‘IGP was barred from Security Council meetings’ | Sunday Observer

‘IGP was barred from Security Council meetings’

IGP Pujith Jayasundara
IGP Pujith Jayasundara

Testifying before the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) probing the Easter Sunday attacks, Deputy Solicitor General Dileepa Peiris, on Thursday (August 01), found fault with the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) for ‘waiting for instructions from the Attorney General’s Department’ without arresting the terrorists connected with the National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ).

DSG Peiris said the TID is empowered to make arrests of suspected terrorists and as such it does not need to wait for instructions to proceed with their arrests. He said the fault lies with the TID for not taking action but the TID has a trump card for every delay. They say that they sought advice from the AG’s Department and the latter did not provide instructions to proceed.

DSG Peiris told the Committee, that his Department is empowered (by the Section 393 of Chapter 33 of the Criminal Procedure Act), to instruct and to provide legal advocacy to Police and other investigators. We provide advocacy to proceed with the cases if there is a reasonable prospect of conviction of the suspects named in the case. We do not usually address the matters forwarded to us by the general public. However, we receive public petitions and if the contents in the letter are leading to a serious offense or violation of laws, then we may open a file. Similarly, we had received a letter from Al Haj Abdul Jawadh Alim Waliyyullah Trust signed by Moulavi KRM Sahlan. That was a letter addressed to the IGP and copied to us which requested the law enforcement authorities to investigate threats against innocent Muslims by the NTJ. The letter contained some pictures showing mobs carrying swords and marching on the streets of Kattankudy. Although we informed the Police on June 22, 2017 to update us on all investigations with regard to the NJT, so far we have not received any response from the IGP or any Police station or any other law enforcement agency. Later I came to know that the TID had investigated the NJT and Zaharan Hashim.

MP M.A. Sumanthiran said, “We could suppose that particular letter has not been attended but there had been several other investigations by the Police and TID. As a part of those investigations, the investigators have sought the AG’s Department instructions to proceed. According to those witnesses who had informed this Committee, it came to light that the AG’s Department could not furnish them with the instructions they had sought.Responding to Sumanthiran’s question, DSG Peiris said the TID should have arrested them and they do not need to ask anyone’s permission. They could have done that on their own initiative, if they suspected terrorism. They sent us three files which are incomplete and did not have anything to form an accusation and to file a case with. One of the files contained nothing but two speeches, and printouts of posts taken from Zaharan’s Hashim’s Facebook page. Peiris questioned, could the AG’s Department file a case on this basis?

MP Sumanthiran said “there are systemic problems. We are not here to pinpoint or bring allegations against others. We know there are many lapses in many departments. However to sum up, we all have failed and that was why the unfortunate incident occurred on Easter Sunday. That is the truth. The PSC is here to find what went wrong and to take remedial measures to prevent the recurrence. DSG Peiris said the TID has not mentioned any terror activities in their reports. They mentioned only religious violence. Consequently, The TID did nothing.

Deputy Solicitor General Azard Navavi testifying before the PSC denied the claim by certain parties (who, according to him, have malicious intent), that the failure of the AG’s Department to advise the TID, led to the Easter Sunday attacks.

He said “everybody thinks that Zaharan carried out that terrorist attack due to the fault of the AG’s Department. The AG’s Department was instrumental in issuing two open warrants against Zaharan. On July 02, 2017, the first open warrant was issued against Zaharan by Batticaloa High Court, for involment in violent clashes. Again on July 18, 2018 the Colombo Magistrate issued another open warrant against Zaharan, in response to a call by the TID. It is the AG’s Department that had been instrumental in those warrants. Unfortunately, our law enforcement agencies failed to arrest Zaharan and now the blame put on us as a result of a malicious, baseless campaign against us.”

MP Dr. Nalinda Jayatissa asked DSG Navavi whether the TID had sent the documents of speeches by Zaharan Hashim instigating people for communal disharmony. “They had sent you the translations. Cannot you institute legal actions on the basis of those documents? DSG Navavi said they have to check the original speech and take actions only based on that speech not on the translation. MP Jayatissa asked Navavi whether they have received any other documents from the TID? DSG Navavi said we need their investigation file to recommend legal actions. We cannot recommend the arrest of a person without evidence to prove that person had violated the law. The TID documents do not contain such evidence.”

DSG Navavi said the TID is an organisation with experience so that it doesn’t need instructions on arrests. He said they produced us a dead file in our terms and after one year they produced another file but it does not contain any investigation reports. It contained only 14 documents on Zaharan’s speeches. MP Prof Ashu Marasinghe told Navavi that there are reports from three divisions of the Police. They have cited the sections of the Penal Code that had been violated by the NTJ and Zaharan and they have asked for AG’s Department instructions. “Do you continuously state that you do not have provided advocacy for them? DSG Navavi said “we did not have substance in those reports to make arrests.”

Prof Marasinghe said when you go through the content of the documents sent by Police, couldn’t it be seen that those offences could be counted as offences under ICCPR Act? “ I am neither a lawyer nor a Police officer. But I too see that these offences are crimes under ICCPR (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) Act. Do you not see it? DSG Navavi said ‘no’. He said there are video clips and speeches by Zaharan.

As per the provisions of the ICCPR Act, we need a lay person to tell us that his feelings against another community had been instigated. Without that proof, we cannot describe the speeches as racially instigating. If an AG’s Department counsel says so then he would be the witness. We need a lay witness. We cannot do so. Prof Marasinghe said it seems that you have been hiding something from the TID, is it so? Navavi said - “no, it was the TID which kept us in dark.”

Testifying before the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) probing the Easter Sunday carnage for the second time, Army Commander LT Gen Mahesh Senanayake on Wednesday (July 31) said some Islamic terror suspects are still at large and there are confirmed reports to the effect that they are still carrying out clandestine operations. He said some of these suspects have evaded the arrest and they are still at large and are operating.

MP Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka told the Army Commander “when you testified before this committee last time, you said that the threat is not hundred percent over. That is true and we have to accept it. Since the day that you said so and up to now there have been several arrests.

Therefore, the threat is not over. Some politicians have interpreted in various ways and pretend that the problem is over but it is not so. MP Sumanthiran said that it is the opinion of Field Marshal Fonseka. Fonseka responded- “it is my opinion and what is your opinion”? Do you think the problem is over?”. Sumanthiran said - you cannot question me and I am a member of the Committee. Thereupon, MP Dr. Jayampathy Wickremarathne who was Chairing the PSC at that time, said that “each member of the committee is entitled to have his own opinion.”

LT Gen Senanayake said they cannot assure that attacks similar to this are over. There is some progress and intelligence revamping. He said they are not in a position to say that we could see this problem over within six months or six years. Responding to a question raised by MP Jayatissa, LT Gen Senanayake said, since 2017, they have been reporting on the Islamic terror activities to higher authorities. He said they have also shared their information with others at the National Security Council.

He said they do not know how they processed them or why they did not arrest the persons as recommended. LT Gen Senanayake said most of the times they not only reported certain facts but also recommended the arrests of certain terror suspects, but they have no information of the follow up actions taken by the relevant authorities.

When asked whether he didn’t receive any information from the SIS, LT Gen Senanayake said they had not been informed of that intelligence warning. There was no sharing of that intelligence. If that was shared with us, we could have done something to contain the situation. We still do not know as to why that information was not shared with us. MP Dr.Wickremarathne asked the Army Commander to elaborate on the TID’s lack of cooperation. He said the TID did not cooperate well with them. He said even after the war there had been many operations to recover explosives and to make some arrests, but the TID did not cooperate with us during those operations.

Former Defence Secretary Kapila Waidyaratne PC testifying before the PSC on Wednesday said IGP Pujith Jayasundara had been barred from attending the National Security Council (NSC) (meetings) by the President. Field Marshal Fonseka said “the IGP in his testimony mentioned that you had asked him not to attend the NSC, is that true? Waidyaratne said the statement is correct.

IGP Jayasundara called me on the evening of Oct 18, 2018 about this matter. I held the post of Defence Secretary till Oct 30, 2018. Again the IGP called me on Oct 23, 2018 and inquired about the NSC meeting - The President had informed me to summon the NSC. Thereafter, I informed Chief of National Intelligence Sisira Mendis and gave the names of persons to be invited. On that day, the President told me not to summon IGP Jayasundara.

I usually do not question back the President so I did not ask him as to why the IGP had been refrained from attending the NSC. During that time, there was an investigation in progress with regard to the IGP’s involvement with Namal Kumara’s plot to assassinate the President. There were also some other matters which should not be informed to the IGP. I thought that was the reason for not inviting him.“