By Rathindra Kuruwita
The Malalgoda Committee appointed by former President Maithripala Sirisena to investigate the Easter Sunday attacks had included, in its report, a number of things that he had not said, former Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando, on Monday informed the PCoI probing Easter Sunday attacks.
Fernando made this statement when his lawyer, Dilshan Jayasuriya, questioned him on his testimony before the Malalgoda Committee.
Fernando said that it was unethical to appoint former IGP N.K. Ilangakoon and former Secretary to the Ministry of Law and Order, Pathmasiri Jayamanne to the committee as the National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) mainly expanded during their tenures.
“My testimony before the committee has been misquoted in the Malalgoda report. They didn’t let me go through the statement and they didn’t get my signature certifying that the statement they had written was accurate. Also they submitted the report within two weeks. How can you give a report about the Easter Sunday attacks within two weeks?”
Counsel Dilshan Jayasuriya then asked the witness whether the Malalgoda Committee had submitted its report when Sirisena publicly declared that Fernando and former IGP Pujith Jayasundara were responsible for the Easter Sunday attacks.
“No, Sirisena made this declaration before the report was out. A lot of publicity was given to this statement, too. I vehemently deny this allegation,” Fernando said.
The witness said that Sirisena had blamed him and Jayasundara for not informing him (Sirisena) of the warning of a possible attack. Fernando said he had never shared intelligence information with Sirisena and that it had been done by then SIS Director Nilantha Jayawardena.
The former Defence Secretary said that if Jayawardena had also sent him the report he had sent to the CID and TID on April 19 about a motorcycle bomb explosion in Kattankudy, he would have called all relevant authorities and taken action.
“I would have called everyone. Not sending me that report was a grave mistake,” Fernando added.
Counsel Jayasuriya then asked the witness if the former SIS Director had requested the National Security Council (NSC) to arrest Zahran Hashim.
Fernando said such a request had not been made during his tenure, which commenced in late 2018.