I expected SIS Director to brief President - Hemasiri | Daily News


I expected SIS Director to brief President - Hemasiri

Former President Maithripala Sirisena should have been aware that there was a possibility of a terror attack in the coming days when he left for Singapore on April 16, 2019, former Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando told the Presidential Commission of Inquiry Probing the Easter Sunday Attacks yesterday.

He said then SIS Director Nilantha Jayawardena had phone conversations with the President 10 to 15 times a day, therefore he thought that Jayawardena should have informed the President in this regard.

" The SIS Director was the only person who had the April 4 foreign intelligence in hand even by April 8, when the President met the senior police officers for the weekly meeting. If Jayawardena had not informed the President in this regard at that meeting, it is a serious offence," he stressed.

He also said the absence of the President and an acting Defence Minister in the country between April 16 to 21 were major reasons for the bombings on Easter Sunday not being avoided.

The witness further said the former President did not give him adequate time to arrange the National Security Council (NSC) meetings and used to call them suddenly, which in return resulted in some problems.

Fernando said former President Maithripala Sirisena had not instructed to arrest the leader of the National Thowheed Jamaat, Zahran Hashim in January 2019.

This was contradictory to what Sirisena said on a previous occasion that he had instructed to take extremist leader Zahran into custody at the National Security Council (NSC) in January 2019.

President's Counsel Shamil Perera who appeared on behalf of Archbishop Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, cross-examining witness Fernando asked as to why the NSC did not convene after February 2019 until the next meeting held on April 22, the following day of the attacks.

In response, the former Defence Secretary said he did not know the reason. It was upto the President to decide on convening the NSC.

When asked about his failure to convey the message on a possible attack to the President before April 21, Fernando said informing the President on intelligence information was usually carried out by the then Director of the SIS.

According to law, the Secretary to the Ministry should inform the Minister about certain matters. But, the then SIS Director and I came to an agreement that he would provide intelligence information to the President, Fernando further added.