Sri Lankan president sacks intelligence chief over Easter attacks probe

Published June 9, 2019
Sri Lanka’s president has sacked the national intelligence chief and will not cooperate with a parliamentary investigation into security lapses before the Easter suicide bombings, officials said on Saturday. — Reuters/File
Sri Lanka’s president has sacked the national intelligence chief and will not cooperate with a parliamentary investigation into security lapses before the Easter suicide bombings, officials said on Saturday. — Reuters/File

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s president has sacked the national intelligence chief and will not cooperate with a parliamentary investigation into security lapses before the Easter suicide bombings, officials said on Saturday.

Maithripala Sirisena summoned an emergency cabinet meeting on Friday night to oppose a parliamentary select committee probe into the April 21 attacks that killed 258 people, including 45 foreigners, and wounded nearly 500.

Chief of National Intelligence Sisira Mendis was sacked after testifying to the inquiry last week that the attacks could have been averted.

He also said the president had failed to hold regular security meetings to assess the threat from Islamic radicals who carried out the bombings on three hotels and three churches.

Sirisena’s office did not give a reason for the sacking. Halfway through the testimony, the live telecast of the proceedings was stopped on the president’s orders, official sources said. A ministerial source said Sirisena has refused to allow any police, military or intelligence personnel to testify before the committee.

The source added that the heated cabinet meeting ended “inconclusively” without taking a decision on whether to suspend the parliament probe.

Sirisena’s office did not comment on the meeting, but said the president had told senior police officers on Friday that he will not allow any serving officer to testify.

Sirisena’s defence secretary and police chief have suggested that the president, who is also defence minister, did not follow proper protocols in dealing with intelligence warnings about the Easter Sunday bombings. Sirisena has repeatedly denied he was aware of an impending threat.

A local jihadist organisation and the militant Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attacks. The country has been under a state of emergency since the bombings.

Sirisena said last week that he met with the national police chief and his top brass 13 days before the attacks but no officer raised warnings passed on by India and based on information from a detained jihadist.

The crisis erupted ahead of a visit to Sri Lanka by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday.

The Indian premier is to make a brief stopover in Colombo on his return from an official visit to the Maldives on Saturday.

The Sri Lankan government has admitted there were intelligence failures before the attacks.

Sirisena suspended police chief Pujith Jayasundara and dismissed his top defence official Hemasiri Fernando after the bombings.

Published in Dawn, June 9th, 2019

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