Sri Lanka’s spy chief off the hook, others face charges over Easter attacks

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has initiated criminal investigations against nine officers over lapses leading to the Easter Sunday attacks, but the head of state intelligence Nilantha Jayawardena has been spared.

Attorney-General Dappula de Livera in a letter to Acting Inspector General Chandana Wickramaratne ordered that disciplinary action be taken against the nine men, including three DIGs.

De Livera said the final report of the three-member presidential commission which investigated lapses that allowed the April 21 suicide bombings recommended disciplinary and criminal action against the nine men.

The nine did not include IGP Pujith Jauasundara who was suspended by President Maithripala Sirisena who asked him to accept responsibility and step down. Jayasundara refused and was promptly suspended.

The AG’s department official said that although Jayasundara’s name was not in the latest order sent to the Acting IGP, the AG had in late May called for criminal investigations against IGP Jayasundara, Chief of National Intelligence Sisira Mendis,  Western Province Senior DIG Nandana Munasinghe and STF Commandant Latheef.

Mendis was sacked by the President.

According to testimony before the Parliamentary Select Committee, Nilantha Jayawardena , the head of the State Intelligence Service (SIS), the premier spy outfit of the country, had not taken seriously the warnings given by India.

The SIS did not report to the Chief of National Intelligence Sisira Mendis who had more of a post-box function to call meetings of intelligence outfits of the police and the military.  Mendis in his testimony said that Jayawardena treated the threat lightly.

Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando said SIS chief Nilantha Jayawardena called him a short while before the bombings to say that the attacks were going to be against Methodist churches and not Catholics.

Jayawardena also did not know where Methodist churches were located in Colombo, Fernando said.

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After the shocking exposure of the SIS, President Sirisena insisted that serving intelligence officers should not be brought before the parliamentary panel and grilled in front of TV cameras.

The PSC hearings also showed systemic weaknesses.

The president has also pressured defence secretary Hemasiri Fernando to step down.

It is significant that Fernando has not been held responsible for any lapses by the presidential board of inquiry while no one has been held responsible for intelligence failures.

The government has admitted that warnings sent by neighbouring India of an impending attack by the National Thowheeth Jama’ath (NTJ) were ignored.

At least 258 people were killed and another 500 wounded in the six suicide bombings against three churches and three hotels in Colombo.

Forty-five foreign nationals were among the dead.

Meanwhile, the Parliamentary Select Committee is continuing its investigations into the circumstances of the Easter Sunday attacks despite objections from Sirisena who is the minister of law and order and defence.
 
The officers to be prosecuted for criminal liability are under the directive on June 19, 2019 are:
 
1)      DIG Colombo, Lalith Pathinayake
2)      DIG Western Province (North) Deshabandu Thennakoon
3)      DIG SPR Priyalal Dassanayake
4)      SSP Negombo
5)      SP Colombo North
6)      ASP Negombo III
7)      ASP Negombo IV
8)      OIC Katana
9)      OIC Jampettah Street (Colombo/June20/2019 – adds second letter asking for action against Pujith Jayasundera and two others)