Former Commandant Eastern Province Major General Lal Perera yesterday said he had warned National Thowheed Jamaath Leader Zahran in 2014 to desist from the extremist activities he was engaged in.
Major General Perera said this while testifying before the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) probing the Easter Sunday attacks last afternoon.
He said there had been tension brewing in the East since 2011 with large-scale land encroachments in Muslims areas. “Even reserved forest areas were being cleared,” he said.
Major General Perera said he was forced to set up army camps in some areas to prevent encroachments from taking place, adding that there was also mass Arabisation taking place in many areas in the East with funds coming from outside.
He said some NGOs also created issues in the East during that time.
At the same time, he said there were reports about extremist ideologies being promoted by the National Thowheed Jamaath (NTJ) and that he had called all parties for a meeting.
“I did not know Zahran at the time but I found out that he too had participated in the meeting,” he said.
He said Zahran was thought to have threatened to retaliate against the riots that occurred at Darga Town. “He threatened to carry out riots against the Sinhalese people in retaliation for the violence allegedly perpetrated against the Muslims,” he revealed.
Major General Perera said he had to hold frequent meetings with intelligence officers coming under him to thwart a backlash and see to it that NTJ plans were not put into action.
He said information received by him was passed on to his superiors whenever there was anything important to report. (Yohan Perera and Ajith Siriwardana)