I observed the news item in relation to the order issued by the Attorney General Dappula de Livera to Acting Inspector General Chandana Wickramaratne to take disciplinary action against the nine police officers including three DIGs. This order was based on the final report of the three-member presidential committee which investigated lapses that allowed the April 21 suicide bombings.
This news has come as a surprise to everyone because the interim reports of the committee had earlier suggested that former IGP, Pujitha Jayasundera, former Defence Secretary, Hemasiri Fernando and former National Intelligence Chief, Sisira Mendis were responsible for the attack.
All the three appeared before the Parliament Select Committee and gave shocking evidence that surprised the public. Whatever the case may be, the formation of the committee itself has negative impacts on its credibility.
The appointment of former IGP N.K.Illangakoon and the former Secretary to the Ministry of Law and Order, Pathmasiri Jayamanne to the committee shall be deemed prejudicial in finding the truth and delivering the impartial recommendations. Both these officers when they held positions had jurisdiction over the evolution of activities of Saharan to the level of extremism.
It has been reported that the root cause of the Easter Sunday attack on 21st April dates back to 2013 when Saharan started his preaching on the ideology of extremism. This fact was revealed by the former TID DIG Nalaka Silva who gave evidence at the Parliament Select Committee. He said that Saharan had been engaged in extremism from 2013 and he had embraced the violent extremism from the year 2016.
Mr. N.K.Illangakoon held the position of IGP from September 2011 to April 2016 and he would have been certainly aware of these developments. Further, Mr. N.K. Illangakoon was appointed as an adviser of the Defence Ministry on 29th April 2019 after forming the committee of inquiry on 22nd April in which he was selected as a member.
The activities of Saharan reached its height in 2018 when the court order was issued on 8, August 2018 to arrest him. But he went into hiding even after an open warrant for his arrest was granted and his underground activities escaped the state intelligence network. During this period, Mr. Pathmasiri Jayamanne was functioning as the Secretary of the Ministry of Law and Order.
In this context, the appointments of Mr.N.K.Illangakoon and Mr. Pathmasiri Jayamanne as members of the committee would fall short of any fair investigation and are against the principals of natural justice that demands the justice be seen to be done. Further, Mr.Pujitha Jayasundera made revelations in his court filing and his evidence at the parliamentary select committee that the President promised him of diplomatic posting or made a senior government official and the inquiry report would not be adverse by the Presidential committee if he resigned.
It is quite evident that the committee had narrowed its investigation to the surface appearances rather than looking into at least the intelligence failures of the incident in the recent past. As mentioned above, the two members of the committee would have been reluctant to probe the activities that had taken place since 2016 because of their jurisdiction over the relevant activities during the period.
It is now evident that the root cause of the calamity goes far beyond the immediate foreign intelligence warning and the threat to national security had been prevalent much longer than it was thought. Surprisingly, the committee summoned the former Defence Secretary, Hemasiri Fernando who had served just six months before the attack but the role of his three predecessors were left out of the investigations.
The committee should have probed as to how the activities of Saharan escaped the state security intelligence network of the country because the State Intelligence Unit has sufficient manpower to unearth the evidence of terror attacks.
It is a fact that the foreign intelligence warning reached the Director SIS at the height of NTJ planned attacks. Hence, the ground work for the Easter Sunday attack must have been in place months or years ago. Had the SIS been able to penetrate the underground NTJ activities in advance and then apprise the authorities, this calamity would have been avoided.
If there were prior intelligence information, the emergency regulations would have been brought to implement the measures such as security checks, road blocks, checks at the entry to institutions including churches and hotels to counter any type of terrorist activities in the country. Hence, the complete breakdown of the State Intelligence Service in the past few years is thought to be the prime cause of this disaster.
In the above context, the validity of the committee or its recommendations would not serve the purpose of justice. It does fall short of finding the true causes and background for the national catastrophe that occurred on 21st April and instead damage the values of the democratic society.