COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka’s government will appoint a parliamentary committee to investigate allegations made in a British television report that Sri Lankan intelligence had complicity in the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings that killed 269 people.
Labor Minister Manusha Nanayakkara told Parliament on Tuesday that details on the investigation will be announced soon.
A man interviewed in the Channel 4 videos released Tuesday said he arranged a meeting between a local Islamic State-inspired group and a top state intelligence official to hatch a plot to create insecurity in Sri Lanka and enable Gotabaya Rajapaksa to win the presidential election later that year.
Azad Maulana was a spokesman for a breakaway group of the Tamil Tiger rebels that later became a pro-state militia and helped the government defeat the rebels and win Sri Lanka's long civil war in 2009.
Rajapaksa was a top defense official during the war, and his older brother, Mahinda Rajapaksa, had been defeated in the 2015 elections after 10 years in power.
A group of Sri Lankans inspired by the Islamic State group carried out the six near-simultaneous suicide bombings in churches and tourist hotels on April, 21, 2019.
The attacks killed 269 people, including worshippers at Easter Sunday services, locals and foreign tourists, and revived memories of frequent bombings during the quarter-century war.
Fears over national security enabled Rajapaksa to sweep to power. He was forced to resign last year after mass protests over the country’s worst economic crisis.
In the Channel 4 program, Maulana said he arranged a meeting in 2018 between IS-inspired extremists and a top intelligence officer at the behest of his boss at the time, Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan, the leader of the rebel splinter group-turned-political party.
Maulana said Chandrakanthan had met the group in prison while in detention on allegations of murder and found they could be useful to create insecurity in the country.
Maulana told Channel 4 that he himself did not participate in the meeting but that the intelligence officer told him later that creating insecurity was the only way to return the Rajapaksa family to power.
After security camera footage of the bombings was released, Maulana recognized the faces of the attackers carrying bomb-laden backpacks as those whom he had arranged to meet with the intelligence officer, Maulana said in the program.
Channel 4 reported that Maulana had been interviewed by U.N investigators and European intelligence services over his claims.
Neither Chandrakanthan or Rajapaksa has commented on the claims.
Pro-Rajapaksa lawmaker Mahindananda Aluthgamage rejected the claims in the documentary. He told Parliament that Rajapaksa had no reason to set off bombs or use suicide bombers to get elected because public support was already on his side as shown by the result of local elections held in 2018.