Lankan president resumes Cabinet meeting after threatening to boycott over separate Lanka bombings probe
Colombo, June 18 (PTI): Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena on Tuesday presided over a Cabinet meeting, days after he threatened to boycott it over Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s faction initiating a separate parliamentary probe into the April 21 Easter Sunday bombings.
He convened the meeting amidst an infighting between the two factions of the ruling coalition over the abdication of responsibility to prevent the deadly attack despite the availability of prior intelligence.
The President, who is the head of the Cabinet in his troubled coalition government with Wickremesinghe, did not call last week’s meeting over a stand-off with his coalition partner.
Sirisena wanted the halt to proceedings of the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) appointed by Assembly Speaker Karu Jayasuriya to probe the events leading to the attacks that killed 258 people, including 11 Indians, and injured nearly 500.
He had threatened not to reconvene the Cabinet until the government abandoned the select committee process.
Sirisena claimed that the committee proceedings were aimed at putting the blame of the attacks on him being the Defence Minister for the intelligence failure.
At the PSC, the security apparatus which gave evidence suggested that there was bungling at the very top of the defence establishment. The prior intelligence on the possibility of attacks had been ignored.
Sirisena said he would not cooperate with the parliamentary probe and would not allow defence or police officials to testify before the committee.
The government and speaker Jayasuriya had made it clear that the probe process would not be halted.
On Saturday, Sirisena sacked national intelligence chief Sisira Mendis who reportedly said that the attacks could have been avoided and that the president had failed to hold regular security meetings to assess the threats from the militants.
India had shared intelligence inputs with Sri Lanka about possible attacks weeks before the bombings.
Nine suicide bombers carried out a series of devastating blasts that tore through St Anthony’s Church in Colombo, St Sebastian’s Church in the western coastal town of Negombo and another church in the eastern town of Batticaloa, and three high-end hotels frequented by tourists in the country’s deadliest violence since the devastating civil war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) ended in 2009.
The Islamic State claimed the attacks, but the government blamed local Islamist extremist group National Thawheed Jamaath for the attacks.