Written by Zulfick Farzan
20 Oct, 2020 | 12:37 am
Colombo (News 1st); By the 11th of April 2019 around 15,000 people were aware of the intel which stated Zaharan Hashim was planning an attack, said Former Director of the State Intelligence Service Nilantha Jayawardena in his testimony to the Presidential Commission of Inquiry probing the 2019 April 21st Terror Attacks.
On the 24th day of his testimony, the Former Intelligence Chief said “We always mentioned Zaharan’s name. For example, Simion is about to commit a bank robbery. It does not matter if he has a home-made weapon or a T-56 Assault Rifle. It is important to locate him and arrest him. That is why whenever the locations of Zaharan were mentioned, we always said him name. Our plan was to arrest the Master Mind. Around 10,000 people in this country were aware of Zaharan by the 11th of April”.
Justice Jayawardena of the Court of Appeal, who is also a member of the Presidential Commission questioned Nilantha Jayawarden if he was stating with responsibility to claim 10,000 people were aware of these events.
“Yes, my lord. The Inspector General of Police said he passed on the intel to four ranges. In the Western Province there are 8,000 officers. There are almost 5,000 personnel from the Police Special Task Force as well. The Diplomatic Missions were aware of it by the 20th of April. One Diplomatic Mission connected to the intel asked me, is it the intel they sent which is being shared. You can make the count. Even Zaharan would have been aware of this. It was directed to all 225 Members of Parliament. But, they say they were never aware of it. Yet, their security details were aware of this. By my count, it’s not 10,000 people, but almost 15,000 people were aware of this. All of them were aware, but the decision makers of this country say they were not privy to this information. With regard to the deaths of the people, I will only take responsibility to the events until the 07th of April 2019. We passed on information to the Foreign Intelligence with regard to Zaharan. Because my officers gathered all the intel, I appraised the Foreign Intelligence Service along with my officers. State Intelligence Service Director became a translator at that moment. In Sri Lanka, what comes from overseas is regarded as something important. If we say something, it is disregarded. We raised the red flag about Zaharan since 2016. I was informed about the attacks on the 04th of April. On the 05th of April I obtained it via a document. Since the April New Year was a few days away, on the 06th of April I thought I should not keep this information with me alone. Therefore, on the 07th of April I informed the Chief of National Intelligence and the Inspector General of Police. On the 08th of April I received a report from CNI. At that moment, I said this would become a political inquiry. It’s been almost a year and a half, and what I said on that day has come true. That is, Zaharan went with Rishad Bathiudeen’s brother. CNI said he would inform the Secretary of Defence about the mater. He comes to the PCoI and said he thought I, Nilantha, would speak of this at the meeting on the 09th of April. On the 09th of April I asked CNI Sisira Mendis, if he was still holding on to it and it was an issue. I am not aware of what measures were taken by the Secretary of Defence Hemasiri Fernando and Chief of National Intelligence Sisira Mendis. My lord, I provided the intel and I found the vaccine for the disease. All of them forgot about it and when things went awry, they blamed it on me”, he said in length.
“The Presidential Commission will decide my fate. I am well aware of my duty and I will not point the finger at anyone. My evidence is the truth. The PCoI will decide if I am to continue my service or if I am to be sent to prison. I will not wash my hands off this. I served as SIS Director from 03rd March 2015 to 05th December 2019, an no other Intelligence Branch managed to do what I did. If necessary action was taken on the 09th of April and not the 21st of April, the commission would have seen the difference. April 21st was the turning point. When intel is gathered, they took the credit and when the explosions took place, we were blamed for it”, said Nilantha Jayawardena.
Counsel Appearing for the Archbishop of Colombo, His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, questioned the Former SIS Director if Former President Maithripala Sirisena at the National Security Council meeting order for the immediate arrest of Zaharan Hashim.
“He did not mention the name of Zaharan Hashim. However, when the matter was discussed, he asked why is that man still in the open?,” responded Jayawardena.
Counsel questioned Jayawardena on the intel received regarding the safe-houses in Katuwapitiya, Nuwara Eliya and Panadura.
“We were aware of Black Pool in Nuwara Eliya. We did not have intel on the other places because these people never stayed in one place for more than three months,” the ex-SIS Chief said.
Counsel questioned Jayawardena on the number of training camps operated by Zaharan Hashim and his group before the attacks.
“It was reported that training was provided in Nuwara Eliya on how to disassemble and reassemble firearms,” he said.
NOTE : Extracts are translations of the evidence provided by the witness.
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