Saturday, 21 September 2019 09:24

President tells PSC he was kept in dark about imminent terror threats

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President Maithripala Sirisena yesterday told the Parliamentary Select Committee investigating the Easter Sunday attacks that neither he nor the Presidential Security Division (PSD) was kept informed of intelligence reports about imminent terror attacks by either the Police Chief, the Defence Secretary or the Head of State Intelligence Services (SIS).

In the nearly two hours of testimony that the President gave on camera at the Presidential Secretariat yesterday, he also blamed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe for the mess in the defence and security affairs of the country, saying his choice of Pujith Jayasundera to the post of Inspector General of Police (IGP) was one reason the Easter attacks could not be averted, Committee sources said.

“I opposed the appointment of Jayasundera. He was not my choice. I wanted Senior DIG S.M. Wickremasinghe as the IGP, but it was the Prime Minister who insisted that Jayasundera be appointed to that post,” the President said.

He accused the IGP, who was sent on compulsory leave after the attacks, of messing up the entire Police force and said the Prime Minister, who backed his appointment, should take responsibility for the fallout.

Committee member Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka asked several questions from the President including why the Prime Minister was kept out of National Security Council (NSC) meetings, to which he replied that a circular issued in 1999 by then-President Chandrika Kumaratunga excluded the Prime Minister from the list of persons eligible to attend NSC meeting. The President said he had however allowed the Prime Minister to attend the NSC.

The PSC met at the Presidential Secretariat yesterday, as the President declined to come to the Parliament Committee room where all other witnesses, including the Prime Minister, have given evidence since the Committee was set up in June. However, he acceded to the request by the Committee to have his evidence recorded at the Secretariat, but did not agree to open the session to the media.

The PSC members who were present at yesterday sittings were Deputy Speaker Ananda Kumarasiri (Chairman), Ministers Dr. Rajitha Senaratne, Rauff Hakeem and Ravi Karunanayake, Dr. Nalinda Jayatissa, Prof. Ashu Marasinghe, Dr. Jayampathi Wickremaratne and Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka.

The PSC will present its report to Parliament by the end of October.

(FT)

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