Ex-SIS Director’s sharp response to PCoI on Easter attacks
Posted on August 26th, 2020

Courtesy Adaderana

Former Director of the State Intelligence Service (SIS) Senior DIG Nilantha Jayawardena accused officials throughout the country’s national security hierarchy of ignoring their responsibilities and their attempts to pin the sole blame on him for the security establishment’s failure to prevent the 2019 Easter Sunday terror attacks as he testified for the 18th day before the Presidential Commission probing the attacks.

Senior DIG Jayawardena added that it was possible that he would have ended up in arrest and in jail if didn’t posses records of his communications with higher-ups during that period who he accused of ignoring the seriousness of the warnings and in some instances closed up shop for the new year and left the country during that period.

Senior DIG was cross examined by the legal counsel for the former National Intelligence Service Chief Sisira Mendis, President’s Counsel Shanaka Ranasinghe.

The first question posed to the witness by the President’s Counsel was as to why was the foreign intelligence warning received on April 04 not taken up for discussion at the National Intelligence Review meeting held on April 09.

In response the witness stated that since he had already briefed the superior officials, namely National Intelligence Chief Sisira Mendis, of the warning, he did not attempt to bring it up for discussion during his allocated time to speak.

The witness was then asked whether he could accept or confirm that Sisira Mendis had asked him at the end of the meeting Nilantha why did you not present that document?”. The witness denied that Sisira Mendis made such statement at that time, however, he recalled that he had asked the National Intelligence Chief (NIC), Sir, the document is still in your hand. Why did you not submit it?”

Continuing his questioning the President Counsel then asked the witness that if accepted that he spoke to Sisira Mendis on April 20 and told him Sir, this is a big problem. I have informed the IGP”

In response Senior DIG Nilantha Jayawardena replied, If the call lasted only five seconds as reported, then I would have time to say only those words. But I remember speaking much more than that, telling him that they would attack 08 targets, including a church and a hotel.” 

He added that at the time of the call Sisira Mendis was preparing to attend the Easter mass and he was not sure whether or not he did proceed to attend after the call.

The President’s Counsel then asked the witness why, when in possession of intelligence information warning of an imminent attack on either April 20 or 12, did he not call the President’s Secretary and requested for a State of Emergency to be declared and for the military to be deployed to track down and neutralize the attackers.

In response the witness who appeared visibly incensed by the question replied, I was first asked whether I informed the President, then the Defense Secretary, the IGP, and the NIC. Do I have to inform all of them? Maybe next time you will ask me ‘Nilantha ,why did you not inform the entire nation of this?’”

Continuing his response, he added, As the SIS Director, must Nilantha collect the information, pass on messages, and draft letters as well? Then why must we pay salaries to others?”

He went on,” There is a hierarchical system in this country. Each position within this hierarchy has its own duties and responsibilities. The system doesn’t need officials who will simply say yes to everything. 

If I’m expected to do the job of the President, the Defence Secretary, and the IGP, then why do we need them? You may as well make me the President.”

Further, the witness stated, I am utterly disappointed of having had to work with such a team of officials. Their real characters were exposed after April 21. Because if I did not have screenshots of all my phone calls, the SIS would have been accused of doing nothing. I would have ended up in jail if I didn’t have records of my WhatsApp messages.”

He continued, Not a single higher official requested for further reports on any intelligence reports sent to them since 2015. Only the IGP did so on one or two occasions. No one did, even after I sent them information on the attack warnings. If anyone can prove that they did even for a single document sent to them, then I am prepared to resign immediately from the service.”

Explaining further, he added, Some of those officials closed their offices for the New Year holiday after I sent them the warning. They only reopened after the attacks. Certain officials left the country after I informed them. Some people stayed home and slept through it. Some stayed away from churches after hearing of the warning. Ultimately, I am being asked why I didn’t inform anyone.”

He then added, I did what I had to do. I told the Defense Secretary, I told the NIC, I told the IGP, and after this I tried to tell the President. It cannot be my fault that he did not respond.”

In conclusion, the witness stated, I did everything I could. Even today I sleep well at night.”

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