(ECONOMYNEXT) Detectives investigating the alleged Indian-backed plot to assassinate President Maithripala Sirisena have failed to uncover any incriminating conversations and have called in Chinese expertise for mobile phone analysis, official sources said.
The man who exposed the alleged plot, a former air force and army deserter Namal Kumara, had told investigators that his recordings of phone conversations with a police Deputy Inspector General had been mysteriously deleted.
Kumara called a press conference in early September to claim that he had in his possession recordings of his conversations with DIG Nalaka Silva, the then head of the Terrorist Investigation Division.
“Namal Kumara has not provided any of the recordings that relate to any conspiracy to assassinate the president,” a source close to the investigation said. “He says Indian intelligence may have planted some bug in his phone to erase those recordings.”
Detectives have only been able to identify that the voice of some of the other recordings are of Kumara and Silva, but nothing in those conversations relates to a plot to kill Sirisena.
“The authorities have now decided to send Namal Kumara’s phone to Chinese experts to analyse and recover any data that may have been deleted,” the source said.
Sirisena’s reported remarks blaming India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) of planning to kill him had caused concern in New Delhi. Sirisena telephoned Modi on Thursday to smooth things over while Colombo issued three denials which were at variance with each other.
The Sri Lankan Foreign ministry issued a statement rejecting media reports of Tuesday’s cabinet meeting as “baseless and false.” However, within minutes, the President’s office issued a statement saying he had mentioned a plot to assassinate him, but had not mentioned any involvement of an Indian intelligence service.
The President’s Senior Advisor Shiral Lakthilaka a day later said the President did refer to an Indian intelligence service being involved, but that he was only quoting local media reports.
Lakthilaka said sections of the government were taking the assassination plot too lightly and were questioning the credibility of the virtual complainant, Namal Kumara, without paying attention to the substance of his claims.
However, on at least one count Namal Kumara failed the truth test even by his standard. Namal Kumara had spoken of a coalition between Sirisena and former secretary to the defence ministry Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. Lakthilaka said it was a figment of some people’s imagination, there was no such plan to forge an alliance with Rajapaksa.
The conspiracy to assassinate Sirisena hinged on an assumption that Sirisena was going to contest the 2019 presidential election following an alliance with Rajapaksa.
“There is no such coalition and any such arrangement, that is a fabrication,” Lakthilaka told reporters on Thursday. His associate, lawyer Sarath Kongahage, said the Sirisena-Rajapaksa alliance was first mentioned by DIG Nalaka Silva.
Despite an in-depth investigation, sleuths have been unable to find any credible assassination plot and are now relying on China’s help to analyse Namal Kumara’s phone. They have also found several contradictions in statements given by Namal Kumara.
He had publicly claimed that an underworld figure known as Makandure Madush was to be contracted for the assassination, but told investigators that it was to be done by an Indian national who is now in custody.
Namal Kumara had claimed he was aware that a sniper weapon was to be used, but there was no indication of such a firearm in the hands of the Indian in custody.
However, it is reported that the TID had acquired two light machine guns in 2016. They are in proper legal custody and have been sent to the Government Analyst to check if those weapons had been used recently.
The authorities are even more mystified by Namal Kumara’s declaration in bank records that he was employed by the Presidential Secretariat, a claim denied by the president’s office.