The government today admitted that foreign intelligence authorities warned of imminent terrorist attacks on Easter Sunday.
Heath Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne told a press conference that foreign intelligence authorities alerted the local defence agencies even ten minutes before attacks.
“These intelligence authorities have informed, from time to time, starting from April 4, 48 hours before the attacks and finally ten minutes before tragedy struck. They gave warnings about a possible attack on April 4 for the first time. Thereafter, National Intelligence Chief Sisira Mendis, on behalf of the Defence Secretary, had informed the Inspector General Police (IGP) about the imminent attacks. He had actually informed that an organisation called ‘Thowheed Jamath’ planned suicide attacks and had even mentioned their names.
“He had informed that Thowheed Jamath leaders Zaran Hashmi, Jalhal Hital, Sajit Moulawi and Silhan had arrived in Sri Lanka to carry out the coordinated attacks. Then, DIG Priyalal Dassanayake had informed the ministerial security division (MSD), judicial security division, security divisions in charge of former presidents and the Diplomatic Security Unit. However, he had failed to warn the Prime Ministerial Security Division (PMSD) and the Presidential Security Division (PSD) on the attacks. Although the Security Council meetings had been convened after last December, council member and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was never invited,” he said.
The minister said there was none to give political leadership during the tragedy as the president hadn’t appointed an Acting Defence Minister prior to his overseas visit. He said the Prime Minister called for a meeting of the Security Council following the bombings, but none of the members attended it.
“The premier had then rushed to the Defence Ministry and called for a meeting but no one had turned up until the lapse of 20 minutes. He had to sit in the State Defence Minister’s room for some time. The Prime Minister had then called for another Security Council meeting in the afternoon, but none had showed up,” he said. He charged that they had declined to arrive following an order from the higher authorities.
When asked whether the ministers were of the opinion that the president should be held responsible for the disaster, Dr. Senaratne said they would not blame the president for it.
“The government will not move away from its responsibilities. It will do everything possible for the victims of the bomb attacks. Rs.100,000 will be paid to the families of those who died in the attacks. Later, Rs.1 million will be paid to them as compensation. A sum of Rs.100,000 will be paid to those injured,” he said.
Meanwhile, Tourism Minister John Amaratunga said he would have warned all the hotels had he known about the attacks beforehand. “Unfortunately, I did not know anything about it,” he said. (Yohan Perera)