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Cabinet caught in the crossfire

* Clash between Prez and govt.

* Dayasiri questions CNI’s conduct



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by Shamindra Ferdinando


A battle between President Maithripala Sirisena and the government over ongoing Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) probe on Easter Sunday attacks took a new turn yesterday as those loyal to the President questioned why Chief of National Intelligence (CNI) retired DIG Sisira Mendis had left the country days after receiving warning of impending terrorist attack.


Mendis stepped down over the weekend.


Addressing the media at SLFP Office at the T.B. Jayah Mawatha, SLFP General Secretary Dayasiri Jayaskera MP found fault with the CNI for visiting Singapore from April 13 to 16.


The National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) carried out coordinated suicide bombings on six targets in Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa on April 21.


Revealing the particular flights used by the CNI to and from Singapore, Jayasekera sought an explanation as to why he visited Singapore.


At the onset of the media briefing, MP Jayasekera declared that the cabinet of ministers couldn’t meet today due to President Sirisena’s decision not to chair the weekly meeting. The SLFP spokesman attributed the fresh crisis to the government refusal to halt the PAC in spite of the Commander-in-Chief’s request. The MP emphasized that the cabinet couldn’t meet without the President’s participation.


Alleging that the PSC was meant to cause harm to President Sirisena, MP Jayasekera accused Speaker Karu Jayasuriya of conducting the PSC contrary to Standing Orders. The SLFPer accused the Speaker Jayasuriya of being partial as he, too, was in the 2019 presidential election fray. Jayasekera alleged that Jayasuriya was involved in the ongoing political power struggle.


The MP emphasized that Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando, CNI Sisira Mendis and IGP Pujith Jayasundera had the authority to act on the intelligence provided by SIS head Senior DIG Nilantha Jayawardena. MP Jayasekera said that Senior DIG Jayawardena furnished the report to CNI head following verification, MP Jayasekera said, emphasizing that there was no justification in Mendis’ claim he lacked the power to act. Had it been the case what was he doing for four years, Jayasekera asked, accusing the government of a deliberate attempt to blame the failure on the President.


Jayasekera lamented that President Sirisena and Premier Wickremesinghe hadn’t been aware of the intelligence warning. The lawmaker claimed that he, too, hadn’t been aware of impending April 21 attacks. When The Island asked MP Jayasekera to explain as to how the ailing father of Minister Harin Fernando knew of the impending Easter attacks -a warning not even available to the President, the PM and Jayasekera himself, a smiling MP said only Harin’s father could answer that question.


The Island also asked whether President Sirisena had been aware that the post of the CNI created by way of a cabinet paper during the previous administration to accommodate Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) veteran, Maj. Gen. Kapila Hendavitharana. MP Jayasekera explained the circumstances under which President Sirisena made such appointments.


The Island also pointed out that the specific intelligence warning available to the SIS hadn’t been shared with the DMI.


MP Jayasekera said that the CNI could have taken tangible measures to thwart the terrorist attack.


The SLFP General Secretary alleged that at the beginning the UNP and the JO cooperated on the formulation of the PSC. Subsequently, the government expanded the mandate of the PSC to inquire into allegations directed at Commerce and Industry Minister and All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) leader Rishad Bathiudeen. MP Jayasekera said that he on behalf of the UPFA strongly objected to the move as he felt the move was intended to clear Bathiudeen. As a result, the UPFA and the JO boycotted the PSC.


Chaired by Deputy Speaker Ananda Kumarasiri, the PSC includes Ravi Karunanayake (UNP), Dr. Rajitha Senaratne (UNP), Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka (UNP/DP) Dr, Jayampathy Wickremaratne (UNP/LSSP), Prof. Ashu Marasinghe (UNP), Rauf Hakeem (UNP/SLMC), Dr. Nalinda Jayatissa (JVP) and M. A. Sumanthiran (TNA).


MP Jayasekera questioned the composition of the PSC pointing out how such an important body included so many National List MPs. The SLFPer named Fonseka, Marasinghe and Wickremaratne as National List members not acceptable.


The MP said that consensus could have been reached on the PSC had it been held as an internal inquiry meant to find out shortcomings and decide on remedial measures. The idea should have been to thwart recurrence of a similar attack, Jayasekera said. Instead, the government launched a project targeting President Sirisena regardless of advice given by the Attorney General.


The lawmaker alleged Speaker Jayasuriya ignored a slew of fundamental rights cases filed in the Supreme Court in respect of the Easter attacks. The parliament couldn’t act arbitrarily, the MP said, warning of dire consequences unless the current course of action was changed.


Jayasekera also found fault with the SPC for not identifying who had received intelligence warning on behalf of Premier Wickremesinghe’s security. According to him, the UNP couldn’t absolve itself of the responsibility for the Easter attacks blamed on the NTJ headed by Zahran Hashim as that party held law and order portfolio till 2018 Oct.


Alleging that the PSC process had been directed at President Sirisena, Jayasekera said a deliberate attempt was being made to destroy the President. The entire government accepted the responsibility for its failure to thwart the attack without seeking political advantage.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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