Prosecute Yahapalana bigwigs - Report | Sunday Observer
Probe into Easter Sunday attacks

Prosecute Yahapalana bigwigs - Report

28 February, 2021
St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo following the Easter Sunday attacks
St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo following the Easter Sunday attacks

“The Presidential Commission of Inquiry (COI) into the Easter Sunday attacks recommends that the Attorney General consider instituting criminal proceedings against former President Maithripala Sirisena under the Penal Code,” the recently released COI report stated in its recommendations.

Several other high-level officials, including former Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando, former IGP Pujith Jayasundara, former National Intelligence Service chief Sisira Mendis and former State Intelligence Service chief Nilantha Jayawardena were also found responsible for criminal negligence and failure to take action and perform their duties.

Special High Court

The report tabled in Parliament on February 25, stated that former President Sirisena and other persons who worked under him failed to prevent the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks that killed 270 people and injured around 500 others. It recommended the setting up of a special High Court to hear cases relating to the Easter Sunday bombings.

Eight suicide bombers in a series of coordinated attacks targeted hotels and Catholic churches as they detonated bombs at St. Anthony’s Shrine in Kochchikade, St. Sebastian Church in Katuwapitiya, Zion Church in Batticaloa and hotels Shangri-La, the Kingsbury and Cinnamon Grand Colombo. Two terrorists killed themselves by detonating bombs in Dematagoda and Dehiwala.

Family members who lost their loved ones and others who were injured during the bombings were living in anticipation that those responsible for the attacks and those who paved the way for an environment that enabled the attacks were held responsible.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa appointed a six-member committee headed by Minister Chamal Rajapaksa to study in depth the facts and recommendations on the course of action contained in the final report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) into the attacks and the report of the Sectoral Oversight Committee on National Security which has been submitted to Parliament.

The final report of the PCoI, appointed by former President Sirisena on September 22, 2019, was handed over to President Rajapaksa by the Chairman of the Commission, Supreme Court Judge Janak de Silva at the Presidential Secretariat on February 1. The first and second interim reports were handed over to the President on December 20, 2019 and on March 2, 2020.

Ministers Johnston Fernando, Udaya Gammanpila, Ramesh Pathirana, Prasanna Ranatunga and Rohitha Abeygunawardene are the other members of the new Committee. Director General (Legal), Presidential Secretariat Hariguptha Rohanadheera was appointed as the Secretary to the Committee to facilitate the functions of the Committee.

On Thursday, the final report by the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) to investigate and inquire into the Easter Sunday attacks that, was handed over to Attorney General (AG) Dappula De Livera. Rohanadheera handed over the report at the AG’s Department. The COI recommended AG Livera to ‘institute criminal proceedings against the accused’.

Ban on organisations

The authors of the report also called for the ban on Wahabism, Thowheed organisations and Bodu Bala Sena, while closely monitoring Madrasas and Arabic schools across the island by the Ministry of Education. The Moulavis and teachers of the Madrasas, it added, need to be registered with a due authority and foreign funds to the institutions to be strictly regulated. It also called for the regulation of all Sunday schools, including Ahadiya and Thakkiya schools under a single state body.

They also recommended monitoring and due action against other institutions, including Sinhala Ravaya, Mahason Balakaya, Sinhala National Movement, Sinhale National Organisation and Shivsena for extremist activities.

The report added that a criminal case must be considered against Islamic scholar Usthaz Pashid Hajjul Akbar of the Jamaat-e-Islami organisation on charges of conspiracy to establish an Islamic State in Sri Lanka and also recommended considering filing criminal charges against Abdul Razik of the Ceylon Thowheed Jamaat Organisation for spreading hate speech and conducting lectures on religious disunity.

It called for the regulation of social media and cyberspace to prevent the spread of extremist ideologies of Islamic State, Wahhabism and Thowheed and the arrest of those involved in inciting ethnic or religious disunity without a warrant.

The Commission in its report urged to promote the concept of ‘One country – One law’ to prevent discrimination.

Leader of the House, Foreign Affairs Minister Dinesh Gunawardena told Parliament that the final report of the COI will be taken up for debate following a discussion at the next meeting of the Committee on Parliamentary Business. Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena said the matter will be discussed at the Parliamentary Business Committee meeting.

The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) has decided to reject the final report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCOI) to investigate the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks, which was first appointed by SLFP Chairman, former President Sirisena.

The final PCOI report has recommended the Attorney General that criminal proceedings be instituted against Sirisena and his intelligence heads for failing to prevent the attacks.

A press communiqué released by the party revealed the reasons for the rejection of the final report;


  •  It is the general opinion of our party that this report does not contain positive answers, conclusions and recommendations for the achievement of the objectives established by this Commission.
  •  The conclusions and recommendations have been submitted beyond the scope assigned when establishing the Commission.
  •  Issues not relevant to the scope are investigated and recommendations are made.
  •  It is clear that the Commission has adopted a lax policy towards Ranil Wickremesinghe and that pursuing a strict policy only against President Maithripala Sirisena is a double standard.
  •  Former President Maithripala Sirisena took over the Ministry of Law and Order on October 30, 2018. In fact, he has been in charge of this ministry for only five months and 20 days until the attacks. The Commission has not assigned any responsibility for this incident to any of the Ministers who were previously in charge of this Ministry.
  • The report does not consider who planned the attack, the bombers, the parties who financed the attack and those who provided security for them.
  • There are reports that weapons found during the inspection of the mosque after the Easter attack were imported by ships, but the report does not look for its depth.
  • Sara alias Pulasthini Rajendran, the wife of Achchi Mohammadu Mohammadu Hastun (a suicide bomber), has been hiding in Batticaloa for a long time and has fled to India. But the investigation not only pays no attention to it, but also ignores the information that could have been revealed by her.

The SLFP also questions the legitimacy of indictments against the former President based on not executing his constitutional discretionary powers. The party also cites examples from the US and New Zealand quoting that intelligent information regarding the 9/11 attack in the US and the Christchurch attack in New Zealand had been reported prior to the attacks, but the political leadership and security forces in both countries had not been charged for the incidents.


The Executive Council of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) said that such action aimed at former President Sirisena will set a precedent for bringing criminal charges against any head of state in the future and that it is a dangerous and short-sighted act.

Secretary General of Bodu Bala Sena Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thera said that something that should not have happened has happened during the PCoI.

“I think I am the most disturbed bhikkhus because of this Commission. I went more than seven or eight days to the police station and gave statements. Based on the statements given, we were questioned before the members of the Commission. One day, I argued with the Chairman of the Commission. My conclusion was not to look for political answers to a religious question.”

“We are vigilant about the recommendations of the Commission. We must go for a program to control, disarm and rehabilitate gangs armed with religious principles. At the same time, all those convicted of the Easter Sunday attacks politically, financially or coordinating the attacks, should be sent to prison.”

“We also ask the Government to give us a copy of the report. We have not yet seen those recommendations,” the Thera said.

Committee to study report on Easter Sunday attacks

A six-member committee was appointed on the direction of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa last week to study the report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) into the Easter Sunday attacks.

The tasks include ‘identifying the overall process, including the measures that need to be taken by various agencies and authorities, such as Parliament, the Judiciary, Attorney General’s Department, Security Forces, State Intelligence Services.

Implementing recommendations as stipulated by the PCoI to avert recurrence of a national catastrophe of such magnitude is the prime responsibility of the Committee,” a press release by the Presidential Secretariat stated.

It added that the Government is of the view that the Easter Sunday attacks had a devastating impact on national security and stability, the economy, religious harmony and the social fabric of the country.

“Prosecution and trial of the accused as per the recommendations of the PCoI on the Easter Sunday attacks will be in accordance with the standard judicial procedures.

The Parliamentary Committee is not expected to intervene in the process,” the statement added. 

Three Sri Lankans charged in US

The Department of Justice of the United States, on January 8, charged three Sri Lankans with terrorism offences, including conspiring to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organisation (ISIS).

According to a media release, the US Justice Department identified the men as Mohamed Naufar, Mohamed Anwar Mohamed Riskan and Ahamed Milhan Hayathu Mohamed. It said the men were part of the group called ‘ISIS in Sri Lanka’, which was responsible for the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks.

They were charged with conspiring to provide, providing and attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organisation, while Naufar and Milhan are charged with aiding and abetting the receipt of military-type training from the ISIS.

“The defendants named in the complaint, along with other suspects linked to the attacks, are detained in Sri Lanka, where a criminal investigation is ongoing,” the statement added.

Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers in the US said they will support Sri Lanka’s investigations to hold the defendants accountable for their crimes.

According to the charges, the defendants were committed supporters of ISIS, recruited others to ISIS’s violent cause, purchased materials for and made Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), helped prepare and train others who participated in the attacks and murdered in the name of this deadly foreign terrorist organisation.

“They are in custody in Sri Lanka. We fully support the Sri Lankan investigation and prosecution of these terrorists and will continue to work with the authorities there to pursue our shared goal of holding these defendants accountable for their crimes.”

Eyewitness account of the attacks

It was a haunting image. The time on the clock which stands in the left upper corner of St. Anthony’s Church aka Kochchikade Shrine showed the time as 8.45 am which had stopped functioning. At 8.45am on April 21, 2019, a terrorist detonated a bomb leaving carnage.

J. Dickson, a resident in the area, had been to the church in the morning to participate in the Easter Sunday Mass. He recalled that he had been at the place where the bomb blasted. As he had lost sight of the priests, he had gone towards the aisle.

“I was at the church when the bomb went off. I stayed near the place where the blast occurred and moved forward as I lost my way. There were around 300 people in the church. We lit candles around 8.30 am and in another 15 minutes, the bomb exploded followed by a cloud of smoke all over the place. Some parts of the church roof also collapsed.

“After the bomb went off, I heard nothing for some time because of the impact of the blast. However, the police came within five minutes and took us all out,” he said.

Sumith Eranga Silva, 33, an employee of Kingsbury Hotel, sharing his experience shortly after the bombings with the Sunday Observer said, “The bomb went off at the Harbour Court. I was working in a station close to it. It was around 8.45am. I was working with a colleague when we heard a loud sound. I immediately sat down. I felt something like a current shock running across my body. When I touched my head, I found blood pouring down my face. The area was engulfed with smoke and dust. One of my colleagues called me and I followed her. The security personnel guided me to the reception.

There were about 40 customers and eight staffers in the place where the bomb exploded.”