Ex-IGP Pujith blames ex-President and SIS Chief for key lapses | Sunday Observer
Probe into Easter Sunday attacks:

Ex-IGP Pujith blames ex-President and SIS Chief for key lapses

27 September, 2020

Former IGP Pujith Jayasundara together with former Secretary of Defence Hemasiri Fernando appearing before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry on the Easter Sunday Attacks last week pointed fingers at former President Maithripala Sirisena and former SIS Chief Senior DIG Nilantha Jayawardena for key lapses which led to the Easter Sunday attacks.

Fernando told the Commission that only the President has the power to give directions to the National Security Council (NSC) and former President Maithripala Sirisena had never instructed those in the NSC to arrest terror mastermind Zahran Hashim during his tenure as the Defence Secretary between November 2018 and April 2019.

Fernando said that he took over the post of Defence Secretary in November 2018 and that no one had any idea where Zahran was hiding. If they could have arrested Zahran in 2018, the attack could have been foiled, he said. He said that in 2018, the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) was after Zahran, but this endeavour was intercepted. “If this didn’t happen, the TID might have arrested him,” he said.

Fernando said that Former President Sirisena had asked former IGP Pujith Jayasundara not to investigate National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ) Leader Zahran Hashim as he had handed over the investigation to the State Intelligence Service (SIS). Fernando said that the investigation into NTJ had been taken away from the TID and handed over to the SIS by former President in 2018.

Fernando said SIS Director Nilantha Jayawardena must take the responsibility for the Easter Sunday attacks as Jayawardena had failed to furnish accurate information and analyse it. Fernando said this in response to a question posed by a Commissioner as to who should be held responsible for the attacks.

He said Jayawardana had informed of foreign information about a possible terrorist attack. Fernando said Jayawardena had failed to mention that the information came from India and was reluctant to discuss the foreign intelligence at the weekly intelligence review meeting held on April 9, 2019. He said that he didn’t push the matter because former SIS Director and former President Sirisena had a strong bond.

Former IGP Pujith Jayasundara said that former President Sirisena instructed him not to carry out inquiries about Islamic extremists.

Jayasundara said that he became aware of the threat posed by Islamic extremists by late 2017 and that he attempted to coordinate the actions of various institutions under him and brief political leaders on the issue.

“I felt that reports of the TID, Special Branch and the CID were not coming to the Intelligence Coordinating Meeting, and I tried to address this by telling the Defence Secretary. I also tried to inform the political leadership,” Jayasundara said.

The witness added that when meeting relevant ministers, he raised the matter. During such a meeting, President Sirisena said that the situation in Sri Lanka wasn’t grave and that there could not be issues from Muslim leaders, including ministers, Jayasundara said.

He said that towards the latter part of the previous government, there was confusion in many spheres, which prevented them from taking decisions on national security. Jayasundara said that he was asked not to take part in the National Security Council (NSC) in October 2018, and this led to serious issues and inconveniences.

The Commissioners also asked Jayasundara whether his being absent from the NSC, had an impact on national security. Jayasundara said that from that time, he was not informed of what transpired at the NSC and that the fact that another senior officer of the Police was invited to the NSC was upsetting for me and him,” he said.

Jayasundara also said that the stand-off between President Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had become a serious concern and that when both of them gave contradictory orders, he followed the directives of the President.

Jayasundara added that he had received a call from the former President at around 9.15 am on the day of the attacks.

“President Sirisena told me that he was not apprised of prior warnings on the attacks and the IGP and the Defence Secretary had to bear responsibility for the disaster,” Jayasundara said. He admitted that former President Sirisena had verbally instructed him not to conduct an inquiry openly on Islamic extremism, after he had instructed the CID to conduct an inquiry on vandalising Buddha statues in Mawanella in December, 2018.

Given that the Easter Sunday attacks were well planned, President Sirisena must directly be held responsible, while his advisors must be partially blamed for the disaster, former IGP Pujith Jayasundara yesterday told Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) investigating the Easter Sunday attacks.

Meanwhile, the PCoI probing into the Easter Sunday attacks last week, issued stern warning to former President Sirisena, his personal secretary Sameera de Silva and the three Auxiliary Bishops of Colombo.

They were warned to refrain from making statements to the media refusing remarks made by witnesses testifying before the Commission.

Former President Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe have been summoned before the Commission on October 5 and 6.