PSC on Easter attacks under a cloud over Hakeem-Zahran powvow

GL Peiris

SLPP Chairman Prof. G.L. Peiris, yesterday, said that the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on the Easter Sunday carnage was under a cloud following the shocking disclosure that one of its members, Minister Rauff Hakeem, had held discussions with suicide bombing mastermind Zahran Hashim in Kattankudy, in 2015.

One-time External Affairs Minister Prof. Peiris told The Island that SLMC leader and City Planning, Water Supply and Higher Education Minister Hakeem owed an explanation. Pointing out that the PSC was to present its report to the parliament on Oct. 23, Prof. Peiris said that the allegations directed at the SLMC leader couldn’t be ignored.

Responding to a query, Prof. Peiris said that parliament should be informed whether picked by Speaker Karu Jayasuriya to represent the PSC had disclosed dealings with the National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ).

PSC Chairman Ananda Kumarasiri (Moneragala District) yesterday told The Island that he would present the report as previously scheduled. Asked how he expected to cope up with accusations against a member of his committee, Kumarasiri said that it was a new development. The UNPer said that he needed time to address the issue as he was busy with ongoing presidential campaign.

The PSC included Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka (UNP National List), Ravi Karunanayake (UNP), Dr. Jayampathy Wickramaratne (UNP National List), Ashu Marasinghe (UNP National List), Dr. Rajitha Senaratne (UNP), M.A. Sumanthiran (TNA) and Dr. Nalinda Jayatissa (JVP).

Prof. Peiris questioned the very basis of the PSC inquiry as one of its members held discussions with the bombing mastermind. Acknowledging that Rauff Hakeem might not have been aware of Hashim’s intentions at the time, Prof. Peiris emphasized the SLMC leader should have declined to join the PSC.

The SLPP Chairman said that the Joint Opposition boycotted the PSC.

Prof. Peiris pointed out that lawmaker Vasudeva Nanayakkara HAD strongly opposed the inclusion of JVP MP Nalinda Jayatissa in the PSC as a key Easter Sunday terror suspect Mohammad Yusuf Ibrahim had been in the National List of the JVP at the last parliamentary election. Ibrahim’s two sons, together with five others carried out near simultaneous suicide attacks on three churches and three hotels. Shangri-la was targeted by two suicide bombers, including Zahran.

Ibrahim’s daughter-in-law, too, triggered another suicide blast when the police raided his Dematagoda residence on the afternoon of April 21.

Prof. Peiris said that concerns raised by lawmaker Nanayakkara were ignored by the Speaker.

Another PSC member Sumanthiran drew condemnation of Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith for justifying the Easter Sunday carnage at the first anniversary celebrations of political weekly Annidda at the BMICH on April 29, Prof. Peiris pointed out. The former minister was responding to another query by The Island.

Prof. Peiris said that immediately after the SLPP’s victory Nov 16, 2019 presidential poll, a presidential commission would be appointed to inquire into the Easter Sunday carnage.

The SLPP Chairman said that a thorough probe was required to ascertain whether the NTJ exploited registered political parties to advance its strategy. The NTJ backed the then common candidate Maithripala Sirisena at the last presidential election in January 2015 and the UNP at the parliamentary polls in August 2015, Prof. Peiris pointed out. In addition to Ibrahim being in the JVP National List, Dr. Shihabdeen Mohammed Safi attached to the Kurunegala Hospital under investigation over alleged sterilizations carried out without consent, contested Kurunegala district at the last general election on the UNP ticket. Safi couldn’t get elected.

Responding to another query, Prof. Peiris said that in fact Hakeem owed an explanation to the Muslim community as he was among the group of 09 lawmakers who resigned their portfolios claiming they wanted to assist the investigation. Did Rauff Hakeem inform his parliamentary colleagues of meeting Zahran Hashim? Prof. Peiris asked.

Zahran Hashim disappeared in 2017.

A group of Muslims lodged a complaint with police headquarters last Friday demanding immediate action against Minister Hakeem over his alleged involvement with Zahran Hashim.

Prof. Peiris said that though Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe cleared All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) leader Rishad Bathiudeen, MP, of complicity with Easter Sunday attackers, investigations were far from over. The recent disclosure as regards Minister Hakeem-Zaharn pow-vow underscored the urgent need for a comprehensive investigation into NTJ links with political apparatus. Prof. Peiris also recalled the arrest of a senior employee of the parliament in connection with his alleged involvement with the NTJ.

The top law academic urged the government to come clean on the Easter attacks. The former minister said that the UNP and those political parties aligned with it couldn’t keep silent on Easter Sunday attacks.

Responding to another query, Prof. Peiris said that the NTJ launched its operations with an attempt to kill an aide to Minister and UNP Chairman Kabir Hashim in early 2019.

(Source: The Island – By Shamindra Ferdinando)