President Maithripala Sirisena in no uncertain terms emphasised that the Government and all its stakeholders should take the responsibility for the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks. President Sirisena also stressed that he too does not shirk his responsibility in that regard.
Addressing a meeting with Heads of Print and Electronic Media yesterday at President’s House in Fort, the President said the Government should also take the responsibility for weakening the State Intelligence Service and Tri-Forces and putting higher rank intelligence officials behind bars.
The President also said that former Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando and IGP Pujith Jayasundera had totally failed in their duties. He said that he ordered both of them to resign, adding that he no sooner expects the IGP to submit his resignation letter.
He said that there would be a complete overhaul in the Intelligence Service and Security apparatus in the future, and that action would be taken against all officers who neglected their duties.“When we fought the war against the LTTE, only a few countries supported us while the majority of the international community identified it as a ‘radical movement’ siding with the Human Rights campaigners. Those Human Rights ‘uncles’ are nowhere to be found following the attacks. They too contributed to weaken the Intelligence Service and the Tri-Forces.
“One main reason for the rift between the Government and me was the attempts to weaken the military and Intelligence Service. Former Bribery Commission Director General Dilrukshi Wickramasinghe’s resignation was following my speech when former Tri-Forces’ Commanders were summoned to court. I fought from within to protect them and prevent unnecessary arrests. Some intelligence officers left the country over the past years and some got appointments overseas. Intelligence Officer Suresh Sallay was an example,” he complained.
Expressing his deep disappointment over the manner how the forewarning from India over a possible attack had been handled, the President said, “India had given the warning on April 4 and it contained a name list and many vital information as you are already aware. From April 4-12, no action had been taken except passing the letter to one another. The letter was passed to the Defence Secretary, the IGP and five DIGs. One of the DIGs had forwarded it to VIP Security Chief and others have not acted”.
“Some accused me for not making an acting appointment for the Defence Minister when I went overseas, but there had been many instances where former Presidents had gone abroad without making such acting appointments. I left the country on April 16, 12 days after the receipt of the letter. Neither the Defence Secretary nor the IGP informed me. They met me on the Sinhala and Tamil New Year to offer a sheaf of betel leaves. They could have told me at least then. Had they called me when I was in India, I would have immediately returned. I am not saying these to absolve myself, but this was what happened,” he explained.
The President, who was in Singapore at the time of the attacks, said he got to know of the attacks only through social media about an hour after the incident. “After the attacks, my attention was drawn to a letter circulating on Social Media. That was the letter sent by DIG Dasanayake to the VIP Chief. I too saw it for the first time on social media while in Singapore. Not even the President’s Security Chief or the Prime Minister’s Security Chief had been informed,” the President complained adding that it explains as to why the Prime Minister and Cabinet were also in the dark.
“When the National Security Council met on April 22, I asked the assembly as to who would take the responsibility. Both the IGP and the Defence Secretary remained silent looking down. On Wednesday, when I summoned the IGP to ask him to resign, I asked again as to why he did not call and inform me. He admitted that it was a lapse on his part. Had it been any other country, both of them could have been in jail,” an irate President Sirisena said.
Responding to a question by journalists on the statements that various political figures pressurized to release the suspects in connection with the incident of vandalizing Buddha Statues in Mawenella, the President said the investigative bodies would question anybody, irrespective of the office they hold or the political party they represent, if there are complaints or information.
He however said that the DIG of the CID informed him that there had been no political pressure to release two of the six suspects arrested in connection with the incident in Mawanella. He said he informed the Cabinet Minister, who made the allegation, to be responsible for what he says in public.
Responding to journalists’ questions as to whether the Government was aware of locals with ISIS links prior to the attacks, the President said that there was information about several individuals, but had not enough evidence to apprehend them or to confirm that they were attached to the ISIS.
“For the last four years, these names came up at the National Security Council meetings. However, there were no revelations that they possessed weapons or bombs or planned attacks. They had been going out of the country frequently. We cannot remand anybody without proper evidence,” he added.
Army Commander Lt. Gen. Mahesh Senanayake, responding to questions, said that the Army Intelligence Unit was not aware of the forewarning letter until the incident happened.