Jun 07, 2019

I'm a helpless secretary…President never asked me to resign - Hemasiri Featured

Former Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando admitted that he was forewarned about the Easter Sunday suicide attacks.

However, he claims that he had not taken action to notify the President as it is customary that he obtains intelligence information only from the SIS Director Nilantha Jayawardena.

He made this statement yesterday (06) giving evidence before the parliamentary committee appointed to investigate the Easter Sunday terror attacks.

“On the day of the attack, between 7.30-8.00am the SIS Director called me and asked, ‘Sir how many Methodist churches are there in the Colombo City?’ then I asked him why he was asking me this as I am a Buddhist. Then he said, ‘No sir we just got information that they were not targeting the Catholic churches but the Methodist churches.’

Later on I spoke to a few friends and found out how many Methodist churches were there and told Nilantha,” he said

Fifteen minutes later a bomb attack

He said that having given the information to Nilantha around 8.00 am he learnt of the suicide bomb attacks around 15 minutes later.

The former Defence Secretary said that the previous day he had spoken to the former IGP and had notified him that he had received information to suggest that there would be an attack.

Thereafter, the SIS Director and the IGP had notified him that all arrangements were being made and that he would be contacted if required.

He also stated that by that time he expected the President to have been notified by the SIS Director, as that was the normal procedure.

When asked why he had not notified the Prime Minister regarding the threat, he said, “I am not an independent Secretary, I had to obtain permission from the President for everything.”

Why did you resign?

When asked why he had resigned, the former Defence Secretary had this to say,

“The IGP called me and said that the President had asked him to come to meet him at 8.00pm and he was offered an Ambassador post, and asked me what he should do.”

“Then I said I cannot advice him on that matter. Thereafter I requested a meeting with the President for just 15 minutes.

Prior to that I must say something. The President never asked me to resign. The media reported that the President had asked the IGP and myself to resign. This is a blatant lie. He never said that to me.”

Hemasiri Fernando said that when he had met the President he confirmed that he had asked the IGP to resign. Thereafter he too had notified the President of his resignation.

He also stated that at the time he felt that the President was happy about his decision.

Makandure Madush

“Since taking up my appointment as the Defence Secretary, the Security Council had met four times. The orders for the meeting is being given by the President. For all four of these Security Council meeting the President issued very short notice. Sometimes he tells us in the morning that the Security Council meeting is in the evening.

At the first meeting I asked the President why the Prime Minister was not invited for this meeting. Then he said no it’s not required… just do as I say,” the former Defence Secretary said in his evidence.

However, he said that at all four Security Council meetings, he does not recall talking about national security or the National Thawheed Jamath, but they had placed greater focus on Makandure Madush.

"I am the most helpless Defence Secretary”

He also noted that former IGP Pujith Jayasundara was omitted from the Security Council meetings on the directives of the President.

He said that this information was given to him the SIS Director.

Hemasiri Fernando said before the Parliamentary Select Committee that he was the most ‘helpless’ Defence Secretary where he was made to wait for hours even to obtain a signature from the President.

He also revealed that he had not attended the Security Council meeting convened by the Prime Minister after the Easter Sunday attacks, in adherence to the directives of the President telling them not to attend.