- ‘Human Rights Uncles’ who were shouting are silent now
- Defence Secretary and IGP shirked responsibility
- He got to know of intelligence report via social media while in Singapore
- Intelligence report kept going from one place to another without the President being informed
- Every household will be checked and list of permanent residents established
President Maithripala Sirisena said yesterday the responsibility for the Easter Sunday carnage should be borne by all sections of the government that weakened the security forces and intelligence services by putting intelligence officers behind bars.
The Defence Secretary and the Police Chief should accept the responsibility for the attacks
Addressing the media at the President’s House, he said that the Defence Secretary and the Inspector General of Police should accept the responsibility for dereliction of duty which led to the disaster that took place on Sunday.
The President said the Human Rights ‘uncles’ (bappala) who were making a big noise could not be found after the incident happened and pointed out that the problems between him and the government aggravated about two years ago after he protested within and outside the government against the weakening of intelligence services and unnecessarily arresting security services personnel. He said at that time the ‘Human Rights uncles’ (Manawa Himikan Bappala) were saying that the law should be applied to everyone in the country equally and that what he was against was not about applying the law equally but about weakening the intelligence services and security forces.
The President said under these circumstances many intelligence officers and experts left the country during the past few years and that some of them were appointed to Sri Lankan missions in foreign countries by him because of the harassment they had to undergo. The President said the other sections of the government insisted that they could not continue to keep these officers in those posts.
The President said he had fullest confidence that the law and order machinery had all the required capabilities to meet the challenge of terrorism and bring back peace and normalcy soon.
“Major search operation have been undertaken. Every household in the country will be checked. The lists of permanent residents of every house will be established to ensure no unknown persons could live anywhere,” he said and pointed out that during the fight against LTTE terrorism, similar methods were adapted.
The President acknowledged that there was a serious lapse on the part of Defence Secretary and the Inspector General of Police (IGP), who failed to inform him about the letter from the intelligence agency of a friendly foreign country sent on April 4, warning about a possible attack. The letter warned of possible attacks on churches, places of public gatherings and VIPs.
“The IGP has sent that letter to Staff DIG and it was sent from table to table and finally it was forwarded to DIG Dissanayake of VIP Security, who in turn, forwarded it to officers in-charge of security of VIPs protection. I was not informed. Neither my security head nor the head of Prime Minister’s security was informed. Both, Defence Secretary and IGP came to wish me on New Year Day (April 14) and they did not say a word about this warning letter. It was a serious lapse on their part and shirking of responsibility,” he said.
The President said the letter kept on going from one place to another with minutes being put and he was not informed about it. The President added that while in Singapore a friend who was with him had shown the letter that was circulating on social media.
He said he asked the Defence Secretary and the IGP to tender their resignations immediately and they agreed to do so and added that an appropriate process would be implemented while completely reorganizing the security services including the State Intelligence Service and Intelligence Units of the Police and Tri-forces to prevent a recurrence of these kinds of terrorist activities.
Referring to the current operations, raids and arrests of suspects, he praised the law enforcement and intelligence services for their efficiency and dedication in responding to this situation. “The government has already been able to crack down on many criminals, suspects and those responsible for the recent attacks and many have been arrested. Therefore, I truly believe that we can avoid a repetition of such gruesome acts of violence in the future,” the President said. “I have already planned necessary action to build an environment where the people of this country could live freely and without fear in the future.”
Answering a question about the safety of schools and places of worship, he said the Government, will create a background where the public servants, schoolchildren, entrepreneurs and the general public of the country could act liberally in a free and peaceful environment.
“We had to declare an Emergency situation to suppress terrorists and ensure a peaceful environment in the country. What has been enacted through the gazette are clauses pertaining to suppressing terrorism only. If these enactments were not made, the powers that prevailed were not sufficient for the Police to take proactive measures and the Army, Navy and Air Force could not take part actively in the operations,” the President said and added that that this Islam extremist group carried out this attack at a least expected moment under the guidance, instructions, and leadership of a foreign terrorist organization to cause appalling loss of human lives.
“Our security services received reports about this terrorist movement from 2015. It was observed that they were receiving training and certain guidance from foreign terrorist organizations. Our security services were monitoring them and investigating about them. However, our security services did not have enough evidence to start legal actions against them or clear information to be produced to courts,” he said.
The President said he suspected that the terrorists, perhaps hastened the planned attack, because of the major campaign he launched against illicit drugs. “There is a nexus between international terrorism and the international drug trade. Furthermore, I got staunch support for anti-drugs campaign from his Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, who joined us at Anti-Drug Walks. Perhaps the terrorist hastened the attacks on churches for these reasons,” he said.
When asked about proscribing the Islamic militant groups responsible for terror attacks, the President said that can be done under the emergency laws, but the ban would end, when the emergency is lifted. “I have asked that a new legislation be prepared for proscribing these organizations and we are studying such laws enacted in Singapore, Australia and other countries,” the President said.
The President acknowledged that there was a serious lapse on the part of Defence Secretary and the Inspector General of Police (IGP)
He recalled that when LTTE terrorism broke out in early 80s, most Sinhala and Muslim people looked at Tamils as if all of them were terrorists but people quickly learned about the LTTE and the fact that not all Tamils were terrorists, and that laid the foundation for the nation to unite for peace. “I ask Sinhala and Tamil people not to look at our country’s Muslim community with suspicion, fear or distrust. You must keep in mind that not all Muslims are terrorists. It is only a very small minority who are linked to such a barbaric terrorist organization. It is very important therefore, that peace and harmony among Sinhala, Muslim and Tamil communities prevails. It is important for us to foster trust among us,” the President said.
He emphasized the importance of everyone joining together despite differences for the task of protecting the national security.