SL parliament probe says President ‘actively undermined’ national security
Colombo, Oct. 23 (PTI): Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena “actively undermined” national security, a parliamentary committee that probed the Easter suicide bombings said on Wednesday as it blamed the spy chief for the intelligence failure that led to the country’s deadliest terror attack in April.
Nine suicide bombers carried out a series of devastating blasts that tore through three churches and three luxury hotels on the Easter Sunday, killing 277 people. The ISIS claimed the attacks, but the government blamed local Islamist extremist group National Thowheeth Jamaath (NTJ) for the bombings.
President Sirisena suspended police chief Pujith Jayasundara as well as the defence secretary as part of the revamping of the security establishment following the attack.
In its 1,649-page report, the Parliament Select Committee (PSC) on the Easter attacks said that the Director of State Intelligence Service (SIS) is primarily responsible for the intelligence failure that led to the attacks.
“The PSC notes that intelligence information related to the attacks was first received by the Director SIS on April 4, 2019 but there were delays from his end to share it with relevant intelligence and security personnel,” it said.
The report said that apart from the SIS, the secretary to the ministry of defence, the police chief, the chief of national intelligence and directorate of military intelligence had also failed in their duties.
The panel also accused President Sirisena of actively undermining the national security.
“The president failed on numerous occasions to give leadership and also actively undermined government and systems including having ad hoc national security council meetings while leaving out key individuals from meetings,” it said.
The panel also said that no evidence was found to link the local jihadi group responsible for the attacks, National Thowheeth Jamaath, with the ISIS.
The PSC said that it observed further investigations will be needed to understand whether those with vested interests did not act on intelligence so as to create chaos and instil fear and uncertainty in the country in the lead up to the November 16 Presidential Election.
“Such a situation would then lead to the call for a change of regime to contain such acts of terrorism. Coincidently or not so coincidentally, the security situation and fear would be unleashed months away from the Presidential Election,” the report said.
The report said that 40 foreigners and at least 45 children were among the 277 dead.
The Easter Sunday bombings on churches and Colombo main tourist hotels is currently a major issue in ongoing presidential election campaign.