Sri Lanka police chief, ex-defence secretary held on remand over Easter bomb attack failings

Sri Lanka's Inspector General of Police Pujith Jayasundara is the first serving police chief to be arrested.
Sri Lanka's Inspector General of Police Pujith Jayasundara is the first serving police chief to be arrested.PHOTO: AFP

COLOMBO (REUTERS) - Sri Lanka's police chief and former defence secretary were remanded in custody on Wednesday (July 3) over allegations that they failed to prevent the Easter Day bomb attacks that killed more than 250 people, a police spokesman said.

The Colombo magistrates' court will hear the case on Tuesday, spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said.

The Criminal Investigation Department on Tuesday arrested Inspector General of Police Pujith Jayasundara and former defence secretary Hemasiri Fernando while they were both receiving treatment in hospital.

Both are still in different hospitals in Colombo, but are under the supervision of prison officials, spokesman Gunasekera said.

Mr Fernando was reported by media to have suffered chest pains.

There was no immediate information on IGP Jayasundara's complaint.

Security has been beefed up at in and around the two hospitals, police sources told Reuters.

Attorney-General Dappula de Livera ordered their arrest on Monday and urged the acting police chief to bring charges against the two, including for "crimes against humanity".

IGP Jayasundara and Mr Fernando were not immediately reachable for comment, though both previously denied the allegations when they appeared before a parliamentary committee investigating the attacks that hit churches and luxury hotels.

 
 
 
 

They are the first two state officials to be arrested for allegedly failing to prevent the attacks, claimed by the militant group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The bombings took place despite repeated warnings from Indian intelligence that an attack was imminent.

President Maithripala Sirisena has accused Mr Fernando and IGP Jayasundara of failing to act on an April 4 intelligence report about possible attacks.

IGP Jayasundara, the first serving police chief to be arrested, told the parliamentary committee that the President had asked him to take the blame for the bombings and resign, promising him a diplomatic posting in return.

IGP Jayasundara refused to quit and was later asked to go on compulsory leave, with his deputy standing in for him.

Mr Fernando, who resigned as defence secretary, told the committee that Mr Sirisena had given instructions to keep Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, with whom he fell out in October, out of security council meetings. The defence secretary reports to the president, who heads the Defence Ministry.

Mr Sirisena has not publicly addressed the accusations, but said after the testimonies last month that he would not accept the committee's conclusions.