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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Cardinal tells IGP to ‘go home’ if no honest probe into church grenade

Image: All Saints Church in Borella.

Colombo Archbishop His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith yesterday (13) accused the Police of not conducting a “truthful” investigation regarding the discovery of a hand grenade at the All Saints Church in Borella and said that Inspector General of Police C.D. Wickramaratne should “go home” if he cannot ensure a transparent investigation is conducted into the matter.

“Instead of searching for the truth, they are creating a story. We reject the Police’s statements and request a transparent investigation. They are trying to trap innocent people. The Inspector General of Police gives big statements to newspapers and makes accusations. Officials should be honest, and not play for politicians. Remove your uniform and go home if you cannot speak the truth,” said the Cardinal at a press conference held yesterday.

A hand grenade was found in the premises of the All Saints Church on Ananda Rajakaruna Mawatha opposite the Welikada Prison in Borella at around 4.40 p.m. on Wednesday (12). The hand grenade was discovered following a tip-off received by the Police and it was later defused by the Police Special Task Force (STF).

The Cardinal claimed that the Police had been reluctant to look at complete closed circuit television (CCTV) footage regarding the incident despite being offered the whole footage by the church.

“When the hand grenade was discovered in the evening, the Church Father Jude Sherman Fernando informed the Police. At that time, the Police took the church’s helper along with the latter’s assistant and two others for questioning. The Police Media Spokesman Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) and Attorney-at-Law Nihal Thalduwa later said that the helper was arrested. Fernando informed me that the Police had only requested to watch CCTV footage from 3 p.m. onwards that evening. When they had tried to show footage from the morning, the Police had seemed a bit reluctant to watch it. When we checked the footage from the morning, we found new evidence. At 9.52 a.m., a person came to the church with a shopping (sili sili) bag, wearing black pants, and walking with a limp. He crossed himself when he entered the church, but it is clear that he is not a Catholic as he used the wrong method to cross himself. He walked to the end of a bench, stopped near a statue, bent down, and took something from his pants. When a worker entered and passed him, we can see him hurrying out of the church, this time without a limp. The Police did not look at this footage. This was where the hand grenade was,” said the Archbishop, whilst showing CCTV footage of the same.

He queried as to why the Police had only checked the footage from 3 p.m. onwards.

“The post-3 p.m. footage shows our helper cleaning that area with a broom. When he came to the corner, he bent down and picked something up and kept it on top of the bench. We assume that this was the thing that was kept there in the morning by the earlier individual. The helper looked at the thing in fear and ran to the other side. He informed his assistant and they both checked and they talked about it. Then, they informed Fernando.”

Meanwhile, Colombo Additional Magistrate Rajindra Jayasuriya yesterday remanded the suspect who was arrested in connection with a hand grenade being found in the premises of the All Saints Church in Borella.

The suspect Indika Perera, a resident of Dematagoda, was remanded by the court until 25 January 2022. He has been identified as the fourth suspect in the incident.

The Colombo Crimes Division (CCD) also informed the court that three other suspects arrested in connection with the incident are being detained and questioned under the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act (PTA).

The main suspect involved in placing the said hand grenade inside the church has been identified as a 56-year-old who has had connections with the church for nearly 16 years. Reportedly, he had been serving the church and residing at the premises over the past nine months. The investigators have discovered parts of cello tape, matchsticks, and incense sticks, which were used to set up the hand grenade, from inside the main suspect’s living quarters.

Thalduwa on 12 January 2022 said that investigations have uncovered that the main suspect had used a 13-year-old boy, who resides close to the church and frequents the premises, to place the hand grenade. The CCD officers have recorded a statement from the 13-year-old boy in question, after producing him before the Aluthkade Magistrate’s Court.

Following the discovery of the hand grenade, four suspects in total were taken into custody over the incident.

When contacted by The Morning, Senior Deputy Inspector General of Police (SDIG) in charge of the Western Province Deshabandu Tennakoon said that the Police are yet to uncover the reason for the suspect to place explosive material inside the church.

BY Buddhika Samaraweera/The Morning 


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