Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa today slammed the government for weakening the intelligence services over the years.
Making a statement in parliament on the Easter Sunday terror attacks, he said the government should take responsibility for failing to prevent the attacks.
“The government can’t shy away from taking the responsibility. It knew about the attacks, but did not warn anyone or any church and made sure that none of the ministers or MPs attended any service,” Mr. Rajapaksa accused.
He said the country should be able to eradicate terrorism on its own. “If the government had repealed the PTA as requested by the international community, the situation may have been worse,” he said. (Yohan Perera & Ajith Siriwardana)
Text of the statement made by Mr. Rajapaksa in parliament
We are gathered here today, to discuss the future of our country following the bomb attacks that took place on Easter Sunday. More than 300 people were killed and more than 500 people were injured in those attacks. I wish to take this opportunity to once again convey my heartfelt condolences to the families of all those who have lost their lives and to wish those injured a speedy recovery.
After we ended the 30 year war on 19 May 2009, we all thought we had seen the last of such attacks. We were to mark the 10th anniversary of the ending of terrorism next month. Even during that 30 year war, no single attack carried out by the terrorists targeting civilians ever resulted in as much carnage as the Easter Sunday attacks. The LTTE also carried out co-ordinated simultaneous attacks on multiple targets but even they were not able to wreak the same amount of destruction.
The Easter Sunday attacks in Sri Lanka is said to be the biggest single terrorist attack targeting civilians ever to take place in South Asia. So many people did not lose their lives even in the Mumbai attacks of 2008.
This House has to look into the circumstances that enabled terrorism to once again raise its head in this country with such virulence. In November 2005, when I became President for the first time, there was a nominal ceasefire in operation. But the LTTE was carrying out attacks on a daily basis and killing two or three armed forces personnel in each attack. During that period a bomb attack on a bus resulted in a large number of civilian deaths. When I went to St Anthony’s Church last Sunday following the attacks, I was reminded of the Kebithogollewa incident. The people of that area expressed a great deal resentment at our government over the Kebithogollewa incident.
The people have no use for a government that cannot assure them of the safety of their lives. In July 2006, we recommenced the war because the LTTE closed the Mavilaru anicut and blocked the water supply to a large number of villages in that area. It is the duty of the government to at the very minimum, to uphold the right of the people to live and to create an environment where they will be able to go about their day to day lives. That is why we never looked back after recommencing the war following the Mavilaru incident.
In January 2015, I handed over a completely secure and peaceful country to the new President. We had strengthened the intelligence services so that there would be absolutely no threat to the national security of the country. Our intelligence services worked closely with other intelligence services of neighbouring countries and other international intelligence services to ensure the security of the country. Whenever we got wind of a threat to national security, we acted on it. The Easter Sunday attacks would never have taken place under our government.
The present government is squarely responsible for the terrorist attacks that took place last Sunday. The police had issued early warnings of an impending attack. However what action did the government take with regard to those warnings? They never informed the Church leaders about those warnings and neither did they provide extra security to the possible targets. All that the leaders of the present government did was to ensure that they themselves were nowhere near a possible target. On important occasion such as Easter, representatives of the government usually attend Mass, but this time there were no such representatives in the Churches.
When I went to the scenes of the attacks on Sunday, one government minister said that the opposition is trying to make political capital of the situation. I must remind them that I also visited Kebithigollewa in the same way in 2006. I am not speaking here as someone spewing forth empty words but as the individual who gave leadership to the government that defeated the terrorists that no one thought could ever be defeated. From the moment this government came into power in January 2015, they have been persecuting the members of the armed forces and the intelligence services that ended that war. How many of our armed forces personnel have they jailed over the past four years? How many times have they hauled former army commanders and commanders of the navy and airforce to the CID to be questioned?
Our war time defence secretary was relentlessly persecuted because he was my brother. They were not able to imprison him due to the intervention of the courts.
I have told this government on many occasions that this is not the armed forces of the Rajapaksas but the armed forces and intelligence services of the Republic of Sri Lanka. Regardless of which political party is in power, it is they who will have to ensure the security of the nation. This government never understood the point. Due to the political leadership that we gave them, our armed froces were able to win the war that was deemed unwinnable.
The armed forces personnel who carried out their duties on behalf of the nation were harassed and hunted down by this government. The government should at least now realise that you cannot run this country according to the dictates coming from foreign countries. We have to solve our own problems. The government was preparing to repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act on the instructions of their foreign masters. If that Act had been repealed, what kind of a position would we be in today? Because the government was engaged in relenetlessly persecuting its own armed forces, we became an easy target for terrorists. No other country in the world has persecuted and weakened their own armed forces and intelligence services in this manner. Terrorists observe these things and plan accordingly.
The Sunday attacks did not take place due to the negligence of one or two officials. We can now see that the government is preparing to sacrifice some official and wash their hands of the matter. This incident occurred because of the conduct of this government from the time they came into power in January 2015. If anyone is to resign over these incidents, it should be the government. Despite the persecution that the intelligence services had been subject to, they did obtain prior intelligence relating to this attack and conveyed the information to certain quarters. But nothing happened thereafter. That warning had been sent to my security officers as well, but they did not keep me informed about the threat.
If I had known that there was an imminent threat of this nature, I would have immediately informed His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith and also curtailed my own movements. Instructing officials on the manner in which they should conduct themselves in relation to matters involving national security, is the task of the government. That is what people elect governments for. The signal sent by this government to officials at all levels is that national security is not important.That is the reason for all this mayhem. These incidents did not occur without warning. The recent destruction of Buddha statues in Mawanella, the attempt on the life of a close supporter of a Muslim Minister from that area, the discovery of over 100 kilos of explosives from Puttlam, are all connected. So this attack did not just come from the blues. Having received information that an attack can take place, all that the government did was to ensure that they themselves were safe.
This terrorist attck is very different to similar attacks that took place during the 30 year war. The terrorists of that time did not target foreigners because they had people living in those countries and funding the terrorist campaign in Sri Lanka. But this new terrorism targets locals as well as foreigners. That strikes a death blow not only to the tourist industry but to foreign investment as well. This terrorism has to be conclusively defeated. I request the government to halt the persecution of the armed forces at least now. The Council of Religions headed by the Ven. Ittepane Dammalankara Mahanayake Thera and His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith has also called upon the government to desist from weakening the intelligence services further.
The arrests of armed forces and intelligence services personnel that took place after this government came into power was very often not based on solid evidence. In order to please the yahapalana government the CID obtains statements from certain people using various stratagems and then uses these statements to arrest members of the armed forces and intelligence services. Some of these so called witnesses have made special statements to Magistrates explaining how the CID obtained statements from them implicating various people. Stop this filthy practice at least now.
As the opposition, we will extend our fullest cooperation to the law enforcements authorities and the armed forces to ensure national security. I request the people not to take the law into their own hands and to extend their fullest cooperation to the law enforcement authorities and the armed forces to solve this problem. We must remember that terrorists have no religion. The public needs more information about some matters and I would like to address the following questions to the government.
1.When did the SIS and the Security Concil first get to know of the organisation that is said to be behind these attacks?
2.According to the information available to the government, since when has this organization taken to terrorism?
3.What action was taken in respect of these reports?
4.Who investigated the Wanathaviluawa incident where over 100 kilos of explosives were found?
5.Who were the suspects arrested in this regard? Was this brought to the notice of the Security Council? If so when and by whom? What action was taken in this regard?
6.How many persons were arrested in this regard? Who were they? How many of them sere produced in courts? How many were released?
7.Were any of these suspects released at the request of any person? If so who was the person who made such a request?
8.Was there an intelligence report of a threat to national security in the month of April? Was this brought to the notice of the Security Council? If so, when and by whom? Who attended the security council on that day?
9.Has the involvement of a foreign party in these attacks been established? If so what is the foreign party involved?