News

Failure to prevent Easter Sunday attacks: Specific intel given to then IGP only one day prior 

 

  • Ex-SIS Director admits no specific intel given between 4 and 19 April 2019 
  • Said specific intel not given to political authority 

 

BY Buddhika Samaraweera 

Former State Intelligence Service (SIS) Director Senior Deputy Inspector General of Police (SDIG) Nilantha Jayawardena has admitted in court that he did not provide then Inspector General of Police (IGP) Pujith Jayasundara with any specific intelligence information about a terror attack until the day before the Easter Sunday terror attacks of 21 April 2019. 

The case against Jayasundara for his alleged failure to take action to prevent the Easter Sunday terror attacks was taken up before the Colombo High Court Trial-at-Bar on Monday (29 November) and Jayawardena, the first witness in the case, was cross-examined by Attorney-at-Law Roshan Dehiwala, who is appearing on behalf of Jayasundara. 

During the cross-examination, Dehiwala questioned Jayawardena whether the SIS had failed to convert the information received on 4 April 2019 from a foreign counterpart of a terror attack, into specific intelligence information, and in turn make a prior warning before 20 April 2019. In response, Jayawardena said that he did not have the information to make the said prior warning based on specific intelligence information until he received a telephone call at 4.12 p.m. on 20 April 2019, the day before the attacks. 

Dehiwala again questioned Jayawardena as to how he had informed then IGP Jayasundara of the foreign intelligence information received on 20 April 2019. The witness replied that the message was sent to Jayasundara through a particular software used by the Police Department at the time. The Attorney then queried as to whether he (Jayawardena) would accept the motion if he suggested that the said notice had not been duly referred to Jayasundara as stated by the witness. The witness replied: “No, I don’t accept that. I sent the message through that software. I also called him and informed the matter.” 

When Jayawardena was questioned as to whether he admitted that he had not given then IGP Jayasundara specific intelligence information about an attack during the period from 4 to 19 April 2019, he said: “Yes, I accept it. I did not provide specific intelligence information about an attack until the day before the attacks, but I did provide information on the information which I received on 4 April 2019 and the dry run conducted by the group led by National Thowheeth Jama’ath (NTJ) Leader Zahran Hashim.” 

Judge Mohamed Irshadeen then questioned whether Jayawardena had passed on the specific intelligence information provided the day before the attacks to the Prime Minister (PM), the Opposition Leader, or the Defence Deputy Minister in the absence of the then Defence Minister in the country. In response, Jayawardena said that he had not informed the political authorities in that regard.

Jayawardena has been named a witness of the prosecution in a backdrop where the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) into the Easter Sunday terror attacks has, in its final report, recommended that the Attorney General (AG) consider instituting criminal proceedings against the former under suitable provisions of the Penal Code over the said terror attacks. According to the PCoI report, the first communication SDIG Jayawardena made in writing after receiving the intelligence information regarding a possible terror attack on 4 April 2019, was to the then Chief of National Intelligence (CNI) Sisira Mendis by way of the letter dated 7 April 2019. “It is titled ‘Information of an alleged plan of attack’, and the PCoI during his testimony before it queried as to why the term ‘alleged’ was used when the foreign counterpart that sent him the intelligence information had not, and his response was: ‘They say, but we don’t know’. The PCoI, considering Jayawardena’s evidence before it, has concluded that he had not taken the said intelligence information seriously.” 

Meanwhile, current IGP Chandana D. Wickramaratne, who has been named as the 1,214th witness in the case, also testified before the Trial-at-Bar on Monday. He was questioned regarding the role of the SIS and its Director as he had served in the SIS before assuming duties as the IGP. When queried whether the SIS Director should inform the tri forces about the intelligence information they, including the SIS Director, receive, Wickramaratne said that the SIS Director should do so. In addition, he said that the National Security Council, the Defence Ministry Secretary, and the IGP could be informed about intelligence information received regarding terrorist activities. When questioned whether the intelligence agencies should only collect information, he said that in addition to collecting information, it was also the responsibility of the intelligence agencies to improve and disseminate such. When queried whether the SIS Director should be considered a police officer under the Police Ordinance, he said that the SIS Director should act as a police officer. 

The case is to be taken up again on 18 January 2022. 

On 21 April 2019, Easter Sunday, three churches (St. Sebastian’s Church in Katuwapitiya, St. Anthony’s Church in Kochchikade, and Zion Church in Batticaloa) and three luxury hotels in Colombo (Cinnamon Grand Colombo, The Kingsbury Colombo, and Shangri-La Colombo) were targeted in a series of co-ordinated suicide bombings. Later that day, another two bomb explosions took place at a house in Dematagoda and the Tropical Inn Lodge in Dehiwala. A total of 269 people excluding the bombers were killed in the bombings, including about 45 foreign nationals, while at least 500 were injured. All eight of the suicide bombers in the attacks were Sri Lankan citizens associated with the NTJ organisation founded by the suicide bomber at Shangri-La Colombo, Mohamed Cassim Mohamed Zahran alias Zahran Hashim.