The sensitive evidence recorded by the special presidential panel that probed the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks can only be accessed by MPs for scrutiny, Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena said on Thursday.
Speaking at the commencement of a two-day debate on the Easter Sunday attacks, Abeywardena said that 87 volumes containing testimonies made at the commission were restricted to be kept at the parliamentary library exclusively for the use of members of parliament.
The opposition had demanded the two-day debate following revelations by UK's Channel 4 early this month that the terror attack was politically manipulated to gain an advantage for the Rajapaksas family, then in the opposition. Channel 4 accused the current chief of state intelligence of organising the attack in cohort with the jihadi group.
Abeywardena said that the panel report was tabled in parliament on February 25, 2022. “As per the secretary to the president's notice, 87 volumes containing testimonies made at the commission were restricted to be kept at the parliamentary library exclusively for the use of members of parliament,” Abeywardena said. He described it as a move to restrict and protect the identities of witnesses.
He said he was making the statement in response to the speculations made in the press about the motive of restricting public access to testimonies.
The panel was appointed by the president at the time of the attack Maithripala Sirisena. The panel found him guilty of criminal negligence for his inability to prevent the attack despite the availability of prior intelligence.
Later, Sirisena was ordered to pay heavy compensation to the kith of the victims in response to fundamental rights petitions filed by them. The government has come under fire for its continuation with some of the high-ranking security personnel at the time who have been charged with criminal negligence.
Nine suicide bombers belonging to the local Islamist extremist group National Thawheed Jamaat (NTJ), linked to ISIS, carried out a series of devastating blasts that tore through three Catholic churches and as many luxury hotels on April 21, 2019, killing nearly 270 people, including 11 Indians, and injuring over 500.
The head of the Catholic minority Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith has alleged that all investigations thus far have been political cover-ups.