Claims, counterclaims and confusion
Posted on August 1st, 2019

Editorial  Courtesy The Island

Several key witnesses, testifying before the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on Easter Sunday tragedy, have frowned on the participation of Opposition MPs at the National Security Council (NSC) meetings. One cannot but agree with them on this score. There is absolutely no need for the presence of Opposition politicians or even government MPs, for that matter, at the NSC meetings where highly sensitive information is discussed and shared and no one other than those who are responsible for handling national security should be privy thereto.

President Maithripala Sirisena should discontinue the absurd practice of bringing his cronies to the NSC meetings. If he wants to make them feel important or show them how close he is to them, he can invite them to tea parties or dinners at his official residence. He has to get serious.

The President has also drawn flak for debarring some of those whose presence is required at the NSC meetings from attending them. IGP Pujith Jayasundera has claimed that he was not invited to the NSC meetings prior to the Easter attacks as the President was not well disposed towards him. However, it is being claimed in some quarters that former Defence Secretary Kapila Waidyaratne’s testimony before the PSC, on Wednesday, gave the lie to the IGP’s claim and proved that he had been prevented from attending only a single NSC meeting (on 23 Oct. 2018); he had been present at the next one in November. Is it that no NSC meetings were held thereafter until the Easter attacks, as claimed by the critics of President Sirisena?

Immediately after the April terror strikes, the UNP claimed that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had not been invited to the NSC meetings. It obviously sought to lay the blame for the tragedy solely at the feet of President Sirisena. Strangely, it has not repeated that claim, recently.

It is not clear who is telling the truth about the circumstances that led to the Easter attacks as no proper investigation has been conducted to find out how the NTJ succeeded in striking with such ease. The on-going PSC is a very poor substitute for a thorough probe in that its members represent political parties which have shored up the present government. One can only see that the President’s longstanding feud with the UNP-led government has taken its toll on national security. It is unbecoming of those tasked with ensuring national security to let their prejudices get the better of them. If they really want to settle their personal or political scores, they had better do so without placing national security in jeopardy. What one gathers from the information being revealed before the PSC is that they fought their personal battles at the expense of national security.

The Attorney General’s Department and the Police are blaming each other for the serious lapses that prevented the arrest of the NTJ terrorists for nearly two years. The army blames the TID for non-cooperation, and the STF says that if it had been informed of the warnings of the Easter attacks, it would have prevented the carnage. The AG’s Department told the PSC, yesterday, that the TID could have arrested terror suspects without waiting for its instructions. Did it tell the TID so when the latter sought its opinion?

The President and the Prime Minister insist that they had not been forewarned of the Easter attacks. This kind of discombobulation at the highest level of government as well as the security establishment is proof that yahapalana leaders had been living in cloud cuckoo land, prior to the Easter attacks, thinking that terrorism was a thing of the past. After all, Zahran was their man; he had campaigned for them at the 2015 elections, according to former Eastern Province Governor M. A. L. M. Hizbullah’s testimony before the PSC. They may not have expected Zahran to resort to terrorism. (They are lucky that he did not do a Babu!)

The NTJ was able to make the most of the situation to plan and execute coordinated bomb blasts because the yahapalana leaders, sought to trifle with national security, which is not their long suit and made a mess of the intelligence system in the process. The result was the rise of the new form of terrorism the country has had to contend with.

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