The reports on the actions by politicians, including the leaders of the country and the officials responsible for national security, with regard to the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks reveal how irresponsible they had been in respect of their duties towards the country. Their actions even after the disaster leading up to now, vindicate the point.
All stakeholders seem to attempt to absolve themselves of the blunders on their parts and to pass the buck. And political party rivalries and personal grudges among politicians themselves and between politicians and the officials have replaced the professionalism that should have been the norm of the probes into the crime that had claimed more than 250 lives and wounded more than 400 persons.
On the same day the terrorist attacks took place President Maithripala Sirisena appointed a three-member committee headed by Justice Vijith Malalgoda to investigate into the incident. Yet, the Government, and the Opposition seem to have completely disregarded that probe and the country did not know whether the committee met after it was appointed, leave alone people knowing anything about the proceedings of the committee meetings, until the report was handed over to the President yesterday.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was instrumental in appointing a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on the same matter, which had already shown some results. And for the first time, the proceedings of the PSC have been open to the media. Some startling revelations were made before the PSC by the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Pujith Jayasundera, who is on compulsory leave over the terrorist attacks, and Hemasiri Fernando, the Defence Secretary at the time of the attacks, who resigned over the same issue.
If one is to rely on their evidence one has nothing but to conclude that sheer childishness and personal grudges at the top had precedence over professionalism in the matters of national security. The Joint Opposition, which boycotted the PSC, now argues that the PSC will expose the officials of the Intelligence and reveal sensitive information to enemies of national security.
Despite the personal issues between leaders of the Government being said to have led to the appointment of the PSC, high-ranking intelligence officials, who are normally called in to give evidence before such committees, are not bound to reveal everything the members of the PSC seek. If they are conscious of the sensitivity of some of the information, they can always refuse to divulge. It is not clear whether IGP Jayasundera and former Defence Secretary Fernando, -who had given evidence before the three-member committee appointed by the President- had revealed the same facts as they did before the PSC.
On the other hand, in spite of their evidence before the PSC being startling, they too cannot be absolved of the blunders that led to the Easter Sunday attacks. Their argument and that of national intelligence chief Sisira Mendis was that they had informed the threat to the relevant authority beforehand as if their responsibility ends there.
Had the information they shared been credible and had they been serious about it, they- especially the IGP and the Defence Secretary- should have mobilized the defence mechanism and the men under them accordingly to prevent the attack or at least minimize the damage. Since the possible targets had been identified in the intelligence report, they should have provided security to the Churches or at least issued prior warnings to the authorities of them. They need no political sanction for it. Even if they did, they should have obtained it, if they were serious about the information they had.
If the IGP had informed of the impending threat to all the divisions under him including the Ministerial Security Division (MSD) and the Presidential Security Division (PSD) as he claims, security personnel of the President, Prime Minister, the Opposition Leader and all the ministers must have been aware of the threat. One has to be so dumb to believe that those security personnel had not shared the information with the people they were providing security to-unless it is a grave systemic failure. However, only Minister Mano Ganesan had said his guards had prior information.
All in all, one has to believe that all the top level politicians irrespective of their political parties and all the top-level officials of the defence establishment had prior knowledge of the attack. But only Hemasiri Fernando, who ridiculously told a foreign journalist that he did not expect an attack of this magnitude, seems to be honest.