(Translated by Akitha Wijayasinghe)
Former Director of the CID Shani Abeysekara testified before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Easter bombing last night (26) that no evidence was found to prove that the Easter bombing was carried out under the direction of ISIS.
Mr. Abeysekara said that a person by the name of ‘Matale Saharan’ had asked the ISIS to take responsibility for the bombing and information had come to light that a State Intelligence Service personnel had been in constant contact with that person.
Mr. Abeysekara said that the State Intelligence Service officer who had been in touch with Matale Saharan was nicknamed ‘Tonic Tonic’ and that when the CID went to the State Intelligence Service to obtain statements from him, the intelligence chiefs did not allow to do that.
Shani Abeysekara was the last witness to testify before the Presidential Commission appointed by former President Maithripala Sirisena to look into the Easter attack. It was around 11.00pm when the commission finished testifying Mr. Abeysekara.
Shani Abeysekara said that although then President Maithripala Sirisena had stated that he would provide an opportunity to inform the Security Council about the organization involved in the extremist activities in Mawanella and Wanathawilluwa, Puttalam, such an opportunity had not been given.
Mr. Shani Abeysekara – “Senior DIG Ravi Seneviratne, who was in charge of the CID, informed the President on 2nd February 2019 at the Presidential Secretariat on Paget Road about the importance of arresting them as they are the same group behind both the incidents of damaging Buddha statues in Mawanella and finding explosives in the Wanathawilluwa area.
Then the President said, “Okay Ravi, then inform the Security Council about it.” But at no point after that, I or the senior DIG had have the opportunity to inform the Security Council. ‘
State Counsel: Did you inform the former President that Saharan Hashim is the head of the relevant organization?
Mr. Shani Abeysekara: I do not remember that. But if the Security Council had been given an opportunity to talk about this, all the details would have been presented.
Although Saharan Hashim and his group were preparing for an attack around May 2020, the attack was averted when a load of explosives was found in the Wanathawilluwa area in Puttalam, Mr. Abeysekara said. He also stated that it was difficult for the investigation teams to arrest those involved in the incidents as they were communicating using special applications on mobile phones.
Mr. Abeysekara said that although they had requested the relevant details of the mobile phone application used by them, the relevant company did not provide it.
Commission – Was it known prior to the attack that Saharan and others were communicating using this mobile phone application?
Shani Abeysekara – Yes sir. It was known before the attack. We asked for information in that regard. However, the information was not received properly from the relevant technical institutes.
The Commission also questioned the release of two suspects arrested in connection with the discovery of a stock of explosives in the Wanathawilluwa area in Puttalam. Mr. Abeysekara answered that he did not intervene to release the two persons.
Shani Abeysekara : A meeting was held in this regard under the chairmanship of the then Defense Secretary Hemasiri Fernando. The then Governor of the Western Province, Azad Sali and President’s Counsel Faizer Mustafa also participated. Azad Sali and Faizer Mustafa demanded to release the two suspects as they were not involved in the incident. At the moment, I opposed it and said that they had now been slammed with DO.
The investigating officer later submitted a report stating that there was insufficient evidence against the duo. The DIG in charge of the CID informed the President about this and took steps to release them under seven conditions. Until my suspension, they both appeared at the CID on the last Saturday of each month and signed.
Meanwhile, Mr. Abeysekara stated that he is in this situation today, as he took actions to arrest the suspects involved in the cases filed by the Attorney General. He said that his investigations did not involve politics at all and that he had always done the opposite of the demands made by politicians.
The Director of the State Intelligence Service Nilantha Jayawardena had given evidence on behalf of the defendants in the Nadarajah Raviraj murder case, Mr. abeysekara said. He went on to state that it was not uncommon for a police officer to testify on behalf of the defendants in such a case, and that Nilantha Jayawardena appeared for the defendants without informing the Deputy Solicitor General or the Attorney General’s Department.
Attorney-at-Law who appeared for Nilantha Jayawardena cross-examined Shani Abeysekara and asked him if he was aware of the content of the evidence given by Nilantha Jayawardena on behalf of the defendants in the Nadaraja Raviraj murder case. Replying to this, Mr. Abeysekera stated that he was not aware of that.
The lawyer who appeared for Nilantha Jayawardena stated that Nilantha Jayawardena had given that evidence in connection with an incident involving the then Defense Secretary and the present President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.
The Attorney-at-Law representing the Army, made another request to cross examine Mr. Abeysekara and the Commission directed him to inquire into any cross-examination yesterday. After consulting with the military, the lawyer announced that no cross-examination would take place that day.
The Presidential Commission finally ordered that the investigation team assisting the Commission in its work be provided with the necessary security.