October 19, 2019
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    Govt. must take responsibility for Easter Sunday attacks-President Featured

    April 28, 2019

    President Maithripala Sirisena said the Government and all its stakeholders should take responsibility for the Easter Sunday’s terrorist attacks. The President said he too has not shirked his responsibility in this regard.Addressing a meeting with the print and electronic media heads at thePresident’s House, Colombo on Friday (26), the President said the Government should also take the responsibility for weakening the State intelligence service and Tri-Forces and putting higher rank intelligence officials behind bars.

    The speech in full :
    President Maithripala Sirisena addressing media heads on April 26th at the President’s House.
    I called this gathering with the objective to enlighten you on the recent catastrophic attacks carried out by ISIS terrorists in our country. We are a country which was able to defeat 30-year terrorism by sacrificing our lives.During that period we have equally experienced victory as well as defeat.
    A battalion of Indian Army comprising 100,000 soldiers was not successful in defeating the ruthless LTTE. That was the history we have witnessed. Some segments of the society especially the forces against this government attempt to depict the incident that took place on April 21 as the first of such kind of occurrence. Each previous President before I have experienced this scenario. Bombs have been exploded during the tenures from President J R Jayawardena to President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
    During the treacherous period in 1980s when the armed struggle was at its initial stage there were suspicions among the Sinhala community against Tamils of this country. However, as the time passed Sinhala and Muslim people realized that every Tamil civilian is not a terrorist.
    I request you not to treat the entire Muslim community as terrorists. I convened religious leaders of all faiths yesterday and during that meeting Muslim religious leaders expressed their sincere condolences. One Muslim religious leader from Galle said his child attends a Sinhala school in the area and due to the prevailing situation he is unable to send his child for his education. Even during the 30-year war Muslims were not subjected to any security checks. However, the situation had taken a U-turn with the recent incidents. He said every Muslim in this country has been affected.
    Hence, I categorically remind people of this country that it is our duty to protect the Muslim community of this country. We should not look at them as our enemies but to make utmost effort to preserve the hard earned reconciliation. We vehemently condemn and reject this barbaric act carried out by a small fraction of the Muslim community. We treat this as an act against humanity.
    ISIS posed a major threat to the security of powerful European nations during 2016 and 2017. Almost all the European countries have come under its attack. The United Kingdom, France and Germany equally affected. As media professionals you are more aware of these developments.
    They have targeted powerful countries which are well-equipped with modern technology unlike ours. I am not trying to take the advantage of the situation but there is a proven link between extremists and drug trafficking. Religious extremists, drug trafficking and arms trade are inter-linked.
    ISIS may have targeted Sri Lanka in an attempt to achieve its common objectives. My battle against drug dealing may have played a role here. At a time like this, we have to act as responsible citizens with tolerance. We should not behave like lose canons. Nationalism and terrorism are two separate ideologies. Even though we are familiar with domestic terrorist activities, unfortunately this time we had to face international terrorist elements.
    When carefully analyzing the activities of ISIS, it is clear that its objective is to destabilize Western countries by carrying out sudden attacks. They are against the political thinking and the religious ideologies in the West. Leaders of ISIS have once said their true victory would be the day that they hoist the ISIS flag in the Vatican. I think this is the reason they target Catholic places of worship.
    His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith is at the forefront of my battle against illegal drugs in this country. Recently, I was invited for a meeting in Modara with a participation of more than 400 people organized by the His Eminence.
    We received slightest support from the international community during the 30 years’ prolonged war with the LTTE. During the war with the LTTE, the vast majority of the international community supported the LTTE. The Western nations thought within Sri Lanka a struggle to achieve minority freedom is taking place in Sri Lanka and they defined it is not terrorism; therefore, it should support the LTTE. Persons, who talked about human rights as well as who have weakened our military and intelligence service, by talking human rights issues in Sri Lanka, cannot find whereabouts with this attack.
    The high ranking officials working with the human rights organizations at that time said that the law should treat everyone equally. But I said it clearly that law should not enforce against everyone similarly, but the security forces cannot be weakened. You can remember the resignation of the Director General of the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption following a statement I had made regarding three former Army Commanders summoning to court. I have fight to protect the Army and the intelligence service. Some of our intelligence experts left the country during the past period. Some of them went to Foreign Service informing me that they were not able to stay in Sri Lanka as harassments are taking place. I have sent some of them to Embassies to work there, as the other party of the government strongly said that they cannot keep them in these posts. This is the reality.
    Initially, the full information regarding this attack was submitted to the Director of the State Intelligence Service. It was a lengthy letter given by a foreign country. I think you have seen it, as it has now released to the media. You saw that the letter states in the beginning that such an attack on churches, crowded places and hospitals is imminent. The letter next states five or six methods of attack such as bombing, sniper attacks, use of other ammunition and the type of weapons. Later, it mentions clearly the culprits behind these attacks. Also, foreign intelligence informed of this to our state intelligence director on April 4. The letter was passed from hand to hand from April 4 to 12. Our intelligence director carried out his duty properly. The letter was produced to the Defence Secretary. He did not take it seriously and sent it to the Chief of Defence Staff with a minute. He in turn, sent the letter to the IGP according to the usual procedure. Thus, the letter with all details was going from hand to hand adding minutes. Next the IGP sends the letter to five DIGs with another minute. One of the DIGs was DIG Dasanayake in charge of VIP security. He then sends the details to VIP security personnel instructing them to provide security to VIPs.
    The Defence Secretary, IGP and four DIGs did not carry out their duties. I was accused of leaving the country without handing over defence responsibilities to anyone. Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa after 2010 never appointed an acting Defence Minister when he had to go abroad. Similarly, former President Chandrika Bandaranaike never appointed a Defence Minister when she had to go abroad. I have served as the acting Defence Minister on five occasions from 2007 – 2010, during the height of war. Yet, former President Rajapaksa never handed over duties of the Defence Minister to anyone after 2010.
    Meanwhile, the letter about attacks was received on April 4 and was passed between the Police chiefs and Defence Secretary until April 12. I went overseas on April 16, twelve days after the letter was received and I never received information about it from the Defence Secretary and the IGP. I was not shown the letter. I am not giving excuses but this is the truth that I need to clarify. I went on a pilgrimage to India for three days. It takes only one hour to reach Sri Lanka from there. I went to Singapore on a holiday for three days. I was due to arrive on April 21 and the attacks occurred on the 21stmorning.
    Two hours after the attacks, a friend in Singapore showed me a letter that was being passed around in the social media which had details of the attack. The letter shows it had been passed from DIG Dasanayake to VIP security chiefs to be cautious of attacks on VIPs. However, DIG Dasanayake is not an official in charge of the President’s or Prime Minister’s security. The Staff DIG should have sent that letter to the President’s DIG and the Prime Minister’s DIG. However, the letter was not sent to either of them.

    In the past few days, it was mentioned that the Prime Minister nor the Ministers were informed of this threat. The last Cabinet meeting was held on April 9 and the next was scheduled on April 16. On April 9, the ministers made a request not to hold the meeting on April 16 as they needed a holiday. That week was a holiday for all. I want to be clear that I am not shunning away from responsibility but I state that the government should take the responsibility for this.
    Similarly, the liability for weakening the intelligence units, imprisoning intelligence chiefs, weakening the three forces must be borne by the government and all its parties. The Defence Secretary and the IGP have clearly not carried out their responsibilities. They should have at least called me via telephone. Both of them came to visit me on April 17 after boiling of the milk rice. Even then, they did not mention to me anything about a letter. The responsibility for the loss of lives and property, blow to tourism and economy due to negligence should be borne by the Defence Secretary and the IGP. That is why I asked them to resign even before a disciplinary inquiry. The Defence Secretary resigned yesterday. The IGP also stated that he would resign.
    I clearly state that it is only four months since I took over the Police. During this period, I initiated major changes and made it efficient. During the past four years, the Police did not have the power to nab illicit hooch producers. The power laid with the Excise Department. After taking over the Police, I made the necessary reforms to the law which gave the powers to the Police. At the first meeting I had with the Police, I came to know that 30 police stations do not have a single vehicle. I instructed to provide double cabs to all 30 police stations with immediate effect. This is the way how the past ministers worked although they try to blame me.
    At present, the Police, STF, Criminal Investigation Department and the Three Forces are successfully carrying out their duties to apprehend those responsible for the attacks. Over 70 people were arrested. According to the information that we received, only about 140 ISIS members are operating in Sri Lanka. Operations are underway to apprehend all of them and contain this situation.
    We will be able to eradicate the ISIS in Sri Lanka completely as I believe the Three Forces and Police have that capability. Experts from powerful countries are in Sri Lanka to assist our security forces in this regard.


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