By Saman Indrajith
Head of the Terrorist Investigation Division DIG Waruna Jayasundara yesterday admitted before the Parliamentary Select Committee probing the Easter Sunday carnage that failure to take preventive measures had led to the disaster.
Testifying before the PSC he said that the measures taken to find Mohmad Zahran Hashim and his group members before they carried out the attacks had not been efefctive.
Yesterday the PSC comprised Dr Nalinda Jayatissa, Prof Ashu Marasinghe, M.A. Sumanthiran, Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne, Minister Ravi Karunanayake, Chairman Ananda Kumarasiri, Rauff Hakeem and Dr. Jayampathi Wickremaratne.
DIG Jayasundara: I received the letter on April 10 marked ‘top secret-eyes only’. I called my immediate juniors and told them that Zahran was ready to attack. I showed them the letter and instructed them not to photocopy or take pictures of it. Thereafter I gave written instructions to two officers to arrest Zharan immediately. They sent the message to relevant units. We have a unit of ours in Kalmunai. Everybody in the unit searched for him. They went to addresses but could not find Zahran, his brother or supporters. The Grama Niladharis had informed our teams that they had left the area for good. On April 10 itself we wrote to the Facebook and got them to block Zahran’s account.
Dr Jayatissa: Did you in turn inform the IGP of this April 10 letter and the follow up activities?
DIG Jayasundara: Yes. He had written to me asking for the progress and I duly replied outlining what I did.
Dr Jayatissa: Did the head of SIS Nilantha Jayawardena speak to you prior to the attack?
DIG Jayasundara: Yes, he called me on April 19. He inquired about the explosion of the motorcycle that took place on April 16. It was reported to police on April 17. The first police version was that the motorcycle had been struck by lightning. Senior DIG Nilantha Jayawardena called me. He was worried and asked me to check again. I found pellets in the explosion site and ascertained it was an explosion using explosives. So I got our officers to investigate the incident thoroughly. We linked the explosion with extremist activities by fundamentalists.
Dr Jayatissa: Did he mention any information pertaining to the warning of attacks.
DIG Jayasundara: No
Dr Jayatissa: What action should have been taken to prevent the attack?
DIG Jayasundara: It was a threat. We could eliminate the threat. We could arrest Zahran and neutralize the threat.
Sumanthiran: Who would have informed the churches of the attack? Whose responsibility was it?
DIG Jayasundara: We are investigators. It is not our duty to inform the churches without instructions from superior offices. The IGP has a Senior DIG covering the area. He could have done that. The letter was also copied to the Senior DIG Western Range. There are iconic churches in the area. He could have made that decision.
Field Marshal Fonseka: Do you think that police alone can solve this problem?
DIG Jayasundara: No, police alone cannot solve this. Normal police do not have the capacity to address a problem of this nature. The army with the help of the Directorate Military Intelligence may be able to address it.
Field Marshal Fonseka: The STF.
DIG Jayasundara: Yes. Since the day I assumed duties as the Director TID, I have been asking permission to recruit policemen who had previously served in the STF to the TID. Even on that day, on April 19, when SDIG Jayawardena called me and talked of linking the possibility of explosion with extremism, I asked him to hand over to me the task of neutralizing Zahran. If we had enough men with STF training and this information at the time I got this position the Easter Sunday attacks could have been prevented.
Sumanthiran: Do you attend the intelligence review meetings regularly?
DIG Jayasundara: No, even with regard to my presence at April 9th meeting, it was by chance. I was in the Headquarters for a conference, and the IGP asked me to join him for another meeting. That meeting was the intelligence review meeting.
Field Marshal Fonseka: Whenever there is information of this nature, we have two types of measures – defensive and preventive measures.
DIG Jayasundara: Yes Sir.
Field Marsha Fonseka: TID is not responsible for this. We could not take defensive measures since the time was limited and there was lack of information. Then we could have adopted preventive measures by informing churches and other targets of the possible attacks. We could have done that. That did not happen owing to some mistake or error on the part of someone. Isn’t it?
DIG Jayasundara: Yes sir.