Policemen before Commission probing Easter Sunday attacks | Sunday Observer

Policemen before Commission probing Easter Sunday attacks

24 May, 2020

Resuming its proceedings last week after a hiatus due to the Covid 19 pandemic, the Presidential Commission of Inquiry probing into the Easter Sunday attacks continued with gathering evidence from a number of Police Officers on Tuesday (19). The Police have been in the hot seat since the horrific attacks with the Inspector General of Police,Pujith Jayasundara, even being arrested for not taking steps to prevent it. It was the Colombo Central Police Division and the Fort Police  undercame under scrutiny this week as Senior Police officers attached to the areas appeared before the Commission.

Accordingly, the Commission had summoned SP ShanthaWickramasinghe, who was in charge of the Colombo Central Police Division when the attacks took place in April last year. Appearing before the Commission on Tuesday (19), Wickramasinghe dropped a bombshell when he revealed that despite receiving instructions to increase the security at Christian Churches prior to the attacks, the Police had failed to do so fearing it may cause public panic.

In his statement to the Commission, Wickramasinghe admitted that on April 12, 2019 nearly 10 days prior to the attack he had received a seven-page document detailing the planned attacks. This had been forwarded to him by his superior at the time SSP UpaliJayasinghe, who was heading the Colombo Central Police Division.  According to him, the document had contained a photograph of Zahran Hashim, the ring leader of the group which carried out the attack, details about possible attacks on churches and instructions to inform the relevant parish priests of the threat. He also revealed that the DIG in charge of Colombo at the time,LalithPathinayake, had contacted him at 7.30 p.m. the night before the attacks and instructed him to tighten the security around the churches and increase the surveillance in the areas as well. Wickramasinghe said he advised the OICs of the relevant area Police stations to act accordingly but to do so in a discreet manner to prevent any public panic. Wickramasinghe said this was why the churches were not warned of the impending threat

Also summoned on the day was Chief Inspector Sarath Kumarasinghe, who was attached to the Fort Police at the time and functioned as the Acting OIC. Testifying before the Commission,Kumarasinghe said the OIC of the Fort Police had not briefed him on any possible threat prior to going on leave during the time the attack took place. However that SP Wickramasinghe had on the day prior to the attack instructed Kumarasinghe to brief all officers on an imminent threat. When questioned about steps taken according to the instructions received, Kumarasinghe said due to the lack of personnel only two security checkpoints were being manned at the time rather than six checkpoints as expected.

On Thursday, yet another Police Officer attached to the Fort Police was summoned to the Commission, after Acting OIC SarathKumarasinghe had testified that Priyadharshana had been in charge of the station the night before the attack. Priyadharshana too admitted that he received instructions from Kumarasinghe on the possible threat and had been asked to tighten the security as a result. However, he claimed thathe was not informed of a particular time or date for such an attack.

However, the Commission brought to his notice that appearing before the Commission previously he had claimed he had been instructed by the Acting OIC to strengthen the security from 11 pm onwards on April 20 as there is a threat of an attack today, meaning April 21.

He was then requested to read out the section noting these instructions from his record book. While Priyadharshana read out a section brought prepared, however, it made no mention of this. He claimed that he had mistakenly added the words ‘today and 11 pm’ into his previous testimony.

This led to him being questioned if any senior officer was attempting to influence his statement and remove these sections from his records. However, Priyadharshana remained silent and did not answer the question put forward by the Commission. He told the Commission that he had given necessary instructions to those manning the roadblocks.

But once again he contradictedhimself when he testified that no warnings were issued to Police personnel at the checkpoints. When questioned if such warnings had been issued to the roadblocks would  ithave led to the arrest of at least one terrorist, Priyardhana admitted this may have been possible. The Commission will resume its proceedings this week.