National Security Council didn’t meet till April 21 attacks

St. Sebastian Catholic church in Negombo Sri Lanka after the bomb blast

Chief of National Intelligence (CNI) DIG Sisira Mendis yesterday told the Special Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC), probing the Easter Sunday carnage, that though he briefed the then Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando on the impending terrorist attack, the National Security Council (NSC) had not met till the coordinated suicide bombings took place on April 21.

Mendis said that he had received information about the impending attacks the previous day from Nilantha Jayawardena, Director, State Intelligence Service (SIS).

Mendis said that Fernando had advised him to inform the IGP as the police should act on such information.

Mendis revealed that the warning of the attacks has not even been discussed at the regular intelligence coordinating meeting attended by Defence Secretary Fernando, Lt. Gen. Mahesh Senanayake, Air Marshal Kapila Jayampathy, Vice Admiral Piyal de Silva and IGP Pujitha Jayasundera.

Mendis said that he had informed the IGP in writing about the warning with a note emphasizing its importance.

According to him, the NSC last met on Feb 19, 2019 before the April 21 suicide bombings.

The live coverage provided to the proceedings were suspended suddenly before the lunch break. Acting PSC Chairman Dr. Jayampathy Wickremaratne described the suspension as a privilege issue.

Defence Secretary Gen Shantha Kottegoda, retired, yesterday told the Special Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) probing the Easter Sunday carnage that the April 21 suicide bombings could have been averted had extremist organizations been proscribed on the basis of intelligence reports received in 2014.

President Maithripala Sirisena on April 21 appointed Kottegada as the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence in the wake of suicide bombings. One-time Army Chief succeeded Hemasiri Fernando.

The sittings continued till 4.15 pm in the Committee Room 1 of the Parliamentary Complex and journalists were allowed to cover them.

Gen. Kottegoda was the first witness to testify before the PSC.

The Committee is required to produce its report either within three months from its inaugural meeting or before the completion of the three months on a date set by the parliament. Its interim report is to be submitted within two weeks.

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, on May 23, announced the members of the Special Select Committee, chaired by Deputy Speaker Ananda Kumarasinghe, appointed to probe and report on the coordinated terrorist attacks that took place on April 21.

The committee also includes Minister Rauff Hakeem, MP Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, Minister Ravi Karunanayake, MP Ashu Marasinghe, MP Jayampathy Wickramaratne and MP M.A. Sumanthiran.

However, three PSC members including its Chairman Deputy Chairman Ananda Kumarasiri were out of the country. Dr. Rajitha Senaratne and TNA MP M A Sumanthiran were abroad. Dr. Jayampathy Wickremaratne chaired the PSC.

UNP MP Kavinda Jayawardena was also appointed as a committee member, but a day later he decided to step down from the committee.

Health Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne and JVP MP Nalinda Jayatissa were later appointed as committee members.

Gen Kottegoda asserted that 99 per cent of the threat was over though the situation couldn’t be tackled completely within two or three months.

Field Marshal Fonseka said that DIG Nalaka de Silva of the terrorist Investigation Division (TID) had been engaged in investigations after having inquired into Zahran Hasim, one of the suicide bombers.

Gen Kottegoda said that he had not studied what Nalaka de Silva said. The arrest of such a person could be a problem, the witness said.

Field Marshal Fonseka said that following the arrest of de Silva, investigations had been affected.

The next session of the PSC is scheduled to be held from 3 to 9 pm on June 4.

The PSC decided to summon IGP Pujitha Jayasundera currently on compulsory leave, former Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando, DIG, CID, Ravi Seneviratne and Director, TID.

(Source: The Island – By Ajith Alahakoon)