ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Parliamentary Select Committee on Easter Sunday attacks dropped a bombshell Wednesday accusing President Maithripala Sirisena of actively undermining national security.
The lengthy report also found that the country’s spy chief, Deputy Inspector General Nilantha Jayawardena as the most culpable for the huge intelligence failure that led to the April 21 attacks that left 269 people dead and over 400 wounded.
The report also blamed Sirisena for attempting to shield Jayawardena who reported directly to the president but failed to share intelligence warnings on the Easter attacks with other security arms of the country.
“This failure by the SIS has resulted in hundreds of deaths, many more injured and immeasurable devastation to Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans and that must not be treated lightly.
“The PSC makes this observation considering attempts made to shield the culpability of key individuals and the need to hold all individuals responsible without further delay.”
However, the censure of Sirisena was even more damning.
“The PSC observes that the President failed in numerous occasions to give leadership and also actively undermined government and systems, including having ad hoc NSC meetings and leaving out key individuals from meetings.”
“Whilst the fissures in Government were evident in 2018, amplified with the Constitutional Crisis, these also impacted the security apparatus.”
It also noted that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and State Minister for Defence Ruwan Wijewardene and the Attorney General’s Department had also failed to carry out their responsibilities.
The report also raised the death toll from the Easter attacks to 259. Apart from that, eight suicide bombers were involved in bombing three luxury hotels in Colombo, three churches and two other locations.
The PSC held its sittings, much of it open to the press, despite Sirisena’s attempt to block officials from testifying. But the PSC had warned that anyone failing to cooperate will be prosecuted for contempt of parliament and risked jail sentences.
The PSC said evidence revealed that SIS director Jayawardena had been given a warning on April 4 by a foreign intelligence agency, but he had failed to prevent the bombings.
Both officials and media reports have said it was neighbouring India which passed on the information about the impending attack based on interrogations of a jihadi suspect in their custody.
Sirisena had blamed his police chief, Pujith Jayasundara and secretary to the ministry of defence Hemasiri Fernando for the lapses and initiated criminal prosecutions against the two of them.
However, the PSC found that the SIS was more to blame.
“Whilst the greatest responsibility remains with the director SIS, others too failed in their duties,” the report said.
The PSC also found no evidence linking the local jihadi group, the National Thowheeth Jama’ath (NTJ) with the Islamic State group despite a claim of responsibility two days after the bombing. Sri Lanka maintains that almost all the suspects involved in the bombings, numbering nearly 300, have been arrested and are facing prosecution.
Sri Lanka lifted a state of emergency that was imposed soon after the attacks and has also relaxed many of the tight security arrangements that were put in place soon after the devastating attacks. (COLOMBO, October 23, 2019)