Block Every Way Extremists Receive Support!
The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) recently informed the Colombo Fort Chief Magistrate Priyantha Liyanage that according to investigations conducted so far, an illegal organisation in Qatar had sent a sum of Rs 13 million to an entity owned by detained lawyer, Hijaz Hisbullah, allegedly for extremist activities.
According to CID investigations, this amount had been deposited by an unlawful terror outfit based in Qatar, known as Califford, to ‘Save the Pearl’ organisation, run by Attorney-at-Law Hisbullah. They further revealed that the said amount had been deposited to Hisbullah’s account over the past few years.
The Easter Sunday attack has become one of the most-discussed disasters that had occurred in Sri Lanka’s history. The deaths, destruction and pain – caused by the spate of bombings carried out by religious extremists on 21 April, 2019, at several prominent churches and tourist hotels – shattered Sri Lankans’ peace of mind a decade after the end of the war between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan Government, and also reignited fears of religion-based terrorism. Following the Easter Sunday attack, serious accusations were levelled against many parties, including but not limited to, former President, former Prime Minister, politicians, members of law-enforcement agencies including intelligence services and Islamic religious activists, for their alleged failure to prevent the Easter Sunday attack despite several forewarnings received from local and foreign intelligence services.
More importantly, this incident also triggered a serious social discourse about how extremists operated in Sri Lanka for years without being noticed, and how they received the support, especially financial support, of foreign extremist groups and organisations. A well-coordinated, large-scale attack such as the Easter Sunday attack takes a considerable amount of planning and financial resources, and according to what has been revealed through investigations so far, those who carried out the bombings had received substantial amount of foreign funds for various activities including activities pertaining to the promotion of extremist ideologies in the guise of legitimate religious activities.
Various types of groups and organisations, especially non-government organisations commonly known as NGOs, receive a large amount of foreign funds every year. These funds are given by foreign donors for various purposes, mainly, projects aimed at addressing various social issues and uplifting the lives of people who are in need of assistance. Even though a lot of these organisations are engaged in admirable community service, the conduct of certain organisations remains questionable and/or unclear. Even though any and all funds that come into the country are monitored by relevant authorities and State institutions vested with the power to do so, after the Easter Sunday attack last year, a serious question arose as to how the extremist groups operating in Sri Lanka received large amounts of funds without having to give proper reasons as to from where and for what reason they received funds.
Following the Easter Sunday attack, serious concerns were raised regarding the establishment known as ‘Batticaloa Campus’, owned by former Governor of the Eastern Province, M.L.A.M. Hizbullah. Testifying before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry appointed to probe the Easter Sunday attack, former Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, Hemasiri Fernando, claimed that a State Bank had received an order not to carry out investigations into foreign funds received, but to release them within two days, for the construction of this campus, which is considered to be one of the largest Sharia universities in the South Asia region. Fernando, who served as the Defence Secretary when the Easter Sunday attack took place in 2019, further said that during his tenure as the Chairman of People’s Bank, there were many instances where the Bank was ordered to release large sums of foreign funds received by various organisations without conducting investigations. These alarming claims raise serious questions as to why and on whose orders the foreign funds in question were released without investigating. Ongoing investigations into this matter and other matters pertaining to the Easter Sunday attack will, in the near future, reveal that information as well.
Various groups and organisations operating in Sri Lanka receive foreign funds for various activities. Even though there is a system in place to monitor how these funds enter Sri Lanka and how they are being used, the manner in which religious extremists received foreign funds raises a question as to whether the existing system is being implemented properly. Prosecuting those responsible for the Easter Sunday attack is already happening; however, as a long-term measure to prevent such tragedies, it is extremely important that Sri Lanka blocks every way extremists receive support, especially financial support, and strengthen existing laws and systems in this connection.