Catholic church may have had prior knowledge of Easter Sunday attacks – Harin Fernando | Sunday Observer
Inquiry on Easter Sunday attacks:

Catholic church may have had prior knowledge of Easter Sunday attacks – Harin Fernando

20 September, 2020

Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) parliamentarian Harin Fernando told the Presidential Commission of Inquiry on the Easter Attacks last week that the Catholic church of Sri Lanka too may have had prior knowledge of the Easter Sunday attacks.

Giving evidence before the Commission for the first time on Wednesday, Fernando said the Church too may have had knowledge of the attack given that many parties had been issued prior warnings of a possible attack.

According to Fernando, he was in Badulla on April 21, 2019 when suicide attacks took place across the country carried out by a group of Islamist terrorists.

He said he had called the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe after hearing the reports of the attacks and had then set out to Colombo.

The Commission questioned Fernando on the possible connections his father, Nihal Fernando, had with officials from the Criminal Investigations Department (CID). The line of questioning was based on a statement by Fernando following the attack in which he claimed that his father had warned him of a possible attack and had requested him to refrain from attending church on Easter Sunday.

Responding, Fernando said his father had connections to those in the CID due to an allegation of fraud against him. When asked if he had visited his father at a private hospital after reaching Colombo on the same day, Fernando admitted that he did as former Prime Minister Wickremesinghe had requested him to find out how his father had knowledge of the attack prior to it taking place.

MP Harin Fernando’s father was in the ICU of the Nawaloka Hospital when he had informed his family members not to attend Easter Sunday mass.

“When I went to the ICU and asked, my father merely said I know more things than you,” Fernando said, adding that later when he visited Temple trees, Wickremesinghe had shown him the letter sent to Police officials warning of an attack.

The call records of Fernando’s father were also submitted to the Commission on the day which showed he had received a call from a Police Sergeant identified as Nandalal around 8.13 pm day before the attack and that it had lasted for 356 seconds. The Senior State Counsel said that this is the same Sergeant who was a part of the CID team that visited Pasikudah to arrest Zahran Hashim’s team member ‘Army Mohideen’ and to recover the explosives in Wanathawilluwa.

Fernando said he does not believe that the Catholic Church had no prior knowledge of the attack given in a situation where it has been revealed that many persons had already been warned before the attack took place on April 21.

He said that an investigation must be launched to ascertain as to why the Cardinal had chosen not to conduct an Easter Sunday service in 2019 as he had done in the previous years. He said it must be investigated if the Cardinal had avoided holding a service as he too had been warned of a possible attack on Catholic churches.

Fernando said he was greatly inconvenienced by a statement by the Cardinal, following the attack in which he said, ‘Our people died, the Minister’s son survived’.

The President’s Counsel representing the Cardinal asked Fernando whether he would accept it if he said that the Cardinal, as usual, conducted the midnight service at St. Lucia’s Cathedral in Kotahena on April 20 last year.

Fernando said that he was unaware of this and admitted that the statement was made without any evidence.

The Counsel told the Commission that a nephew of Fernando is a member of his school’s rugby team and that the team had made plans to practise at the Sugathadasa Stadium and visit St. Anthony’s Church, Kochchikade afterwards on Easter Sunday last year.

The President’s Counsel said that Fernando’s nephew was the only person who did not attend practices that day. MP Harin Fernando objected to President’s Counsel Shamil Perera on the question.

The Commission warned Fernando on his behaviour and said that if he, as a witness at the Commission, treats a lawyer with disrespect, it is considered as an act of disrespect towards the Commission as well.

Fernando has made controversial statements previously on the Catholic Church and its leadership. In June, he apologised to Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith for comments made claiming that the Catholic Church was engaged in politics.