Probe Salley’s claims | Daily News

Probe Salley’s claims

There has been a lot of brouhaha from the Rajapaksa camp that the country’s intelligence service was in top shape during the former regime and that the Yahapalanaya Government broke the back of the intelligence service by throwing experienced operatives behind bars. However, the revelations currently made before the Parliament Select Committee probing the Easter Sunday bombings, by former Western Province Governor Azath Salley paints a different picture in this regard. It points to the presence of local IS groups even under the Rajapaksa regime, and, what is more, powerful Government links with these groups.

Salley told the SC members on Tuesday that all Defence Secretaries since 1994 have to take the blame for failing to heed intelligence reports about the activities of the Thowheed Jamaath. “We informed all Defence Secretaries since 1994, in writing, and, verbally, about Thowheed Jamaath organisation, but no action was taken”, Salley told the PSC. Hence, it is clear that there is no question of an Intelligence failure after 2015. Besides, all the necessary intelligence was available for the authorities to preempt the attacks. What this shows is that even with all the intelligence available, even the Rajapaksa Government had failed to neutralize the threat. Worse, Salley also states that former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa worked closely with Thowheed Jamaath. Testifying before the PSC, the former Governor asserted that, as Defence Secretary, Gota had maintained links with Thowheed Jamaath. Earlier the Ven. Galagodaatte Gnanasara Thera, too, in a media briefing, after his release from prison under a Presidential pardon, said he informed the maha rajano as far back as 2013 about Jihadist activity, but no heed was paid to his complaint.

What does all this point to? Isn’t it plain that the Rajapaksas, who are blaming the Government for failing to act on intelligence reports about Islamist terrorist activities, are as culpable? Did not the Rajapaksas, at the time, assiduously woo Rishard Bathiudeen who is now the villain of piece vis-a-vis the local IS groups? When did the Wilpattu jungle destruction originate? Was it after 2015? Nay, Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is today accusing the UNP of attempting to woo the Muslim vote at any cost, did just that. Issuing a statement to the media, Rajapaksa says; “This (mass resignation of Muslim ministers) was a ploy on the part of the UNP Government to organise and line up Muslim politicians on one side, and, to obtain Muslim votes at the Presidential Elections. The UNP is making good use of the Muslim community for their political purposes. The UNP needs the votes of the moderates as well as the extremists within the Muslim community. They don’t care where their votes come from”.

Did not Rajapaksa engineer mass defections of Muslim MPs to help in his project of remaining President for life, by introducing the 18th amendment? Did he stop to consider if all of them were moderates or if there were, among them, those linked to Islamist extremists groups? Is all that Rishard Bathiudeen is now being accused of come about post 2015?

Rajapaksa must explain why no action was taken following intelligence reports of Jihadist activity, as per Azath Salley, and the nature of the links his brother had with Thowheed Jamaath. Or is it that the Muslim votes, whether extremists or moderate, was too precious for him to worry about little things like the radicalization of Muslim youth, that eventually grew in proportion, ending with the Easter Sunday carnage? Nay, Rajapaksa who accuses the UNP of not being choosy about the Muslim vote, so long as they are in the bag, by all accounts, followed a similar path. If not, he, certainly, would have paid heed to and acted upon the intelligence reports about Muslim extremists groups. Rajapaksa and his cohorts are today demonizing Rishard Bathiudeen for being is truck with Thowheed Jammath, forgetting that Bathiudeen was their own creature. It was Basil Rajapaksa who gave RB carte blanche to do as he pleases in Wilpattuwa. If Azath Salley is to be believed, the Rajapaksas could have well known the links he (Bathiudeen) had with local IS groups at the same time.

In any event, would Rajapaksa and co. be making the same accusations, they now make, against Bathiudeen had the latter thrown in his lot with the Joint Opposition during the October 26 Constitutional coup to make Rajapaksa the Prime Minister?

Assuming that Salley is speaking the truth and Gota, indeed, had links to the Jihadists, it will be interesting to see the reaction of the coterie of the Sangha who are raising Cain against the Government for the security lapses that led to the Easter Sunday terror strikes. This is more so since the former Defence Secretary has already announced his candidature in the Presidential fray. We say this because none among his known contenders, so far, have been proved to have had links to Islamist terror groups. Why not the Parliament Select Committee question Gota in this regard? After all, as the then Defence Secretary, he should be privy to more information about the local Jihadist network than that disclosed by Salley.


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