Four long months have passed since the April 21 Easter Sunday attacks by some Muslim extremists on three churches and two hotels. Up to now, though several arrests have been made and the CID has diligently investigated into the attack, there has been no clear outcome as to who was responsible, whether there was any [...]

Sunday Times 2

Accountability and responsibility for April 21 attacks: People want answers


Four long months have passed since the April 21 Easter Sunday attacks by some Muslim extremists on three churches and two hotels.

Up to now, though several arrests have been made and the CID has diligently investigated into the attack, there has been no clear outcome as to who was responsible, whether there was any foreign hand involved in the instigation of the Muslim extremist group, or why the targets were chosen.

One could arrive at some reasonable conclusion as to why the hotels were attacked.  By targeting the hotels, some said that the attackers’ primary objective was the economy. By instilling fear in tourists visiting Sri Lanka, they tried to cause financial loss to the tourism sector which was just picking up.

With regard to the attacks on the churches, there have been reports that this was retaliation for the attack on the mosque in New Zealand. There were also some reports in which it is stated that the attack was in retaliation for the attacks on Muslims in Beruwela, Digana and other places.

Whilst the above reasons were floated, there has been no official report or suggestion as to the motive behind the attacks so far.

Parliamentary Select Committee

Most of us have either heard or read the proceedings of the parliamentary select committee, before which senior police and military officers and ministry officials appeared to give evidence.  From their evidence, it is apparent no senior police officer took any responsibility for the failure on their part for not acting upon the vital and reliable intelligence reports received well ahead of the attacks.  It appears that most of the officers who gave evidence may have been good rugger players during their college days or thereafter.  They have received the information but they had passed it on to someone else expecting others to act on the information. In rugby, whenever the ball is received by a player on the run, he passes the ball to whoever is next so that he will escape being tackled by the opponents.

Here too, the vital information has been passed from the Director Intelligence to the IGP, from him to the Senior DIGs and so on and so forth.  None of them took this information seriously and checked on the information by conducting raids on the places where the extremists were operating from, or arrest a single person mentioned in the information received.  Thanks to the CID, the STF, the Police and the members of the armed forces who acted swiftly in the aftermath of the massacre, many suspects have been arrested for their direct involvement with the extremists.


Responsibility is defined as the quality or state of being responsible; as a moral, legal or mental accountability; something for which one is responsible;  liable to be called upon to answer as the primary cause, motive or agent; liable to legal review or in case of fault to penalties, able to answer for one’s conduct and obligations.

The Director Intelligence, the most senior officer to receive the intelligence, passed the information to the IGP. We learn this from what has been reported. Much of his evidence was not reported as he was interviewed in camera.  As such it is not in public domain as to what happened after he passed the intelligence to the IGP.  In the intelligence domain, the intelligence officer who passed on the information does not have enforcement powers to act on the information on his own, but has to pass the information to the relevant law enforcement agencies which are expected to take prompt action.

From what I am aware, in most of the intelligence set-ups in other countries, there is an arm within the intelligence unit to undertake operations immediately on their own without having to wait for the law enforcement Agency Officers to take action.  On receipt of the information of the identities of personalities conspiring and the addresses from where they were operating, action should have been taken by the officers of  the intelligence unit, with the help of the officers in the field to search and arrest the suspects whose names have been mentioned in the intelligence report, the suspects whose names have transpired in the investigation into the attack on the Buddha statues in Mawanella, and those who involved in the Wanathamulla explosive dump case.

The Parliament Select Committee proceedings reveal that none of the officers took responsibility for their failures but exonerated themselves by elaborating how they passed on the vital information but kept silent till the attack took place on April 21.

From the constable up to the IGP, legal empowerment has been bestowed on them to act fearlessly on any information received in respect of criminal activities. Prevention of any criminal acts is the fundamental duty which they have been taught from the time they joined the Police service.  In this case the information was passed on to the IGP who is the most senior Police Officer of our country. Almost all the Police Officers who gave evidence have accepted that they received the information but did not give any reason why they did not act on the information received.

Legal action

We are aware that the IGP who is under interdiction, and the then Defence Secretary were taken into custody and are to be charged in courts for various criminal charges in respect of the death of more than 250 people in the attacks.

The people are awaiting the final outcome of the investigation. They want answers to the vital question why did the police officers, especially the senior officers, not act on the vital information they received and take action to avert the April 21 terror attacks.

Those who were vested with responsibility should be held accountable to their grave failure in not taking any preventive measures well before the suicide attacks, when they had vital information to act upon.

(The writer is a retired
Deputy Inspector General)



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