Attacks of this magnitude were not expected: Defence Secretary

Hemasiri Fernando

Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando said yesterday the Defence Ministry never expected an attack of this magnitude except for some isolated incidents in certain places.

Asked about the government being privy to intelligence on imminent terrorist attacks, Fernando maintained that the information received was unclear.

Speaking to the media following a visit to the St. Anthony’s Shrine in Kochchikade, Fernando said “Intelligence never indicated that it’s going to be an attack of this magnitude. They were talking about isolated incidents. Besides, there is no emergency in this country. We cannot request the armed forces to come and assist as, we can only depend on the police.” He said all departments of the police had been informed and alerted.

Responding to allegations that the Sri Lankan people have been failed by the intelligence services, Fernando said Sri Lanka had experienced similar tragic situations, despite security checks in place.

“It’s not the first time a bomb went off in this country. During the height of the war, when emergency regulations were in force and road blocks installed at every two kilometers, bombs went off. Why are you trying to isolate this unfortunate incident?”

The Secretary confirmed that Sri Lankan authorities will receive the assistance of the FBI, Interpol and Australian Police in the investigations into Sunday’s deadly attacks that claimed 290 lives. He said that he was unable to divulge information as it would hamper ongoing investigations. “The FBI is here today and the Interpol will arrive tomorrow,” he said.

Commenting on the state of the country’s security Fernando said many countries have faced similar security issues in the past. “It happened in New Zealand, unexpectedly. We need to make sure that similar things will not take place in the future,” he said.

He added that discussions were held with the President and Prime Minister to avert similar incidents. “I can’t take confidence with terrorism. No country in the world can assure that it’s not going to happen. But we’re trying our best. We wish to uncover every link into this incident,” he said.

The Secretary of Defence also cautioned the public to remain calm and peaceful and to let the armed forces, police and the government to handle the situation.

(Source: Daily Mirror – By Kalani Kumarasinghe)