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UNP on the offensive against President?

The Easter Sunday fallout took a new turn today as the United National Party (UNP) appeared to cautiously test the waters on a possible electoral offensive on President Maithripala Sirisena by hinting that his actions might have led to a likely prevention of the attack.

Echoing speculatory media reports from earlier this week that the arrest of DIG Nalaka Silva of the Terorrism Investigation Department (TID) could’ve delayed or altogether prevented the arrest of mastermind Zahran Hashim, UNP MP and Deputy Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade Nalin Bandara raised suspicions about the circumstances of Silva’s arrest last year.

Speaking to journalists at Temple Trees this morning (29), Bandara said DIG Silva had been hot on the tail of National Thowheed Jamma’ath (NTJ) leader Zahran Hashim and, had he not been arrested due to an alleged involvement in a presidential assassination plot, the Easter attacks might not have taken place.

“The TID and DIG Silva had their sights set on Zahran in 2017 and 2018. He was arrested allegedly for his involvement in an attempt to assassinate the President. We have yet to see a report on the investigation into this plot. The Ministry of Law & Order is now under the President. Months have passed and there is no information given to the public on Nalaka Silva’s supposed involvement. This makes us wonder whether the whole thing was an act, starring Namal Kumara,” said Bandara.

“If his arrest got in the way of his duties at the TID, spearheading as he was the investigations into Zahran and the NTJ, we can surmise that these attacks might not have taken place,” he added.

Calling for a “proper investigation” into the assassination ploot as well as Silva’s alleged involement, the Minister said a report must be presented on its findings.

“I was Deputy Minister [of Law & Order] when DIG Silva was looking into Zahran. We might not have been privy to the size of Zahran’s network and the magnitude of his plans, but these officials had some idea. That’s why he was chasing it. We can assume that DIG Silva’s arrest got in the way of that,” he said.

“If there is no evidence against him, we have to ask if arresting him was itself part of a conspiracy to form a government for 52 days. Hold a proper investigation,” he added.

Commenting on the Ministry of Law & Order, which has been under the preview of President Sirisena since October, last year, Bandara questioned the Commander in Chief’s capacity to oversee the Ministry given his busy schedule.

“The UNP lost the Law & Order Ministry after the 52-day government. It is now under the purview of the President. The Ministry was not handed over to anybody else; there is no deputy minister. It’s a Ministry with a lot of responsibility. We are of the position that the Ministry of Law & Order cannot be run together with the Ministry of Defence,” said Bandara.

“When [Minister Ranjith Madduma Bandara and I] were running the Ministry, we received a daily situation report at 6 in the morning. We acted according [to the contents of this report]. I don’t know if the President has the time to oversee the activities of the police,” he added.

Referring to the episode of communal violence that erupted in parts of the country three weeks after the Easter attacks, Minister Bandara said: “I wonder if this was the reason why some of the incidents that occurred in the aftermath of the attacks took place.  It is unfortunate that something like this couldn’t be prevented 21 days after the attack. We have suspicions about why repeat incidents were not prevented after violence first broke out.”