Collective responsibility, says ex-Defence Secretary | Sunday Observer
Probe into Easter Sunday attacks

Collective responsibility, says ex-Defence Secretary

4 October, 2020
Hemasiri Fernando
Hemasiri Fernando

Former Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando giving evidence before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry probing the Easter Sunday attacks this week, admitted there was a collective responsibility in preventing the Easter Sunday terror attacks.

Fernando laid bare the disputes within the Yahapalana administration while alleging that former President Maithripala Sirisena attempted to place the blame for the attacks solely on former IGP Pujith Jayasundara and himself.

Fernando told the Commission that the former President in preparation to contest the following Presidential election had placed the blame for the attacks on the former IGP and himself as the incidents would have affected his chance of obtaining a second term in office.

According to Fernando, following the attacks on April 21, 2019, the former President had returned to Sri Lanka and had named him and Jayasundara as the accused before even preliminary investigations into the attacks were conducted.

According to Fernando, there was a rift between him and the former President.

He accused certain political groups of conspiring to create a rift between him and the President and that as a result, the rift had only got worse.

Fernando said that since the Yahapalana Government came into power, the intelligence services had become weakened, which is evidenced by the fact that the State Intelligence Service (SIS) had not found any evidence of the attacks prior to them.

“Both reports forwarded by the State Intelligence Service were based on information received from abroad,” he said.

He said that Sirisena did not delegate his powers when travelling abroad, preferring to keep a tight rein on his powers. He told the Commission that if not formally assigned, the President would have powers wherever he was in the world.

Fernando revealed other rifts within the Government at the time and that as a result, national security had been made secondary to politics by its leaders.

Fernando also revealed how the usual chain of command did not exist at the time as some officials by passing him reported important information directly to the President.

He said on two occasions, he had attempted to update the former President on intelligence reports and found that SIS director Nilantha Fernando had already informed him of its contents.

He said, “When I met Nilantha, I asked him the meaning of this procedure, to which he responded by saying that he informs the President about every piece of information he receives.

I assumed that he must have already told the President about the warnings of the attacks at the time,” he said.

Fernando said he had assumed Jayawardana would have also informed the President when he gave Fernando the intelligence warning of an impending attack on April 20.

Fernando said considering Jayawardana’s claims that he told everyone this was a serious issue, had the SIS director told him the same, he would have summoned him and asked what steps should be taken.

“If I am to be held responsible for not informing the former President, then I believe that Nilantha must bear three-times as much responsibility,” he told the Commission.

Asked if this means that he accepts responsibility for the attacks, Fernando said, “I will not say that I am free of any responsibility. There is collective responsibility here. There are other parties involved as well.”

Fernando appeared before the Commission yesterday for the eight consecutive day.