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Former Prez Sirisena refuses to accept responsibility for Sri Lanka’s Easter Sunday attacks

ECONOMYNEXT – Denying any prior knowledge of last year’s Easter Sunday attacks, Sri Lanka’s former President Maithripala Sirisena yesterday refused to accept any responsibility for the devastating bomb blasts that left 259 people dead and at least 500 injured.

In an interview given to BBC Sinhala, a visibly annoyed and defensive Sirisena insisted that he had not been briefed about the impending attacks. In the immediate aftermath of the bombings, speculation was rife that Sri Lanka had received intelliegence that an attack was imminent. Then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe later admitted that information was, in fact, received by sections of the country’s security establishment days before the incident.

Responding to questions by the BBC journalist, the former president said: “if I had known about it, would I have allowed it to happen?”

When reminded  that he was the minister of defence as well as the commander in chief at the time, Sirisena said investigations have clearly revealed who was responsible for the alleged security lapse. Those responsible, he said, were suspended and cases against them are still being heard in court.

The alleged mishandling of intelligence was among aspects of the Easter attacks that were probed by both a presidential commission of inquiry and a parliamentary select committee. Then Secretary to the Ministry of Defence Hemasiri Fernando and then Inspector General of Police Pujith Jayasundara were arrested in September last year on charges of not preventing the terrorist attack.

Asked again if he or ex-Prime Minister Wickremesinghe should accept responsibility, an increasingly uncomfortable Sirisena said: “Why should I accept responsibility for the Easter attacks? Responsibility should be taken by those responsible.”

“But you were president, minister of defence and commander of chief,” repeated the BBC journalist.

“The president doesn’t go to apprehend moonshiners or rapists or drug peddlers or terrorists himself. The president’s role is in policy, planning, issuing directives and advice – [interruption] – the president carried out those duties properly. It’s the people downward that didn’t [carry out their duties].”

The BBC journalist then noted that in similar situations globally, ministers and high ranking officials in charge have resigned and apologised for their negligence. Asked if he would use the opportunity of the televised interview to express his regret, Sirisena said: To express regret, I had to have known about it beforehand. Why you keep raising this question – I can’t fathom why you keep going on about it. If the information hadn’t been given even to the security division of either the president or the PM, how could the president or the PM have known?” (Colombo/Jun18/2020)

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