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09th-Jun-2019

Sri Lanka President vows to block Easter attacks probe

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AFP, Colombo :
Sri Lanka's president has told his cabinet that he will not cooperate with a parliamentary investigation into security lapses leading to the Easter suicide bombings, official sources said Saturday.
Maithripala Sirisena summoned an emergency meeting of his cabinet on Friday night to oppose the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) probing the April 21 attacks that killed 258 people and wounded nearly 500.
A ministerial source told AFP Sirisena has refused to allow any police, military or intelligence personnel to testify before the committee.
"The cabinet meeting ended inconclusively," the source said on condition of anonymity. "The government did not agree to suspend the PSC either."
Sirisena's office did not comment on the outcome of the heated cabinet meeting, but said the president had told senior police officers on Friday that he will not allow any serving officer to testify before the PSC.
Last week, Sirisena's intelligence chief Sisira Mendis told the committee that the president had failed to hold regular security review meetings to assess the potential threat from Islamic radicals.
Halfway through his testimony, the live telecast of the proceedings were stopped on Sirisena's orders, official sources said.
Sirisena's defence secretary and police chief have suggested that the president, who is also the minister of Defence and Law and Order, did not follow proper protocols in dealing with intelligence reports, including advance warnings about the April 21 bombings.
Sirisena has repeatedly denied he was aware of an impending threat.
A local jihadist organisation and the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attacks against three churches and three luxury hotels.
Sirisena said last week that he had met with the national police chief and his top brass 13 days before the Easter Sunday attacks but no officer had raised the warnings which had been relayed by India.
Official sources said New Delhi had provided details of planned attacks based on information from a jihadist in Indian custody.
The government has admitted there were intelligence failures before the attacks, in which 45 foreign nationals died.
Sirisena subsequently suspended police chief Pujith Jayasundara and dismissed his top defence official Hemasiri Fernando.
Sri Lanka has been under a state of emergency since the attacks.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka's president has sacked the national intelligence chief and will not cooperate with a parliamentary investigation into security lapses before the Easter suicide bombings, officials said Saturday.
Maithripala Sirisena summoned an emergency cabinet meeting on Friday night to oppose a parliamentary select committee probe into the April 21 attacks that killed 258 people, including 45 foreigners, and wounded nearly 500.
Chief of National Intelligence Sisira Mendis was sacked after testifying to the inquiry last week that the attacks could have been averted.
He also said the president had failed to hold regular security meetings to assess the threat from Islamic radicals who carried out the bombings on three hotels and three churchs.
Sirisena's office did not give a reason for the sacking. Halfway through the testimony, the live telecast of the proceedings was stopped on the president's orders, official sources said.
A ministerial source told AFP Sirisena has refused to allow any police, military or intelligence personnel to testify before the committee.
The source added that the heated cabinet meeting ended "inconclusively" without taking a decision on whether to suspend the parliament probe.
Sirisena's office did not comment on the meeting, but said the president had told senior police officers on Friday that he will not allow any serving officer to testify.
Sirisena's defence secretary and police chief have suggested that the president, who is also defence minister, did not follow proper protocols in dealing with intelligence warnings about the Easter Sunday bombings.