COLOMBO: Former Sri Lankan president Maithripala Sirisena on Friday denied charges that he had any prior knowledge of the 2019 Easter Sunday suicide bombings that killed 258 people, including 11 Indians.
This was Sirisena’s first public reaction since he was accused of criminal negligence by the presidential panel appointed by him to probe the devastating attack.
Nine suicide bombers, belonging to local Islamist extremist group National Thawheed Jamaat (NTJ) linked to ISIS, carried out a series of blasts that tore through three churches and as many luxury hotels in Sri Lanka, killing 258 people and injuring over 500 people on April 21, 2019.
The probe panel found Sirisena and the top defence establishment supervised by him and the defence minister guilty of negligence.
The panel has asked that the Attorney General establish legal proceedings against them.
Addressing Parliament, Sirisena denied any prior knowledge personally but said intelligence information had been received by the authorities before the attacks.
“If I knew about the intelligence information, I would have enforced a curfew, protected the churches and taken appropriate action to arrest them and prevent the attacks,” he said.
He said that anyone who alleged that he knew the information and ignored his responsibilities was mad.
The ruling Sri Lanka People’s Front alliance, which was then in Opposition, had blamed the attacks on the failure of the security apparatus affected by the political tug of war between Sirisena as the president and his prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Wickremesinghe was exonerated of responsibility for the negligence, but he was accused of going soft on the then government’s Muslim allies who were alleged to have had links with some of the bombers personally.
The head of the local Catholic church Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith has vowed to take action if perpetrators were not booked by the law before the attack’s second anniversary.