Sri Lankan top cop points finger at President over Easter attacks

He reveals communication gaps between intelligence, security agencies in petition to apex court

Sri Lankan police chief Pujith Jayasundara was suspended after refusing to take the blame for the attacks.
Sri Lankan police chief Pujith Jayasundara was suspended after refusing to take the blame for the attacks.

COLOMBO • Sri Lanka's suspended police chief has petitioned the Supreme Court, accusing President Maithripala Sirisena of failing to prevent the Easter bombings that killed 258 people.

In a 20-page complaint, Inspector-General Pujith Jayasundara disclosed serious communication gaps between intelligence agencies and security arms of the government, all of which fall under Mr Sirisena.

In the petition submitted to the court last week and seen by the media yesterday, Mr Jayasundara said the country's premier spy agency, the State Intelligence Service (SIS), ordered him last year to stop ongoing police investigations into Islamist militants.

The SIS, which reports directly to Mr Sirisena, wanted the police's terrorist investigation department to stop all inquiries into extremist Muslim factions, including the National Thowheeth Jama'ath (NTJ), which was blamed for the Easter attacks.

Mr Jayasundara said SIS head Nilantha Jayawardena did not take seriously the intelligence shared by neighbouring India which warned of an impending attack by the NTJ.

Mr Jayasundara said that despite the SIS not sharing information warnings with the police department, he had initiated action to alert his senior men, but he had no input from the main spy agency.

Mr Sirisena suspended Mr Jayasundara after he refused to accept responsibility for the deadly attacks. Attorney-General Dappula de Livera has asked for a full Bench of the apex court to decide the case.

Mr Jayasundara said that he was offered a diplomatic post if he took the fall and stepped down, but he refused as he said he was not responsible for the catastrophic intelligence failure.

He said he had been sidelined by Mr Sirisena since a political rift between the President and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe emerged last October.

Mr Jayasundara's petition came days after Mr Sirisena publicly rebuked another intelligence official, Mr Sisira Mendis, who told a parliamentary panel that the Easter bombings could have been avoided.

Mr Mendis' testimony appeared to put Mr Sirisena in a poor light by implying he had not held National Security Council (NSC) meetings to review threats.

In a statement, Mr Sirisena denied claims by Mr Mendis that the country's highest security body had not met as often as it should have around the time of the Easter Sunday attacks, which were blamed on militants backed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria group.

Mr Sirisena, who is also defence minister, said in a statement that he held NSC meetings twice a week, contradicting Mr Mendis who told Parliament that the last meeting was on Feb 19, more than two months before the April 21 bombings that targeted three churches and three luxury hotels.

Mr Sirisena said he met Mr Jayasundara and his top brass 13 days before the Easter Sunday attacks but no officer raised the warnings that had been relayed by India.

Sri Lanka has been under a state of emergency since the attacks, but Mr Sirisena announced last week that it will end in a month.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 03, 2019, with the headline Sri Lankan top cop points finger at President over Easter attacks. Subscribe