President tells PSC Hemasiri lied and gave contradictory evidence
Posted on September 20th, 2019

By Saman Indrajith Courtesy The Island


President Maithripala Sirisena yesterday told the Parliamentary Select Committee probing the Easter Sunday carnage that former Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando had lied to the PSC and Court on matters related to the tragic disaster.

President Sirisena said that Fernando’s testimonies to the PSC and Court were different from what the latter had told the Presidential Commission that had commenced investigating the Easter Sunday attacks soon after the disaster.  

The report of the Presidential Commission headed by Supreme Court Judge Vijth Malalgoda contained a testimony by Fernando and it was a different version from

what the former Defence Secretary told to the PSC and Courts. The latter versions had been given on instructions from the lawyers. The true version should have been the earliest one, the President told the PSC and handed over a copy of the Malalgoda Commission report to the PSC asking PSC members to go through Fernando’s testimony, PSC sources said. 

The PSC commenced recording the testimony of the President around 10.20 am and it lasted till around 12.30 pm. The testimony was recorded at the Presidential Secretariat. All PSC members namely its Chairman Deputy Speaker Ananda Kumarasiri, Ministers Dr. Rajitha Senaratne, Rauff Hakim and Ravi Karunanayake, Dr. Nalinda Jayatissa, Prof. Ashu Marasinghe, Dr. Jayampathi Wickremaratne and Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka attended yesterday’s hearing held in camera. 

President Sirisena said that he had not received the prior intelligence warning of the Easter Sunday attacks. He said neither Defence Secretary Fernando, nor the then IGP Pujith Jayasundara nor Head of State Intelligence Service Senior DIG Nilantha Jayawardena had informed him of the imminent disaster. Not even the Presidential Security Division had been informed of it, the President said. 

He held IGP Jayasundra, who is on compulsory leave and former Defence Secretary Fernando responsible for failing to take adequate action to prevent the attacks, which resulted in killing around 260 persons and injuring around 500 more. IGP Jayasundara met the President at Diyatalawa couple of days prior to the attacks but there was no conveying of the intelligence message on the impending attacks. IGP Jayasundara did not have any barriers to convey that message, the President said adding that when Makandure Madush had been arrested in Dubai, Jayasundara woke him up around 4 am and conveyed the message and attempted to take the credit for it. “Then I told him that the arrest was made by some others and credit should have gone to them,” the President told the PSC. 

When queried by Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka whether the President in his capacity as the Minister of Defence accept the responsibility for the lapses that led to the disaster under his watch, the President questioned in response whether Filed Marshal Fonseka would accept the responsibility for the bomb explosion that took place at the Army Headquarters injuring him while he was the Commander of the Army.

Field Marshal Fonseka then questioned the President as to why he did not invite Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe for the National Security Council meetings. The President said that there had been a circular issued by the then President Chandrika Kumaratunga in 1999 listing the names of the persons that should be invited for the NSC meetings. The list did not contain the name of the Prime Minister; the President said adding that however, he allowed the participation of the Prime Minister as per the requirements of the NSC.

Asked to tell the PSC as to why the State Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardene had not been invited to the NSC meetings, the President said that none had prevented Wijewardene attending the meetings. Minister Wijewardene could come and sit there listening to others as there was no obstruction to him, the President said.

President Sirisena responding to Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on the Easter Sunday attacks, at the Presidential Secretariat yesterday (Pic by Sudath Silva)

Responding to the question of not inviting Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa who had experiences in winning a war against terrorists to attend the NSC meetings, the President said that Rajapaksa was having political problems of his own and considering the political situation prevailing in the country, there was no need to invite him for the NSC meetings.

The President said that he had no faith in secrecy of the NSC meetings. The President said that once there had been a discussion to ban the nikab at the NSC but the following day it was reported in newspapers. “So, I had no trust on the secrecy of the NSC meetings,” he said. 

Field Marshal Fonseka asked what would be the response of the President on the issue of the spread of Wahabism and Arabization in the country and why the government did not take actions to ban nikabs and madrasasa, the President said that it was Prime Minister Wickremesinghe who had opposed it. The President asked Field Marshal Fonseka to raise the matter at the UNP’s parliamentary group and get it passed from there so that the cabinet could thereafter implement the ban. 

The President said that Prime Minister Wickremsinghe should be held responsible for the mess in defence and security affairs. He said that the Easter Sunday carnage would not have occurred had there been another person holding the IGP’s office. “Jayasundara was not my choice for the IGP post. I actually opposed him. I wanted Senior DIG S.M. Wickremasinghe as the IGP, but it was the Prime Minister who demanded Jayasundara to be appointed to that post. Jayasundara messed up the entire police force and the Prime Minister should take the responsibility for those actions,” the President told the PSC.

PSC sources said that after taking the testimony of President Sirisena the PSC process would come to its final phase and it was hoped to present its report on Oct 31 to Parliament.

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