picture……2 US Retired Terror Specialists to 02 Australians Concluded…” This is an Inside JOB…..Brilliantly Executed……Following Friday Gotabaya main theme was ” To Defeat Isalmic Terror From SL “

  • 2

    Rajapakse Presidential Conspiracy , Good question. Lets wait for the experts to come in. Let me add few more to yours. Rusiri, Soon after then I offended a few by stating Lankans conveniently seems to have very short memory. Were we united then ?????? Are we united now, during this Pandemic ?????? Will be united at all ????

    • 1

      “In our country it displayed how the communities living in peace tolerated the issue in harmony without any backlashes of communal or religious violence.”
      Mr. Rusiri, do you live in Sri Lanka?
      If so, though you seem to be aware of so many details of the Easter carnage, you are unaware of the anti-Muslim
      violence which followed? Is it because of your devout Buddhism that you don’t mention its orchestration by Buddhist monks and not Christians?
      If at all you should have commented on the forbearance of the Christians.

  • 1

    Why so few comments?
    Where have all the Thambis gone?
    Are they all praying with their bums pointing to the sky?

  • 2

    Pooton, NO, NOT AT ALL. Silly Lankans in general, have very short memory. If you dont trust me,just wait for Corona to pass over and come next election, Lankans will be partying and asking what Corona ??? The Beer ????

  • 2

    Thank you Mr Tennekoon for this timely article.

    Muslims in this forum have been dumping irrelevant article after article in this forum to divert the attention away from this tragedy.

    As is expected not a single Muslim will write a comment on this thread and show empathy. Instead they will shun this thread like the cowards they are.

    As for the innocent victims, we haven’t avenged their deaths and we owe it to them.

  • 0

    The irony is that the two persons who continue to claim ignorance and shun responsibility for the massacre of the innocents last year, are both contesting at the forthcoming parliamentary elections. They will most probably be elected with handsome majorities by the voters of Polonnaruwa and Colombo respectively.

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