Interviews

We thought terrorism was over after the war: Lakshman Kiriella

By Skandha Gunasekara

Leader of the House and Government Minister Lakshman Kiriella said that the attack was a possible attempt to disrupt the Christian vote base of the United National Party (UNP), similar to that of Digana riots in 2018 which he claimed was an attempt to disrupt the Muslim vote base of the UNP.

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 Defence Ministry is under the President so he should take responsibility. Defence and law and order are his subjects, so he must take responsibility.

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

Yes. I think after the war, we thought terrorism was over. But now in hindsight, it appears that terrorism has popped up in another form. In 2014, we had warned the Government to be careful of this organisation. This has been going on for some time but apparently the defence authorities were sleeping. They were going after Madush and Namal and other useless people. The assassination plot on the President was also rubbish.

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?

If you look at the history of violence in Sri Lanka, in the last four years, you will see that it has been done to diminish the UNP vote base. For example, there were the Digana riots in Kandy last year where the Police were silent for 25 hours; the authorities didn’t take any action to stop it.

Normally, it is the Muslim vote based that is disrupted. This attack is also to disrupt the Christian vote base of the UNP.

Why did the head of the national intelligence not inform the service commanders, the President, the Prime Minister, or the State Minister? He just wrote a letter to the IGP and kept quiet. He should have been hands on for this type of danger. He acted like a clerk – just writing a letter to the Police.

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

I won’t say we can’t. We have to go all out and try to recover as soon as possible.

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?

Definitely, because this has an international dimension. These guys have gone to the Middle East and all the photographs are on the internet. Though ISIS was defeated in the Middle East, their hardcore carder survived and now their concentrating on other countries where security is weak.

So you do accept that security was weak in Sri Lanka?

Yes. I think people were a bit laid back. They didn’t expect any attack like this. That’s why even when the intelligence came, they kept it under the rug without acting on it immediately.

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

We can’t postpone elections. Elections have to be held. Under the Constitution you can’t postpone.

So the Government will go ahead with elections as planned?

Definitely.