by Special Correspondent
A few days ago, this writer posed a critical question to an Islamic scholar of Sri Lankan heritage, now residing in Australia, regarding the Easter attack: Was it a sinister political conspiracy? The response was unequivocal—there was no political conspiracy lurking behind the gruesome event. However, what unfolded was the grotesque exploitation of this tragedy for political gain by various factions. What transpired was the transformation of extremist ideologies, systematically indoctrinated into segments of the Muslim society over an extended period, into a violent catastrophe. Regrettably, our society, as a whole, has failed to grasp the profound social realities illuminated by this grievous incident.
The professor’s identity remains undisclosed, safeguarding his safety. Yet, the urgency lies in disseminating his insights to society at large, for only then can the state and its citizens shield themselves from future perils by truly comprehending the depths of this assault.
While conspiracy theories involving the Catholic Church and self-proclaimed human rights champions have swirled and ensnared some politicians, the majority of political figures remain fixated on one thing: cheap publicity. Be it through positive or negative means, they thrive on the spotlight, exploiting any political vulnerability to fortify their own influence. Such is the norm in this morally decayed political landscape. However, none of this resonates with the nation as a whole or the victims of this tragedy. What matters to them is uncovering the unvarnished truth behind this incident and ensuring that such horrors never plague our homeland again. In this concluding segment of the series, we endeavor to dissect these pivotal issues and delve into our societal responsibilities.
In the wake of the societal turmoil stemming from the Easter tragedy, fundamental questions beg answers. If the Easter suicide bombings were indeed the handiwork of Islamist radicals, then whose sinister plot unfolded in a Bolivarian village house in Sainthamaruthu merely five days after the aforementioned bombings? And what of the grisly torture of Mohamed Thasleem, who dared to oppose Islamic fundamentalists in the Mawanella area, just a few months prior to the Easter attack? Why was he subjected to this brutal assault, which left him unable to walk properly even today? Was it the result of this alleged conspiracy or the culmination of prolonged violence by Islamic extremists? Has the fictional character, akin to Rip Van Winkle, reawakened four years after the Easter onslaught, woven these events into an exposé on the Easter attacks? Is this the narrative weaved by Azad Maulana, presented before the Special Tribunal affiliated with the United Nations Human Rights Council, embraced as unassailable truth, and subsequently manipulated to tarnish an entire nation’s reputation? In simpler terms, is this a sale of political protection to an individual, ultimately besmirching the integrity of a state? These are the inevitable questions that demand answers, in accordance with one’s moral compass.
Notably, Ben de Pear, who served as a news editor at Channel 4 from 2012 to 2022 and later founded Basement Films, recently reached out to multiple sources, inquiring about the latest documentary he had produced. His questions regarding the documentary’s content were dispatched via email. Remarkably, one recipient of his email was the head of the State Intelligence Service, as confirmed by his legal representative. Both the head of the State Intelligence Service and his legal counsel furnished substantial responses to his inquiries. The four primary points raised in his email were as follows;
- That you, in February of 2018, met with Mohamed Hashim Mohamed Zahran and Zainee Hashim along with other members of the National Tawheed Jamaath (hereafter NTJ) on a Coconut farm in Karadipuval, Puttulam for more than two hours, and that these same people would go on to carry out 6 simultaneous suicide bombings across Sri Lanka on the morning of the 21st April 2019.
- That you, immediately following the meeting described above, said that if a Rajapaksa did not come back to power at the following election, both yourself and others would end up in prison. Furthermore, that you said the Rajapaksas required an unsafe situation in Sri Lanka in order for them to win said election.
- That on the morning of the 21st April 2019, you placed a call to a TMVP operative asking him to travel to the Taj Samudra Hotel in Colombo as quickly as possible to pick up someone outside and take their phone from them.
- That you played a large role in the orchestration of the Easter Bombings. That not only did you have prior knowledge of the plans of the suicide bombers but facilitated their actions.
Mr. Ben de Pear seemingly did not anticipate the swift response from the head of the State Intelligence Service. By that time, he had completed his “Investigative Documentary” and Channel 4 had already secured a date and time for its broadcast. Evidently, a substantial financial investment had been poured into this documentary, which encompasses numerous recordings captured in Sri Lanka over several days.
It is, undoubtedly, commendable to seek perspectives from individuals, including the head of the State Intelligence Service, who find themselves under scrutiny in Ben de Pear’s documentary. However, expending time and resources on the presumption that a meticulously fabricated falsehood is true, all in an effort to evade accountability for financial misconduct against the vulnerable citizens of our nation, with the intention of securing “political asylum” in another country, amounts to a mockery of the ethical principles underpinning the art of journalism. For, at the core of any journalistic product, as in any other field, lies the bedrock of credibility. Credibility hinges not solely on the individuals commenting on an event but also on the integrity of the data associated with that event. Only through this rigorous adherence to facts can events be authentically substantiated.
The head of the State Intelligence Service, along with his legal counsel, promptly responded to the inquiries posed by Ben de Pear. It is also reported that Ben de Pear has affirmed the receipt of these pertinent responses. The extent to which these responses have been incorporated into the documentary cannot be definitively ascertained without a comprehensive viewing of the documentary itself.
One significant observation to be made is that Ben de Pear and his team subsequently opted to discreetly modify the title of the documentary in question. Initially slated for broadcast on August 15, it bore the title “Special Documentary Investigating one of the biggest atrocities of recent years, featuring exclusive testimony of three whistle blowers and what they say about who was behind the huge attack.” However, two weeks later, it underwent another alteration, emerging as “Sri Lanka’s Easter… Bombings – Dispatches: Shocking new revelations about Sri Lanka’s deadly Easter bombings of 2019, as high-placed whistle blowers allege complicity by officials inside the government.” This change raises questions regarding the documentary’s sources and underscores the doubts that have since arisen within its ownership.
Furthermore, providing direct and unequivocal answers to the queries posed by the head of the State Intelligence Service assumes paramount importance. Therefore, it is imperative to summarize his response as follows:
“First and foremost, I extend my gratitude to you for reaching out to me prior to the telecast, broadcast, or publication of the purportedly false allegations provided by your ill-informed sources. It is indeed a fundamental principle of justice to allow the accused to present their response before any dissemination of potentially damaging information.
I wish to categorically state that I hold no involvement whatsoever in the events you have mentioned, nor do I have any association with the individuals referenced in your communication. It is important for the sake of accuracy and fairness that this fact is clarified for the record.
For the first and second points referred in your letter, I must register that the facts present therein are outright false. I must emphasize that during the specified period, I was not present in Sri Lanka. To be precise, I was entrusted with the position of Minister-Counsellor at Sri Lankan diplomatic mission in Malaysia during the specified timeframe. This can be readily verified with the Malaysian authorities, who can attest to my official presence in Malaysia during the entirety of that period. For the third point referred in your letter, I must reiterate that the facts present therein also are outright false. Likewise in above, during the specified period, I was not present in Sri Lanka. For the fourth point referred in your letter, I must re-reiterate that the facts present therein also are outright false and I have no connection whatsoever in the Easter Bombing.
I wish to bring to your kind notice that there is already a lawsuit filed by my lawyers pending in the Courts in Sri Lanka on defamation over the similar baseless allegations leveled against me by several other parties.
While I acknowledge the importance of investigative journalism and the media’s role in informing the public about actual historical and political context of the Easter Bombings and the consequences for Sri Lanka, I earnestly hope that you will honor and respect my legal rights. Should you proceed with the telecast, broadcast, or publication of any material connected to Easter Bombings in the interest of investigative journalism but intentionally or unintentionally aimed at tarnishing my reputation without substantial evidence, I must regrettably inform you of my intention to take legal recourse. This would extend to jurisdictions such as the United Kingdom, where I am committed to seeking redress in order to protect my reputation from unwarranted defamation.
I trust that the principles of fairness, accuracy, and justice will guide your decision-making process in this matter. I believe in the importance of a transparent and just society, and I am confident that any responsible media entity would uphold these values.”
Suresh Sallay’s attorney has indeed confirmed that he provided written responses to the allegations. It’s a matter that even someone with basic knowledge would grasp: offering such a clear and documented response in writing when there’s nothing to hide. However, due to the continuous propagation of the conspiracy theory surrounding the Easter attack, the truth has not only been suppressed but has also created an ideal environment for concealing the real forces behind this heinous event.
A telling example of this deception emerged when Zahran suddenly traveled to Puttalam to meet a lawyer living in Colombo, as mentioned by Zahran’s wife, Hadiya. Shortly thereafter, he acquired land in that area. Azad Maulana has strategically manipulated this incident for his personal benefit, but there is a concealed narrative concerning those who provided treatment to Saharan’s brother, Rilwan, injured while inspecting explosive materials on the same land a few days later. Curiously, this incident was not included in his statement to the United Nations Human Rights Office. Evidently, he crafts his statements meticulously to serve his personal agenda rather than to unveil the truth.
What social responsibility lies with His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith and those who have tirelessly sought justice for the victims of this attack through numerous domestic and international endeavors? Four years after the attack, an individual has come forward with a scripted account. However, for the past four years, such a step was not taken, and he provides no admissible evidence when tailoring his narrative to suit himself.
The pressing question arises: Did he function as the intermediary for these shadowy figures, secretly engaging with Islamic fundamentalists and misappropriating the funds they received under false pretenses? If not, how can he account for a staggering sum of Rs 7 crore deposited into one of his personal accounts? How did an individual who once resided in a rented house become the owner of three properties in the Colombo district in an astonishingly short span of time?
Given these facts, it becomes the responsibility of His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith and the Catholic Church to call for the immediate apprehension of Azad Maulana, taking into consideration the information he has presented. Azad Maulana has publicly admitted to having close dealings with the suicide bombers responsible for the Easter attack, offering the strongest evidence for his prosecution. Even if a criminal is dubbed a whistleblower, it does not absolve the crimes committed.
In this context, Channel 4 must heed a critical legal note of its own, stating, “Programme-makers should proceed with caution when filming with criminals or when filming criminal activity generally, and should seek legal advice before filming takes place if possible.” It further underscores that “the person admitting the criminal behaviour could be prosecuted after transmission and the film, including rushes, could be obtained by the police by a court order and used as evidence.” [Read more: https://www.channel4.com/producers-handbook/media-law/programmes-involving-criminal-activity ]
It is not solely the responsibility of the Government of Sri Lanka, but also that of the Catholic Church, human rights activists, and ethical media organizations to expeditiously fulfill their obligations in the name of the victims of the bombings. The purpose behind this entire drama, Maulana Azad’s involvement, must be clarified. Ultimately, one cannot help but wonder if this isn’t yet another tale akin to Gania Bastion’s. In the end, Mr. Ben de Pear may come to realize that he has much to learn from his colleagues, such as Paul McNamura, Guy Basnett, and other genuine investigative journalists. It may also become evident that Azad Maulana is just another minor character in the world’s extensive lineage of fraudsters, joining the ranks of William Thompson, Charles Ponzi, Victor Lustig, Sylvia Browne, Frank Abagnale.
Finally, a crucial point demands our attention—the significant societal impact on the Easter attack cannot be underestimated. This influence has eroded the effectiveness of the legal measures the state had aimed to implement against radicalization. Consequently, the true culprits behind this attack have adeptly exploited their social connections to elude the grasp of the law.
Fortunately, however, like any other crime, a body of admissible evidence remains at our disposal, enabling us to attain a precise understanding of this reprehensible act. Foremost among these sources is Saharan’s wife, Hadiya, who stands as the primary witness. Furthermore, individuals like Mohamed Thasleem offer invaluable insights into the depths of this harrowing social reality. In this context, Channel 4, masquerading as an investigative journalism entity, has effectively limited our ability to uncover the genuine truth. In simpler terms, it becomes apparent that Channel 4 has not only provided unchecked autonomy to an individual who spent a decade in their ranks but has also allowed this individual to obscure the truth of a grave crime, all while pursuing personal ambitions as a shrewd manipulator. I invite anyone to challenge these contentions if they can be substantiated otherwise. True investigative journalism operates in stark contrast.
On the other hand, the shared responsibility of both the state and the people of Sri Lanka lies in offering discerning responses to these fabrications, rather than blindly accepting everything disseminated by foreign sources as absolute truth.
Source: Sri Lanka Guardian/ Ceylon Today