By Amrit Muttukumaru –
The greater tragedy is that the unspeakable carnage on Easter Sunday (21 April) in three churches and three luxury hotels which so far has led to 359 persons needlessly losing their lives and 500 persons seriously injured could have either been prevented or drastically mitigated. This was only if the political triumvirate responsible for national security (i) President Sirisena – Minister of Defence and Minister of Law & Order (ii) Ranil Wickremesinghe – Prime Minister (iii) Ruwan Wijewardene – Minister of State for Defence had heeded intelligence reports originating from India and the US conveyed to some Sri Lankan government agencies as early as 4 April. This was confirmed to the media by government spokesman and Minister of Health – Dr. Rajitha Senaratne as follows:
(1) Intelligence agencies from India and US had “alerted the Government about threats on possible suicide bombing by Islamic extremists on 4 April”
(2)“first memo was issued on 9 April by Chief of National Intelligence Sisira Mendis to the Inspector General of Police (IGP) including all details of the terrorist group with the names”.
(3) “On 11 April Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Priyalal Dassanayake had written again to all Directors of Ministerial Security Division, Judicial Security Division, Retired Presidents Security Division, Acting Directors of Diplomatic Security Division and Acting Directors of Retired Presidents Security Division to tighten the security of the above mentioned”
To bolster the UNP inspired fairy tale that PM Wickremesinghe and Ruwan Wijewardene, Minister of State for Defence were not in the loop and were ignorant of these intelligence reports and tacitly place the entire political responsibility on President Sirisena, Dr. Senaratne for good measure stated:
i) “failing to alert the Prime Minister’s Security Division was a huge lapse on the part of State intelligence agencies”
ii) “neither Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe nor State Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardene had been summoned for any of the National Security Council (NSC) meetings held after the Constitutional Crisis on 26 October last year”
Ranil & Ruwan in Blissful Ignorance?
Although President Sirisena as Minister of Defence and Minister of Law & Order has to shoulder the MAJOR RESPONSIBILITY for preventing the carnage, it is ABSURD to claim that Prime Minister Wickremesinghe and Ruwan Wijewardene, Minister of State for Defence were IGNORANT of these intelligence reports for the following reasons:
(1) It is said that PM Wickremesinghe is an inveterate ‘micro-manager’. Hence is it not unlikely that these intelligence reports made available also to (i) Chief of National Intelligence (ii) IGP (iii) Directors of Ministerial Security Division would have escaped his notice?
(2) When Harin Fernando CABINET MINISTER for Digital Infrastructure and Information Technology himself discloses that even his father in hospital was AWARE of some of these intelligence reports, are not PM Wickremesinghe and Ruwan Wijewardene, Minister of State for Defence being ECONOMICAL WITH THE TRUTH by claiming in parliament they were oblivious to these intelligence reports? Have they not misled parliament? Could not the cabinet minister for Digital Infrastructure have sent a WhatsApp message to the Prime Minister conveying the information received from his father? Surely he could have done so with ease from the hospital itself!
(3) Ruwan Wijewardene is also Minister of Mass Media and the son of the country’s largest print media owner. We are expected to believe that he has no sources in either the state or private media who can convey such information to him. His father’s media organization has very skilled investigative reporters who are up-to-date on matters of national security and who pride themselves in having their ear to the ground. They have not tipped him off even to the extent of Harin Fernando’s hospitalized father!
(4) Is it not SHAMEFUL for PM Wickremesinghe and Ruwan Wijewardene, Minister of State for Defence to claim ignorance on the basis they were kept away from meetings of the ‘National Security Council’ for the past 6 months? Why did not these gentlemen who LEGITIMATELY made such a nationwide din in the aftermath of the October 2018 constitutional coup bring the CRUCIAL issue of being kept away from NSC meetings to the attention of Parliament and the people through the media? Is this not a DERELICTION of their national security duties? Could we have a CREDIBLE response from the PM and the Minister? This has even escaped the very knowledgeable political column of the ‘Sunday Times’ owned by his father.
The belief that no matter who is in political power this country will continue to bleed is apparent when although the security chiefs of former Presidents Chandrika Kumaratunga and Mahinda Rajapaksa were privy to the intelligence reports of an imminent terrorist strike through suicide bombing, the former Presidents have not made this information available in the public domain. Are we to believe that in this instance too the former Presidents were kept in the dark by their respective security chiefs?
In the context of big power rivalry in the Indian Ocean, the long festering ethnic conflict and the resultant armed conflict coming to a controversial end in 2009, reconciliation issues still festering, extremist groups and hate speech still creating instability, is it not imperative to have competent professionals of proven experience with HUMANE values and integrity to guide the security of this country?
Was it not PM Wickremesinghe himself who appointed his first cousin Ruwan Wijewardene to the crucial position of State Minister of Defence at the inception of the yahapalana government in January 2015?
Is not Ruwan Wijewardene’s claim in Parliament that the Easter Sunday carnage in Sri Lanka on 21 April was “in retaliation to the Christchurch attack in New Zealand” not plausible in the context of the ‘Christchurch attack’ taking place as recently as 15 March? New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has lost no time in pooh-poohing this contention.
Was it not President Sirisena who recently appointed Hemasiri Fernando his Chief of Staff as Secretary, Ministry of Defence? Prior to this under the yahapalana government he was successively Chairman, People’s Bank and Chairman, Board of Investment.
Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando in relation to the Easter Sunday carnage has reportedly told the media:
“Defence Ministry never expected an attack of this magnitude except for some isolated incidents in certain places”
On the subject of the intelligence reports he has reportedly stated “information received was unclear”
The bottom line is that like everything else in this country be it the egregious bond scam, accountability for alleged war crimes particularly during the final stage of the armed conflict, alleged corporate crime which include the pumping and dumping of company shares, no political leader, state official or corporate bigwig will ever be made truly accountable. This will inevitably apply to the crime of dereliction of duty leading to the needless deaths of 359 persons and the resultant chaos to their families due to the Easter Sunday carnage. Of course off and on there will be some cosmetic accountability for public consumption.