(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) –State Minister of Defence Ruwan Wijewardene told the Parliamentary Select Committee probing Easter Sunday attacks that the Government had ‘opportunities to prevent the terror attacks’ but as State Minister of Defense, he was never informed of the rise of Islamic extremism or of an impending attack.
“In 2017, at the Security Council meetings, there were discussions pertaining to a clash between two factions of two mosques in Kattankudy. Other meetings discussed Sri Lankans who had joined ISIS,” he told the Select Committee. “But there was no discussion on the rise of Islamic extremism; neither was I informed of any training camps or individuals engaged in making bombs.”
The State Minister said that he had seen the letter shared by the Inspector General of Police Pujith Jayasundara of a probable attack only after the attacks on Easter Sunday. “I had not seen the letter prior to the attack. When I asked my security personnel after the attack, they told me they were alerted but did not inform me as they were merely carrying out their duties.”
He added that, after the 51-day Constitutional crisis last year, there was a disagreement between President Maithripala Sirisena and the incumbent government, and, as such, he was not privy to the SC meetings.
“I was not given an opportunity to join the Security Council meetings or the Intelligence coordination meetings after October 26th,” he said adding that he did not deem it fit to question the move given the status quo at the time.
The State Minister agreed that there was a lapse in communications and that the intelligence services were ‘operating in autonomy of their own’. “There was a lot of instability within the Ministry of Defence. There had been five defence secretaries since 2015.”
When asked about his statement that he had made with reference to the Easter attack as being a retaliatory attack for the shootings at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, the Minister said that he made those statements based on information provided to him by the Criminal Investigation Department.
“I was told by the CID that one of the bombers, Insaf who bombed the Cinnamon Grand Hotel had made a phone call prior to the attack. In it he tells he says that Muslims around the world were being adversely affected. He cited Syria, Rohingya and also referred to the attacks on Muslims at mosques in Christchurch.” he said. New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern however said that her government were not aware of any intelligence suggesting that the devastating attack on Easter Sunday was in retaliation for the deadly shooting on mosques in Christchurch.
He however said that if the relevant police officers had performed their correct duties, the attack on April 21st could have been prevented. “If the Officer-in-charge of Kattankudy had done his duty, we could have prevented this attack, the same goes for the police officers at Mawanella,” he said.