The names of many of those believed to be behind the bombings appear freely in the Tamil press. The English press, however, has a deferential silence because the names are of important politicians, even ministers and governors. This silence has to end. In a democracy, the people have the right to know so as to vote properly. In that spirit I am writing down names. These are based on public allegations made by respectable people – whether they are true or not, is for the law enforcement authorities to establish. Hopefully the accusation in print will force their hand.
President Maithripala Sirisena (26 April), carefully avoiding whether he himself was made aware of the tipoffs on imminent attacks, noted (quoting NewsFirst here) that highly descriptive information was given by a friendly nation to a Head of Intelligence on 4 April, adding that this information included targets and methods of the attack, and that the IGP had forwarded the information to 5 DIGs but only one of them, DIG Dasanayake, had acted on the intel.
Why indeed would the police act against powerful suspects when it is widely believed, even by the much respected Minister Kabir Hashim, that those under government patronage get arrested and released from police stations without being taken to court?
Career Choice for Young Sri Lankans
The President claimed to lack the laws to ban the National Thowheed Jamath. However, the 1997 “International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings” gives broad authority to act (including to pass legislation) given the involvement of foreigners. Moreover, the Emergency Regulations passed this week without a vote shows how easy it is for the government to pass almost any law it wants on security. Indeed, the government has used the existing framework to ban the LTTE.
Be that as it may, I am against any measure that takes away civil liberties.
Sleeping Over Sainthamaruthu
On the 26th, when the Special Task force raided Sainthamaruthu, there ensued a gun battle at the end of which three bombs were exploded in the bombers’ own homes killing 15 including 6 children, according to the BBC. However, the warnings have for long been there from the end of the year 2017 and the wound allowed to fester by inaction.
For, preceding the local government elections of Feb. 2018, Nizam Kariappar, President’s Council, of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress came to the Election Commission with the complaint that Minister Rishard Bathiuddin’s allies had taken over Sainthamarruthu. Signed notices that appeared were produced to us prohibiting others from contesting. A video showed motorcyclists riding through town beating up people. The elders responsible were asked by the Election Commission to let others contest freely. They agreed before us and shook hands. As a result, the SLMC fared slightly better than the extremists. But the cancer apparently continued to grow as seen last night. In hindsight, we should have disqualified the extremists and asked the police to clear their barricades and charge them. We failed the nation.
Charles Nirmalanathan, MP
Other Ignored Early Warnings
On 24 April, 2019, Charles Nirmalanathan, TNA Member of Parliament (MP), made a speech in Parliament detailing all the ignored tipoffs on ISIS training camps he had given the police. He added that the 9 persons arrested in Kilinochchi with arms this time were released from the police station itself with no charges filed in court. He said the Prime Minister (PM) knows the MPs protecting them but will take no action against them because without their support he fears the government will fall. The President knows but will not act because he fears losing the Muslim vote in upcoming presidential elections, he added. Nirmalanathan has specifically named Rishard Bathiuddin and Eastern Province Governor M.L.A.M. Hisbullah as having aided the bombers. In addition, he has accused Western Province Governor Azath Salley of using his influence with the President to release a person apprehended with 100 kg of the powerful explosive C4 in Wilpattu about January this year.
To boot, Nirmalanathan repeated these very same statements outside Parliament without the impunity that Parliament offers, daring those impugned to charge him if he is being libelous or is spreading false information that threatens national security. The Island reports that UPFA MP S. B. Dissanayake and TNA MP M. A. Sumanthiran alleged in Parliament that Minister Rishard Bathiuddin and Governor Hisbullah had links to the perpetrators of Easter Sunday’s terror attacks.
I have myself reported (Daily FT, 28 Jan. 2019) how the President appointed Hisbullah as Eastern Province Governor despite his admitting on video to using (or rather, misusing) his official powers to forcibly displace Tamil businesses to assign their market to Muslims. The police forced open shops closed in peaceful protest against the governor’s appointment. Moreover, in the Parliamentary Elections of Aug. 2015, the police were complicit in hiding or disappearing evidence of then-MP Hisbullah’s election abuses (as recorded by Election Commission staff).
After the bombing yesterday MP Sumanthiran met Governor Hisbullah, each accompanied by 2 to 3 friends. Hisbullah told Sumanthiran that he knew some of the bombers but did not know they would go this far. One particular bomber was very close to Hisbullah says Minister Kabir Hashim –see below.
Regarding Mr. Rishard Bathiuddin, a rehabilitated LTTE cadre testified to me that in the last days of the war they transferred money from LTTE storehouse loot in Mullaitivu to Bathiuddin in exchange for food. It was a very lucrative business for Bathiuddin according to my informant. Several complaints have gone to various officials and the police from Nirmalanathan and other TNA officials that Bathiuddin has been clearing the Wilpattu Reservations to settle his people for electoral gain, and that they contain ISIS training camps in the southern end of Musali DS Division (Mannar). It is 4-5 km long says Lohathayalan. No one knows, he adds, how the logs from such a large stretch were cleared unless he had the backing of the police and forestry officials. All this information is what MP Nirmalanathan referred to as having been given to the police, who did nothing.
Bathiuddin has a building by the sea in the Mannar DS division says Lohathayalan. Ships take off directly from the building — containing what, no one knows. Bathiuddin’s brother has been taken in by the police for questioning say news reports and – surprise, surprise – released quickly.
Nigerians Apprehended by Sri Lankan Navy
On three occasions, as reported to the police, different foreign people have crossed illegally by boat to India through Mannar. In the first week of November, it was 3 Turks. This was reported in Jaffna’s Uthayan by Lohathayalan. The Indian Consulate contacted him because they had arrested only one person in India and were trying to get information on the other two. On the third occasion about, 6 weeks ago, 5 Nigerians tried to cross over to India from Mannar. They – see photo – were apprehended by the SL Navy and are in remand. Former Northern Provincial Council member (and minister of fisheries for a while), B. Deniswaran, is their lawyer.
Minister Kabir Hashim’s Man Shot for Helping Police
About 2 to 3 months ago police intelligence searched for 31 Muslims with their photos on an A4 sheet. Minister Kabir Hashim assisted the police by telling them he knew where one was hiding and sent one of his employees to the suspect’s place of hiding with the police. Hashim, as reported in Tamil newspapers, alleges that Governor Hisbullah bailed out the suspect. Subsequently, Hashim’s assistant who led the police to the suspect was shot and is still in hospital. Hashim has publicly asked how people can come forward to help the police in these circumstances
North – A Narrow Escape
Many wonder why Roman Catholics in the North escaped this wrath. It was by a miracle.
I spoke to Rev. Fr. J.A. Jesuthas of St. Theresa’s Church on the A9 in Kilinochchi. On Easter Eve, he had celebrated the midnight mass and closed the church at 2:30 am. A 7:30 am Mass was to be conducted by another priest but, providentially, Fr. Jesuthas awoke at 5:40 am and opened the church doors. A young lady dressed like a Tamil (long ankle-length skirt and blouse with head uncovered) was there and walked to the middle of the church. She claimed to have come to worship and waited. Later, another man came and wanted water. Father pointed to a pipe, but the man wanted to go to the side of the church where the woman was. When told that there was no pipe on that side, he took some water from the pipe pointed to and left as there was a long wait for the Eucharist. – apparently they had got the service time wrong and there was hardly anyone present to set off the bomb.
The matter ended there until the newspaper Valampuri of 26 April carried photos of persons wanted in connexion with the bombings. The lady was the fifth on the list, named Pulasthini Rajendran (a.k.a. Sarah), probably a convert. Fr. Jesudas then reported it to the police.
Upholding Civil Liberties Even in Crisis Times
The strength of a democracy is measured by how it can uphold civil liberties in times of crisis. It appears that everyone, from the President downwards, has used those dispensing violence when it suited their political gain. Naturally, many national gains are being reversed. Politics is upside down.
Last month, quoting Jaffna newspapers, a provincial minister elected on the rights platform, whose husband was disappeared at the end of the war, was asked by Gotabaya Rajapakse for support at the presidential elections. She replied that while she could not do that directly, she would help him by asking Tamils not to vote for any Southern Party. This would effectively take away votes from the UNP. She had earlier, in M. Sivajilingam’s presence, promised CV Wigneswaran her support. It is no longer clear who stands for what.
Further, few know that in a major victory for rights, there are some 500 Pakistanis who received political asylum some years ago and were living in Negombo – until the bombings. Chased off by locals, the government is contemplating their move to Chettikulam believing the Northern Province might be the safest place for them now. In a reversal of commitment to rights today (27 April), Charles Nirmalanathan protested and State Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardene pleaded it would be temporary. With this end to civil liberties, the Pakistanis’ future is uncertain. and our rare achievement in human rights trashed.
Further, District Secretary and Government Agent Colombo Sunil Kannangara put up notices saying that those with face coverings like the burqa cannot enter the Kachcheri (Daily Mirror, 25 April). This affected the Election Commission too as one of our Colombo buildings is in the Secretariat. Saner counsel seems to be still lacking (see notice issued today). Our government is made of thick-headed control freaks.