Easter Sunday terror probe: Pujith says Salley promised to hand over Mawanella suspects

Pujith Jayasundara

Suspended Police Chief Pujith Jayasundera told a presidential commission investigating the Easter Sunday attacks that former Western Province Governor Azath Salley assured him he would take steps to hand over two suspects involved in the Mawanella Buddha statue attacks.

Testifying before the commission headed by Court of Appeal judge Janak de Silva, Mr. Jayasundera said Mr Salley spoke to him on the phone regarding the vandalism that took place on December 23, 24 and 26 of 2018.

He claimed that Mr. Salley told him he had some information about the suspects and would turn them over to police with the help of a religious leader and the suspects’ family members.

But Mr. Salley failed to keep his word, he added

State Counsel Suharshi Herath led evidence.

He said Mr Salley was trying to be helpful and therefore he gave him the contact numbers of officers who were investigating the incidents.

Mr. Jaysundera said Mr. Salley did not try to influence him and as IGP he was not a person who could be influenced.

He said former Minister Kabir Hashim also had called him over the incident. He said it was not unusual for a politician to call police officers to discuss various matters. “As people’s representatives, they too have a responsibility. However they have no right to influence the police,” he said.

He said that at a subsequent meeting with former Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando and himself, Mr Salley brought up the issue of extremism being preached in the Eastern Province. Mr Fernando in response had said it was not a matter of concern as Muslims held regular sermons in the area.

With the commission’s permission, Mr. Salley was allowed to cross examine, Mr. Jayasundera on condition that he asked only questions related to the phone conversation. Mr Salley said that by cross-questioning Mr. Jaysunedera he wanted to prove that he did not influence the police and ask him whether he said that he would hand over the suspects.

Mr Jayasundera said if Mr Salley did not have information regarding the suspects he had no need to talk to him directly. He said Mr Salley gave him the impression that he would extend his help to surrender the suspects.

(Source: The Sunday Times – By Kasun Warakapitiya)