10,000 Individuals were aware of impending attacks
By Buddhika Samaraweera
Former Director of the State Intelligence Service (SIS), Senior Deputy Inspector General of Police (SDIG) Nilantha Jayawardena, claimed that at least 10,000 individuals were aware of National Thowheed Jama’ath (NTJ) Leader Zaharan Hashim and the foreign Intelligence information received on 4 April 2019 that the Zaharan-led group would launch an attack. He also said by 20 April 2019, embassies in the country also knew about the foreign Intelligence information.
He was testifying before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the bombings on 21 April 2019, Easter Sunday, on 19 October. SDIG Jayawardena was cross-examined by Shamil Perera PC, who appeared for the Archbishop of Colombo, Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith.
Following the statement made by Jayawardena, that at least 10,000 individuals were aware of Zaharan and the possibility of an attack, a Member of the Commission questioned him as to whether he said this with responsibility. SDIG Jayawardena, in reply, said he made that statement considering the evidence given by former Inspector General of Police Pujith Jayasundara before the Commission. Recalling Jayasundara’s statement that he (Jayasundara) had informed four ranges in the Western Province regarding the Intelligence information, SDIG Jayawardena said there were about 8,000 Police Officers attached to those four ranges.
The witness added that, “the Intelligence information had been referred to the security personnel of 225 Members of Parliament. When we consider all that, Zaharan also may have known of the Intelligence information. Not only 10,000 individuals, about 15,000 in Sri Lanka would have been known about this.”
Adding that the Intelligence information was in his possession till 7 April 2019, SDIG Jayawardena said he had afterwards passed it to the relevant officials and institutions. I would have been held responsible for the deaths of people only till 7 April 2019, he added.
The witness also said foreign Intelligence agencies also knew about the NTJ and Zaharan, since the SIS had briefed them in that regard. The issue in Sri Lanka was that if something came from a foreign country, it was of a greater value, but if a local authority said the same thing, no one would consider it, he added.
He further added that the incident reported at that time where former Minister Rishad Bathiudeen’s brother had helped Zaharan to flee to India was kind of a political issue and that it was not confirmed.
When Perera questioned him regarding the statement made by him that he would not accept responsibility for the Easter Sunday Bombings, the witness said the Commission would determine his responsibility. I am aware of what I did and I will not point a finger at anyone, he added. Adding that the evidence given by him before the Commission was true, SDIG Jayawardena said the Commission would decide as to whether he should be in jail or not.