Former SIS Senior DIG decries information not acted upon | Sunday Observer
Easter Sunday attacks

Former SIS Senior DIG decries information not acted upon

23 August, 2020
Attack on St. Anthony’s Church, Kochchikade, Colombo
Attack on St. Anthony’s Church, Kochchikade, Colombo

After being in the hot seat for over two weeks before the PCoI probing the Easter Sunday attacks former Director of the State Intelligence Service (SIS) Senior DIG Nilantha Jayawardena became emotional on Friday (22) as he expressed his dismay over the failure to prevent the terror attacks despite his repeated attempts. When asked what he felt hearing the news of the terror attacks on April 21 last year, an emotional Jayawardene told the Commission that he felt sad at the time. “I was the head of the SIS. I tried to prevent it but could not” Jayawardena told the Commission.

Giving evidence for nearly 16 days before the PCoI probing the Easter Sunday attacks Jayawardena has repeatedly revealed how he had informed several top officials of the impending attacks but to no avail. Instead Jayawardena appears to have been ignored and his information disregarded.

While the then Director of the SIS had received the first tip off on a possible attack on April 4 last year, Jayawardena told the Commission that on the day prior to the attack, the same informant of a foreign intelligence service had whatsapped him specific information of an impending attack that had been planned for the next day.

The message Jayawardena had received read “An attack can take place any time of the day. It may target eight locations including churches or hotels frequented by Indians. This is the updated information I received from my headquarters”.

According to Jayawardena while he had received this message around 4.12 am he had then forwarded it to the then Secretary of Defence Hemasiri Fernando, Chief of National Intelligence DIG (Rtd.) Sisira Mendis, IGP Pujith Jayasundara and CID Chief Senior DIG Ravi Seneviratne.

In response to his message Jayawardene said the Defence Secretary had merely replied saying well received. Jayawardena was then asked by the Commission what the IGP had told him in response when informed of the impending attack. He merely said “Nilantha tell this to Nandana” in reference to DIG Nandana Munasinghe, Jayawardena said.

Since the IGP failed to understand the severity of the information Jayawardena said he once again called the Defence Secretary and said “I informed the IGP. But he did not take it seriously. Please tell the IGP,” he said.

In desperation, Jayawardena then said he even attempted to contact the then President Maithripala Sirisena by calling the head of the President’s security division DIG Rohan Silva.

According to Jayawardena he was then informed by Silva that, the President had left for a private foreign tour.

He also told the Commission that Silva had said he can speak to the personal security officer of the President by calling the telephone at the President’s residence on Paget Road, Colombo 7.

“I was told the President did not have a mobile phone with him,” he added. Jayawardena had then called the President’s PSO around 6.18 pm and requested to be connected to the President.

“They said they would try, However, we were not able to reach him on April 20 the day prior to the attack,” he said.

Jayawardena said while he may have informed the President when he received the initial tip off on April 4, he did not do so as the official procedure was to inform the Secretary of Defence, CNI and the IGP. “I did the best I could,” the former SIS Director said. He had finally attempted to inform the President incase later he was blamed for failing to do so.

He also said that he had informed top officials again on the morning of April 21. Jayawardena said he had informed former Senior DIG in charge of the Western province Nandana Munasinghe at 8.28 am and IGP Pujith Jayasundara at 8.30 am on April 21 of the imminent attack. “But the IGP did not give me any instructions,” he noted. Jayawardena had then called the Defence Secretary as well.

Noting the chain of events since April 4 when the SIS was informed of a possible attack by the foreign service to the day of the attack, the Additional Solicitor General asked Jayawardena wouldn’t the attack been prevented if law enforcement had been deployed as they already had all the information at hand. Jayawardena becoming emotional admitted the fact saying“If so we could have at least saved one human being”.