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Former President tried to escape from responsibility for attacks

(UTV | COLOMBO) – Former Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando testifying before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) probing the Easter Sunday attacks said that former President Maithripala Sirisena tried to escape from responsibility while former IGP Pujith Jayasundara and my self were apportioned blame for the Easter Sunday attacks.

“Former President Maithripala Sirisena was preparing to contest the next Presidential Election for the second time but as the attacks would have affected his chances of running for the Presidency again, the responsibility for the attacks fell on us,” he alleged.

Fernando said that after the bomb attacks that took place on April, 21, 2019, former President Maithripala Sirisena had made a statement to the media after he returned to Sri Lanka that the former Defence Secretary and the former IGP should bear the responsibility for the attacks. He directly named us as the accused without conducting preliminary investigations into the attacks.

‘There was a rift between me and the former President Maithripala Sirisena. Some political groups had conspired to create a rift between me and the former President. The rift between us had got worse. The major factor for this country is the politics in the country,” he said.

Testifying further, the former Defence Secretary said that the intelligence services had been weakened since the ‘Yahapalana’ Government came to power and that the state intelligence had not found any intelligence regarding the Easter attacks until the attack, adding that both reports that the intelligence which was forwarded by the State Intelligence Service were based on information received from abroad.

“I did the best I could as secretary. Only the state intelligence service provided me with information. Military intelligence has never provided me with intelligence. We discussed important information provided by State intelligence at intelligence meetings. Sri Lanka is a country that has had peace for 10 years. There were no reports of such an attack,” he added.

When asked by President’s Counsel Anil Silva appearing on behalf of former President Maithripala Sirisena whether he was in charge of security, Fernando said that it was a matter of criticism. When the President went abroad, his powers were not delegated to anyone. He told the Commission that if not formally assigned, the president would have powers wherever he was in the world. “I was not assigned responsibilities by the President when he went abroad. I am the Secretary of the Ministry of Defense. Here, I highlight how ethical it is to name us to take the responsibility for the attacks without even taking statements of other relevant persons. There is a system in which secretaries are bound by working responsibilities.” he said.

Attorney-at-Law Madhu Jayatilleke appeared for former Director of State Intelligence Senior DIG Nilantha Jayawardena raised a question that the head of state intelligence informed about this when there was a Motorcycle explosion on April 18 and prior to the Easter attacks several incidents took place at Mawanella Aliyar Junction, Vavunathivu Bridge and many other places. Couldn’t connect those dots and roll these one by one? Responding to the query Fernando said that “I’m not here to connect the dots. The state intelligence service is there for that. I cannot take responsibility for them. If the information received from April 4 to 20 had been corroborated, we would have minimized this to some extent. The former Defence Secretary was in the dark until he was informed through a WhatsApp message on April 20. The IGP and the Army Commander had been informed about this. The Secretary of Defense is to blame for what happened without saying anything. He said that if the attack had not been carried out by doing so, the Defense Secretary would have done the wrong thing by creating national disunity and problems. These things should be done very carefully.”

Former Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando while responding to cross-examination informed the Commission that it was difficult for him to speak loudly due to his poor health condition.

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