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Defense Ministry categorically denies Channel 4’s “outrageous” claims on Easter attacks

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Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Defense has vehemently denounced the accusations leveled by the British television network Channel 4 in its new documentary that the 2019 Easter Sunday terror attacks were deliberately orchestrated by senior governmental officials

In a statement, the Defense Ministry went on to categorically deny Channel 4’s claims that Major General Suresh Sallay was complicit in the supposed calculated bombings, which targeted several churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka.

Deeming the accusations “outrageous”, the Defense Ministry reiterated that the terrorists involved in the Easter Sunday attacks, in which the lives of more than 260 people were and hundreds of others were left wounded, had never been on the government payroll.

The ministry also expressed profound dismay at Channel 4 for “promulgating such a malicious and unsubstantiated narrative.”

It asserted that Channel 4 would be held unequivocally accountable for any unforeseen actions or repercussions stemming from their “unfounded, malevolent, and poorly substantiated” claims made in the documentary.

Aired on September 05, Channel 4’ new ‘Dispatches’ investigation titled ‘Sri Lanka’s Easter Bombings’ is a nearly 50-minute-long video with serious yet straightforward allegations about the attacks based on testimonies of high-placed whistleblowers who alleged that governmental officials were complicit.

The main whistleblower Hanzeer Azad Maulana was once a spokesman for LTTE’s breakaway group Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pullikal (TMVP) led by current State Minister of Rural Road Development Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan alias Pillayan.

Maulana told Channel 4 that he had witnessed a meeting between the suicide bombers and a top Sri Lankan intelligence officer in 2018.

Claiming that he had, on the directives of Pillayan, arranged the said meeting between then-army intelligence chief Major General Suresh Sallay and the National Thowheed Jamaath (NTJ) members including its leader Zahran Hashim, Maulana said the plot to create insecurity in the country to pave way for former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa to win the presidential election later in 2019 was hatched over 2-3 years.

Meanwhile, former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has also slammed the documentary, deeming it “an anti-Rajapaksa tirade aimed at blackening the Rajapaksa legacy from 2005 onwards and is a tissue of lies just like the previous films broadcast by the same Channel.”

Read the Defense Ministry’s full statement below: 

In the face of a heinous and merciless assault that shook the world – the Easter Sunday Attack of 2019 – which claimed the lives of nearly 270 innocent souls, including children and foreigners, Sri Lanka and the International Community watched in horror. In the wake of this catastrophe, the Sri Lankan Government, its Law Enforcement Agencies, Security Forces and international investigation agencies launched exhaustive investigations. Over the years, these investigations, both local and international, have consistently pointed to ISIS-affiliated group members led by Zahran Hashim as the architects of this horrifying tragedy.

However, it is with unwavering resolution and an unyielding commitment to the truth that the Ministry of Defence wishes to respond to the recent documentary produced by British Channel 4 television cooperation on 5th September 2023. This documentary audaciously shifts the blame of the Easter Sunday Attack onto Military Intelligence and Major General Suresh Sallay, the present Director General of the State Intelligence Service of Sri Lanka.

The Ministry of Defence vehemently denounces the accusation of orchestrating the attack and assisting the bombers against a dedicated senior military officer who has served the nation for 36 years. Major General Suresh Sallay served at the Sri Lanka High Commission in Malaysia as Minister-Counsellor from December 2016 until December 2018. He left for India on 3rd January 2019 and returned to Sri Lanka on 30th November 2019 after completing the National Defence College Course in Delhi. This officer was never in Sri Lanka during the period mentioned in the Channel 4 video documentary. Furthermore, during the said period (December 2016 to November 2019), this officer was not employed in the Intelligence and Security Apparatus of the country, nor did he hold any official responsibilities in those fields. The Ministry of Defence also reiterates that no terrorists involved in the Easter Sunday attack have ever been on the government payroll. Therefore, the Ministry of Defence categorically refutes these outrageous allegations and expresses profound dismay at Channel 4 for promulgating such a malicious and unsubstantiated narrative.

In the wake of the Easter Sunday Attack, successive Sri Lankan governments have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to uncovering the truth. They have done so by facilitating transparent investigations conducted by both local and international professional agencies. These investigations including the meticulous work of the Criminal Investigation Department, Counter Terrorist Investigation Division and the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI), have consistently corroborated the responsibility of the radical extremist group for the attack. Additionally, the Sectoral Oversight Committee on National Security has played a pivotal role in proposing measures to bolster national security.

Moreover, it is imperative to underline that the comprehensive investigation conducted by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the United States, along with the subsequent verdict rendered by the US Department of Justice, have reaffirmed the findings of local investigations. This resounding endorsement from an international investigative agency further substantiates the accuracy and integrity of the investigation.

Despite unwavering and magnanimous endeavours, Channel 4’s myopic and malevolent conduct not only imperils the very fabric of Sri Lankan society by sowing seeds of discord but also shamelessly jeopardizes the reputation and safety of those who have resolutely upheld their integrity and responsibility.

While the Ministry of Defence respects the freedom of expression and upholds the significance of investigative journalism, the Ministry of Defence emphatically asserts that Channel 4 will be held unequivocally accountable for any unforeseen actions or repercussions stemming from their unfounded, malevolent, and poorly substantiated claims made in the video documentary. On behalf of the Government of Sri Lanka, the Ministry of Defence hereby categorically refutes these false allegations and reiterates the government’s unwavering commitment to the truth, justice and the well-being of the Nation.

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