The Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) appointed to probe the Easter Sunday attacks has found that President Maithripala Sirisena had "deliberately misled" the PSC by making contradictory claims on two matters.
In its final released today (Oct 23), the PSC said that the President, in a closed testimony, had claimed that he was unable to return to Sri Lanka, on the day of the Easter Sunday attacks, as all flights had been full.
The President was in Singapore on April 21 – the day the bombings had taken place, and had only returned to the country the next day.
However, records obtained from SriLankan Airlines showed that there were seats on three flights which operated between Singapore and Sri Lanka on April 21, the report said.
Further, President Sirisena had told the PSC that he had turned down an offer given by the Singaporean government to use a special flight, as it was expected to reach Sri Lanka in a similar time to that of his booked flight.
“The PSC notes that the President should have taken all steps to immediately return after the attacks, either via a scheduled flight or taking the offer of a special flight,” the report read.
It further noted that President Sirisena had claimed that he did not have prior knowledge about the incident contradicting media reports which showed that the President had received such information on April 11.
The PSC, in a crucial finding, held that State Intelligence Service (SIS) Director Nilantha Jayawardena should bear the “greatest responsibility” of preventing the attacks.
This was because he had received intelligence warnings in this regard on April 4, and had failed to share it among the relevant intelligence and security personnel.
Jayawardena had also failed to brief the Intelligence Coordinating Meeting in this regard on April 9, despite being called on to do so by the Defence Secretary.
Speaking at a media briefing held this afternoon (23) soon after the release of the report, PSC Chairman and Deputy Speaker Ananda Kumarasiri noted that in April 2018, the Director SIS had written to the Inspector General of Police (IGP) requesting for the shutting down of investigations by other agencies into Zahran.
Accordingly, the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) which had been investigating Zahran was withdrawn and the SIS became the sole investigator of Zahran.
Thus, the SIS had been in charge of the probe into Zahran for a full year prior to the Easter attacks, it was noted.
Among other entities the PSC held accountable were the Prime Minister, State Minister of Defence, and the Attorney General’s Department.
The PSC said that among those within the security and intelligence apparatus who should be held responsible are Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando, Inspector General of Police Pujith Jayasundara, Chief of National Intelligence, and the Army’s Directorate of Military Intelligence.
Meanwhile, the report observed that “several people of Kattankudy and several local Muslim groups made complaints against Zahran as early as 2013/2014 to the authorities”.
Mohamed Zahran was identified as the mastermind of the Easter Sunday attacks which killed 277 and left 400 injured.
In addition, the PSC pointed out that the “spread of Wahhabism and the Arabization of Kattankudy contributed to the growth of extremism in the Islamic community especially in the East and must be further investigated”.
Other recommendations which require "urgent attention" as listed out by the PSC are as follows :
(Additional reporting by Sandun Jayawardana)