By Rathindra Kuruwita
Only the President had the power to give directions at the National Security Council (NSC) and former President Maithripala Sirisena never instructed those who attended its meetings to arrest NTJ leader Zahran Hashim during his tenure as Defence Secretary between November 2018 and April 2019, Hemasiri Fernando, yesterday, told the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) investigating the Easter Sunday attacks.
Fernando added that he had taken over as the Defence Secretary in November 2018 and no one had any idea where Zahran was hiding. If they could have arrested Zahran in 2018, the attack could have been prevented.
“In 2018, the TID looked for Zahran. This operation was stopped. Otherwise, the TID might have arrested him.”
Asked by a Commissioner who had stopped the TID’s investigations, Fernando said that the incident had taken place during the time of his predecessor. “The former IGP is to start testifying on September 24 and I think it’s better if this evidence comes from him,” Fernando said.
The Attorney General’s Department (AGD) official who led the evidence asked Fernando if he was aware that the State Intelligence Service (SIS) had reported on a number of Zahran sightings and his possible whereabouts. Fernando said that focusing on such matters was not a part of his duties.
“This is not my concern. I was the supervising officer. Supervisors don’t arrest people. It was not my job.”
Fernando was then asked how he had contacted former President Maithripala Sirisena when the latter was out of Colombo. “I was hardly in contact with him at all, and, therefore, that was not a problem for me,” the witness said.