Interviews

Govt. responsible for public safety and security: Dr. Nalinda Jayatissa

By Skandha Gunasekara

The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) asserted that the general public had acted in a mature and responsible way following last Sunday’s terror attack, unlike the political leaders of this country.

JVP MP Dr. Nalinda Jayatissa stated that the people stood in solidarity and supported one another as well as those affected by the attack.
Below are excerpts of his interview with The Sunday Morning:

The President said in his speech that there had been intelligence of these extremist groups planning terror activities as far back as 2014. Yet, no action seems to have been taken to address the threat. Who do you think is at fault?

The Government is responsible for the safety and security of the people of this country. So it is their failure that they didn’t act on intelligence received as far back 2014. They had no right to belittle or take such intelligence lightly.

Now there’s a talk that the Prime Minister wasn’t invited to the Security Council meetings and that the President had not been informed him of this intelligence, but these are extremely irresponsible statements. The President has been Minister of Defence throughout, therefore he and his Cabinet of Minister must take responsibility.

Ten years after the war, Sri Lanka is faced with a new threat. Should we, as a country, have been better prepared to face such a global threat as opposed to just looking at domestic issues?

What is apparent is that after the war, no government has been able to look after the country’s national security. Not just the Government after 2015, the Rajapaksa Government that came into power after 2009 and even the 51-day Government didn’t carry out their duties.

Even though governments changed, the state intelligence services remained the same and no political decision had been taken on the information they had gathered. Intelligence activities are not limited to war time only; intelligence services must be operational at all times. It is clear that successive governments have failed this country.

This whole issue has now become a political game where one is blaming the other and the two main political parties are trying to use it for their political gain. Are political leaders playing their roles correctly?

At this trying time, the public has taken the lead in acting responsibly and in a good manner. They have stood in solidarity and supported one another as well as those affected by the attack. On the other hand, the politicians have been the opposite.

From the time Parliament met on Tuesday, politicians have shown that they cannot act in a responsible manner. They have shown their ignorance on how to act in such a situation. The fact that government MPs are making statement that the US had given us intelligence before the attack, revealing that some MPs were warned prior to the attack and no public warning was given, the mix up in the death toll numbers, the statement made by the Secretary of Defence, the statement by the Prime Minister – all of this shows that they have no sense of responsibility.

This incident has seriously affected tourism and the country’s economy. Can we recover from this any time soon?

Even before this attack, our economy was struggling. It is clear from the Budget proposals. However, the economy was picking up gradually due to the tourism industry and it was the highest earning sector. So after this attack, the tourism industry will take a hit and I don’t think any tourists will select Sri Lanka as a destination for the next few years.

This is worse than during the LTTE, because they never targeted tourist locations or hotels. So the impact on the economy will be significant, and I don’t think the current Government or the former Government will be able to successfully recover.

The international community has offered various forms of assistance to Sri Lanka to address this threat. Yet locally some are very sceptical of accepting such assistance. Should we work with major superpowers to ensure our country is safe?

In modern times, national security is not something a country can do on its own. Countries must work together.

Some are trying to make false claims that it is detrimental to work with the international community in facing this threat. We must work with the international community, especially when it comes to gathering and sharing intelligence and information. But we must also be careful not to allow the agendas of other countries to be exercised over us when doing so.

With elections expected to be held this year, considering what has happened now, do you think elections should be held or that the money should be saved to help those affected by the attack?

Assistance and compensation must be given to those affected of course. Not only the victims of this attack but the victims of the floods last year as well as the Salawa explosion victims are yet to be compensated. But we must not mix this up with holding elections. Elections must be held.
The general election can only be held in 2020. If the President is acting according to the mandate he received in 2015, he must abolish the executive presidency, but the provincial council elections must be held as soon as possible.

All elections must be held as soon as possible and if the Government is attempting to postpone elections using this as an excuse, then that is completely wrong.