President instructed Security Chiefs not to attend PM Ranil’s security meetings – Ruwan

Ruwan Wijewardene

Former President Maithripala Sirisena had instructed officials, including Intelligence Chiefs, not to attend any security meetings chaired by then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe following the Easter Sunday attacks, former Defence State Minister Ruwan Wijewardene said.

He was yesterday testifying before the Colombo High Court Trial-at-Bar over the case filed against former Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando on charges of failing to prevent the Easter Sunday attacks despite receiving enough information to prevent attack.

Testifying further Wijewardene said that following the series of Easter Sunday attacks, then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had telephoned more than three times to ask officials at the Defence Ministry to convene a Security Council meeting at Temple Trees and even they were not heeded.

He further stated that the Prime Minister had telephoned the Ministry of Defense on the fourth occasion and visited by himself.

The case was taken up before the Colombo High Court Trial-at-Bar Bench comprising Colombo High Court Judges Namal Balalle, Adithya Patabendi and Mohammad Irshadeen.

After his appointment as State Defence Minister in 2015, he participated in intelligence review meetings and Security Council meetings and he had not been invited to any Security Council meetings or intelligence review meetings after the 52 days government in 2018, he said.

Wijewardene, who testified as to whether the relevant officials were not consulted in this regard, he stated that he had inquired from the Defence Secretary in this regard.

Wijewardene said that the Defence Secretary had informed him that former President Maithripala Sirisena had instructed the Defence Secretary not to summon himself or the Prime Minister to meetings.

Member of the Judge Panel, Colombo High Court Judge Aditya Patabendige questioned the witness as to why he was not invited to the meetings if there was a good relationship between witness Wijewardene and former Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando.

Wijewardene said that the Defence Secretary was also embarrassed and that although he had informed the President about this on several occasions, the President had refused to summon him and the Prime Minister. He also said that he had not received any intelligence after the 52 day government overthrow.

High Court Judge Aditya Patabendi then asked the witness whether he was aware that any person other than the Prime Minister or him had attended the intelligence review meetings and the Security Council meetings. Responding to query he said that he was aware of it and that he and the Prime Minister had not been invited to those meetings on the instructions of the President.

Further questioning the witness, Judge Aditya Patabendi asked whether the Prime Minister had not held intelligence review meetings after Ranil Wickremesinghe’s became Prime Minister with the 52 – day overthrow of the government or whether the Defense Secretary had not invited them.

Responding to this, Wijewardene stated that these meetings were convened in the manner required by President Maithripala Sirisena whenever necessary. He further stated that in most cases meetings were not convened and the President contacted the respective officials separately.

Meanwhile, Fr.Sameera Rodrigo of St.Sebastian Church in Katuwapitiya, Negombo testified before the court that even Colombo Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith had never been informed by any security forces before the Easter attacks.

Thereafter, the Tourism Development Authority former Director General Upali Ratnayake also appeared before the court to testify over the case yesterday. Witness Ratnayake told the court that all the tourism hotels were registered with the Tourism Development Authority and that no security notice had been issued before the attack.

Deputy Solicitor General Sudharshana de Silva appeared on behalf of the Attorney General and President’s Counsel Mohan Weerakoon appeared for the accused. The case will be taken up again today for further trial. The Attorney General had filed indictment against him comprising 855 charges including charges of failing to prevent Easter Sunday attacks despite receiving enough information to prevent attack and alleging that 275 people had died and nearly 500 had been injured as a result of failing to prevent the attacks on charges of murder and attempted murder under sections 296 and 300 of the Penal Code.

(Source: Daily News – By Dilshan Tharaka)