By Amrit Muttukumaru –
Ruwan Wijewardene who was State Minister of Defence during the entire period of the Yahapalana government is the only person in the country who has exonerated National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ) leader Zahran Hashim of complicity in the Easter Sunday bombings killing more than 260 persons which included little children. This is indeed surprising since Zahran is widely believed to be one of the masterminds of this heinous crime.
There is no doubt that Ruwan Wijewardene said this since it was reported in the ‘Daily Mirror’ owned by his father: “there was no information to suggest that Zahran was engaged in terrorist activities though he expressed extremist ideas over social media.” (‘Daily Mirror’ 19 August 2020)
Ruwan’s opinion was well thought and cannot be dismissed since it was given 16 months after the carnage. He was also State Minister of Defence in the run-up to the attack on 21 April 2019.
What is mind boggling is why this is not an issue to the law enforcement authorities, the Cardinal screaming from the rooftop for accountability, politicians, civil society and most crucially all sections of the media – mainstream and social.
Could it be that all are in awe and fearful of Ranjit Wijewardene the owner of the country’s dominant print media company Wijeya Newspapers Limited (WNL) who is the father of the laid-back Ruwan?
Ruwan himself has debunked the charade floated by vested interests that then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and he were not in the loop on intelligence reports as they were kept out of meetings of the National Security Council (NSC) by then President and Minister of Defence – Maithripala Sirisena.
What is given below demonstrates that both then PM Ranil Wickremesinghe and Ruwan were attending meetings of the NSC until the ‘Constitutional Coup’ of 26 October 2018 where Wickremesinghe confirms “The NSC discussed extremist activities on several occasions.”
1) Ruwan Wijewardene told the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) in August 2019:
(i) “I was part of the NSC till the 51-day constitutional crisis in October, last year.” (The ‘Constitutional Coup’ lasted 51 days from 26 October 2018)
(ii) “I was not informed about the weekly Intelligence Coordination Meetings either after the constitutional crisis.”
(iii) “The National Security Council (NSC) discussed Muslim extremism in 2017 following a clash between two rival Muslim groups.”
(iv) “There were several occasions where the attacks could have been prevented. For example, if the Kattankudy Police had done their job properly after the clashes in 2017 and if the Mawanella Police had conducted their investigation properly, the disaster may have been averted.”
Ref. ‘The Sunday Times’ 11 August 2019:
2) Then PM Wickremesinghe told the same Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) in August 2019:
(i) “I was notified of NSC meetings up until October, 2018.”
(ii) “The NSC discussed extremist activities on several occasions.”
Does not Ruwan telling the PSC “There were several occasions where the attacks could have been prevented” indicate that both he and Wickremesinghe were in the loop and could have “prevented” the attacks? Why didn’t they bring it to the notice of the public even through Ruwan’s father’s media empire?
Why did first cousins Ranil (then PM) and Ruwan (then State Minister of Defence) wait until after the Easter Bombings to complain they were not invited for NSC meetings after October 2018? Is this not a dereliction of duty? Is this not a lame excuse to cover their tracks?
Just 12 days after Ruwan’s bombshell exoneration of Zahran Hashim, it was roundly contradicted by SI Srimal Sanjeewa of the CID when he informed the Presidential Commission probing the Easter Sunday carnage:
“National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) leader Zahran Hashim and his associates had been conducting a training camp for over four years at Al Zuharia Madrasa School in Pomparippu, Puttalam”
“NTJ leaders provided training to a selected group of 26 students on the use of Type-56 firearms and hand grenades.”
Ref. ‘Daily Mirror’ 1 September 2020:
(Ruwan’s exoneration of Zahran was reported in the ‘Daily Mirror’ on 19 August 2020)
Danger to Democracy
It is fraught with danger for the governance of this country that hardly anyone recognizes that the likely motive of Wijeya Newspapers Limited (WNL) to go out of its way to promote the dismal political track record of its owner’s nephew Ranil Wickremesinghe is to carve out a political future for Wijewardene’s laid-back son Ruwan who was given out of turn appointment as UNP Deputy Leader by first cousin Wickremesinghe. This is all part of dynastic politics.
Given below are two current examples:
1) Just three days ago (18 January 2023) WNL’s ‘Daily Mirror’ placed its news item ‘Ministers in the Dark Over Possible Massage Laws?’ at the top of its ‘Front Page’ while placing ‘Mudalige’s Case Transferred From Presiding Magistrate’ at the bottom of its ‘second page’!
Is this not to downplay Wickremesinghe’s hugely unpopular and despised act of incarcerating hugely popular Wasantha Mudalige – Convenor of the Inter University Students’ Federation (IUSF) under the feared draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA)?
2) ‘Daily Mirror’ had a news ‘blackout’ of the use of “water cannon against hundreds of people protesting in Jaffna against President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s visit on Thai Pongal day.” (‘The Island’ 17 January 2023)
Readers can ignore implications only at their own peril.
The above are recent examples. Imagine what is going on and what will most likely go on to protect Wickremesinghe and Ruwan in the coming days and months. WNL owns the highest circulation newspapers in the country – ‘Irida Lankadeepa’, ‘Lankadeepa’ (Daily), ‘Sunday Times’, ‘Daily Mirror’ and ‘Daily FT’. It also has the ‘Tamil Mirror’.
What is really frightening is everyone in the country simply ignoring Ruwan exonerating NTJ leader Zahran Hashim of complicity in the Easter Sunday bombings.
This includes the Cardinal, Sajith Premadasa, Anura Kumara Dissanayake, civil society and more crucially all sections of the media.
The fear of WNL is such that the appointment of Ruwan as Minister of Mass Media by cousin Wickremesinghe (then PM) during the Yahapalana government did not draw even a whimper of protest from either the state or private media although he had access to information from competing media institutions. At the same time he was also State Minister of Defence.
Into this mix is now WNL owner Wijewardene’s nephew being Executive President (unelected) and an opposition fearful of Wickremesinghe after what he has done to ‘Aragalaya’ activists and individuals such as Wasantha Mudalige – Convenor of the Inter University Students’ Federation (IUSF). The Cardinal too is silent on Zahran being exonerated.
What also needs to be probed is whether Ruwan’s exoneration of NTJ leader Zahran Hashim is part of a wider conspiracy whatever it maybe?
‘System Change’ My Foot!