Colombo Telegraph can exclusively reveal that President Maithripala Sirisena has taken measures to protect his favourite Senior DIG in charge of intelligence while making the Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando and IGP Pujith Jayasundara scapegoats for the colossal security blunder that resulted in the horrific bombings and killed more than 250 people on Easter Sunday.
All three briefings were conducted by Head of the State Intelligence Service Senior DIG Nilantha Jayawardane. Jayawardane met Sirisena personally to brief him on 11th April and 16th April. President Sirisena then travelled overseas soon after the New Year holidays. When the Indians tipped off the SIS once again on the 20th of April about the bombings being imminent Jayawardane tipped off the President over the telephone. At the time Sirisena was holidaying in Singapore with his family after a 3 day pilgrimage to India for blessings.
At no point after the SIS briefings did President Sirisena discuss the deadly serious threats with the Inspector General of Police, the three armed forces chiefs or even his own Defence Secretary sources at the Defence Ministry told Colombo Telegraph. Directives were given by the MoD to police officials to take necessary action to prevent the attacks and inform churches in advance of potential risks Colombo Telegraph was told by high ranking sources. Some sources said it was possible that Sirisena did not fully understand the extent of his security briefing or the high level threats being warned about.
President Sirisena has characteristically blamed officials in the Ministry of Defence and the Head of the Police IGP Jayasundara for shirking their responsibilities and failing to tell him about the imminent threats. “They came with betel leaves to wish me for Avurudu and even then they did not bother to tell me,” said the President when he met media heads and foreign reporters last week.
However officials say this is a blatant lie because SIS SDIG Jayawardane was always in the habit of telling the President about intelligence reports first before informing Ministry of Defence officials or even the Chief of National Intelligence Sisira Mendis.
“There is no way that the President did not know. I can imagine if the Defence Secretary did not warn him. But the SIS chief is his pet and he knew everything. They talked several times a day. There is no way Nilantha Jayawardane did not tell him what he knew,” a senior Government Minister who did not wish to be named said.
One UNP minister said that the President may have decided not to act on his briefings in the belief that the attacks would be small scale ones. “He may have thought he could then blame the UNP for those attacks and that would give him a political advantage,” the minister added.
The Minister said the SIS head had intimidating details about the attacks and the attackers ready to brief officials minutes after the bombings.
Defence Ministry officials however met with the head of the SIS Nilantha Jayawardane, the three forces chiefs and the IGP and other officials to discuss the threat as soon as the intelligence was received by the Ministry on the 9th of April. Directives were issued to the police to take necessary steps to avert the attacks and be extra vigilant. They even told the Police to alert churches to the intelligence reports and the risks involved.
Unable to take action against the SIS Chief who is his favourite President Sirisena has decided to make the former Defence Secretary Fernando and the IGP fall guys in the debacle. He has refused to take responsibility for the lapse even though he holds the portfolio of Defence Minister and Minister of Law and Order in charge of the tri-forces and the police. Sirisena has also never named the SIS head as being at fault for failing to alert him even though it is to the SIS that foreign intelligence is channelled to. In fact if the President is maintaining he was not told by any of his officials SDIG Jayawardane should be the first to take the blame senior officials at the Ministry of Defence said. “We were always second to know about intelligence reports even though the SIS actually comes under MoD. First of all Jayawardane rushes to the President. About half of what he tells the President he later relays to us,” one official revealed.
An official who is on the President’s staff confirmed that SIS Head SDIG Jayawardane is Sirisena’s favourite police officer. “It was actually to make Nilantha Jayawardane a SDIG that the president suddenly cancelled Ravi Waidyalanka’s extension three months early also. He had a good excuse because of the corruption charges against Waidyalankara. But the real mission was to make Nilantha SDIG since there can be only so many SDIGs in the Police Department at one time,” the president’s office official said.