by Anurangi Singh
Former Inspector General of Police (IGP) Pujith Jayasundara has revealed in his petition to the Supreme Court that the State Intelligence Service (SIS), (although informed of a possible security threat), never highlighted the urgency of it nor any immediate action that should be taken.
The SIS, according to Jayasundara, directly reports to the President in all intelligence related matters, and neither he, (nor any officer who was privy to the intelligence operation and investigation that was underway), were requested to take any action, and, furthermore, he was only notified on the night of the 20 April, of an imminent attack.
Last week, former IGP Jayasundara petitioned the Supreme Court seeking a declaration that the executive decision to send him on compulsory leave consequent to the Easter Sunday attacks, was an infringement of his Fundamental Rights guaranteed under articles 12 and 14 of the Constitution. Several suicide attacks (on three churches and three hotels in and around Colombo) took place on April 21, 2019 targeting people who had gathered to celebrate Easter Sunday. It shook the country and exposed major lapses in the security system.
The former IGP and the former secretary of Defence (Hemasiri Fernando), were asked to resign on account of security failures.Although the defence secretary tendered his resignation, Jayasundara refused to do so,and was subsequently sent on compulsory leave.
He claims in his petition to Court, that the decision to send him on compulsory leave is not valid in law as the decision has not been made by the proper authority – “The President is not the disciplinary authority in respect of the Petitioner IGP, and does not have the power to send the Petitioner on compulsory leave,” reads the petition. He further states that the “lack of information provided (to him) resulted in him being unable to take further steps in terms of the law.”
The petition names the Attorney General on behalf of the president, the acting IGP, the members of the Constitutional Council, the Chief of State Intelligence Services, the Chief of National Intelligence and the former Defence Secretary, as respondents.
He further informs court that the Security Council (NSC) meetings are usually called by the defence secretary, and, as directed by the President, he was excluded from these NSC Meetings as from early October 2018, and this was conveyed to him on or about the first week of October 2018, by the Secretary, Ministry of Defence, Mr. Kapila Waidyaratne, PC.
According to the Petition the former IGP had only been asked to attend a meeting on the 9th of April, at which he was appraised of the possible threat. However he states that he wasn’t required to take necessary action as it was clearly stated that the threat will be handled by the State Intelligence Services (SIS)
“The Petitioner states that on or about April 2019 at 10:00 am, the Petitioner IGP attended a meeting at the Defence Ministry chaired by Hemasiri Fernando, (the (then) Secretary, Ministry of Defence), at which meeting Director SIS referred to information about a threat- an attack by extremist Islamist elements.”
However, the Director SIS did not emphasise the urgency and/or seriousness of the matter. On the same day he had received letters from A. N. Sisira Mendis, Chief of National Intelligence, which enclosed certain contents of a letter by the Director, State Intelligence Services, and an annexure thereto containing information regarding a planned attack by Zahran Hashim and associates.He was also sent a letter from the SIS, containing same.
The letter further stated that “secret inquiries” are being conducted into the information received and “it is important to alert the Law Enforcement agencies to be vigilant concerning the information.”. According to the former police chief the letter had in no way indicated the urgency of the situation, nor did it contain a classification to indicate the urgency or priority level, whereas the usual practice is to mark relevant letters “Top Priority” or “Top Urgent”.
However, he( the Petitioner) decided to forward the letter by the CNI to four senior police officers set out below, as it was apparent that without doing so, no meaningful measures could be taken to enable due vigilance.
“The Petitioner received three other letters on 18, 19 and 20 April 2019 all relating to the National Thowheed Jamath, Zahran Hashim and matters incidental to the same. The said letters did not request any advice and/or action from the Petitioner IGP, and were shared with the Petitioner only for his information. The said letters expressly stated that the State Intelligence Service was carrying on further investigations,” states the petition.
He claims that, in addition, he also informed all nine Senior DIG’s in charge of the Nine Provinces by telephone of the said information regarding possible attacks, on the 9th April Evening/10th April morning, while discussing the Daily Situation Report.
He states that about the 23 April 2019, at or around 6:45pm in the evening, he received a call from the President requiring him to attend at the President’s residence at 8:00pm, and that meeting was underway from 8:00pm to 8:45pm, during which time the President had stated that he was not willing to accept responsibility for the Easter Sunday attacks since he was unaware of the intelligence, as he was not informed by the then IGP and secretary of defense.
The petition claims that he was told, that if he tendered his resignation as IGP, he would be granted a diplomatic posting.
Jayasundara was delivered a letter on the 29th April which informed him that he has been sent on compulsory leave. He claims that no inquiries or even preliminary steps whatsoever have been taken by any person to seek to remove him in terms of the relevant statutory provisions.And further states this as well as the steps taken to appoint an acting IGP by the President, (which was purportedly approved by the Constitutional Council), is not valid in law.