Former Inspector General of Police (IGP) Pujith Jayasundara appearing before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry appointed to probe the Easter Sunday Massacre on Wednesday (23) disclosed that former President Maithripala Sirisena had told him to halt open investigations by the Terrorism Investigation Division (TID) into Islamic extremists and their activities during a Security Council meeting.
At this distinction, the President had informed him that Director of State Intelligence Service (SIS) Nilantha Jayawardena would take care of the matter, Jayasundara told the Commission.
The TID, according to Jayasundara, was the first to conduct investigations into the Islamic extremist activities, for which the Unit had held a specialty.
He added, that he in his capacity as the IGP had proposed that the TID should be summoned to the Intelligence Coordination Meetings.
DIG Nalaka de Silva had shown great skill in the investigation, the former IGP went on, revealing that he, together with Silva, had met with the President at his residence on Paget Road, to address the findings of the investigations.
Muslim Ministers may cross - act with care
A demonstration on Islamic extremism operating in the world and in Sri Lanka had also been done during the meetings, Jayasundara revealed, adding that he and Silva had accordingly met the former President three times and raised these matters with him.
Former President Sirisena too had been observant on the matters discussed, he added.
In response, Sirisena, according to the former IGP, had said, "This would be a very sensitive issue; should be done with caution. Our people have died going to Syria. We suffered from War for thirty years. This is a problem of the Muslims. It might raise further problems in future. There are Muslim ministers and members in the government. They might cross with the government. Therefore, this should be done with utmost caution."
The matter was presented at the Security Council meeting held on a following day, Jayasundara added, revealing that there had been reports of incidents in other countries, and although intelligence officers should have discussed about them, this had simply never happened.
Halt open investigations by Police - President Sirisena instructs
Former President Sirisena, according to Jayasundara, had instructed the former IGP to halt the open investigations, as the SIS, particularly Nilantha, may have taken care of it.
The TID may have halted the investigations as per the President's order, but this had not prevented conducting secret investigations into Islamic extremists, Jayasundara divulged.
Delivering an explanation on how he was ousted from the Security Council, former IGP Jayasundara told the Commission that the transfer of Police Inspector Nishantha Silva of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) was the closest reason behind it.
''The Security Council was scheduled to convene on October 23, 2018. At that time the Defence Secretary was Kapila Vaidyaratne. The Security Council often announces the holding of a meeting the day before or on the day itself. The Security Council was due to convene at 5.00 pm that day. Even at 04.30, the notification did not arrive. I telephoned then Defence Secretary Kapila Vaidyaratne and asked whether the Security Council is convened and that I was not informed. Then he responded, 'Oh, Pujith, I was about to tell you this, but wasn't sure how.. But since you have asked, I'll tell you. The President has said not to summon you to the Security Council'," the former IGP shared his experience with the Commission.
Jayasundara went on, that he had asked the former Defence Secretary whether a senior official would be referred in replacement, to which Vaidyaratne, according to Jayasundara, had responded, "Not for the moment, Pujith, if needed, will let you know."
A Commission body questioned the former IGP whether the beginning of a revolution such as the Easter Massacre had taken its entrance into the scene after the events aforementioned.
"The beginning of such a revolution is not based on a single incident, your honour. I believe, that it started in the period of 2012, 2013 and 2014. I view it as something that had stepped up internationally. Without control, it had grown into a point in which the whole process was weakened," Jayasundara responded.
I was in much agony
Former IGP Jayasundara also told the Commission that he was driven into inconvenience upon learning that he was barred from appearing at the Security Council. Followed by agony, the former IGP revealed that he had made up his mind, later to attend to the instructions of the then Defence Secretary.
Commission: Now tell us the reason!
Witness: Main reason would be Nishantha Silva's transfer. Not understanding the various mistakes that existed from the beginning. It can be thought of as a sweeping away of everyone's sins. I had been criticised embarrassing me for acting on Nishantha Silva's transfer. I am of the belief that it was something that had happened due to predicting wrongdoings of many people, your honour.
Commission: Tell us the actual reason!
Witness: At that time, the CID was conducting a number of important investigations. Nishantha Silva was also investigating the then Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Ravindra Wijegunaratne. This was discussed at the Security Council as well. CDS had complained to the President about this. The President, thereafter, had said that this officer is acting on vengeance, therefore, should be dismissed. Meanwhile, the President was preparing to leave the country, but the Defence Secretary was informed that the above action should be done somehow. I would have done it without reason as per the order of the President, but I submitted a report to the Police Commission in this regard as I could not.
The Defence Secretary too had called me and said that this should be done somehow. But I knew that the minute this was done, a chaos would have followed. Accordingly, I informed the Police Commission and acted on the basis of the decision they made. I find this very difficult. I told Senior DIG of the CID Ravi Seneviratne and its Director Shani Abeysekera that I did not agree with this.
About two days later, the former President returned and I went to check with the security situation at the Airport premises. The President also came along the expressway. Then I came too. On my way back I received a call from the President on my mobile. He asked me where I was. I said I was coming on this highway too.
Then, all of a sudden the former President asked me who transferred Nishantha Silva. I said it was me. Then he questioned back who ordered for the transfer. I responded, 'Sir, it was you who said several times to transfer him.' He said he had never said such thing, and hung up the phone. Then I called the Defence Secretary and explained what happened. I told him, 'Sir, the same call would come to you, please tell him something.' Shortly after, the President called me back told me to cancel Nishantha Silva's transfer. I did so.
Responding to the Commission's query as to why the decision was changed, Jayasundara suggested that it may have been politically driven. "I think Sajith Premadasa and Mahinda Amaraweera may have spoken to the President and exerted influence," he told the Commission.
Plenty of things to be told
Commission: Have you ever obtained advice from the Prime Minister without obtaining advice from the President?
Witness: No. I never have done such a thing. But politically, it was very difficult for me to work with them, after events like the 52-day government in October 2018, when the relationship between the President and the Prime Minister broke down.
Commission: Are you suggesting that even though the Independent Police Commission was enacted by the 19th Amendment to Constitution, it was influenced by outside parties?
Witness: Influences were made since the beginning of 2018. The recommendations of the Police Commission could not be implemented when transfers were made to senior police officers. If truth be told, they were stopped.
Commission: Who stopped them?
Witness: The former President
Commission: You are now capable of opening your mouth, unlike then, are you not? Tell us a few more about the Easter Attack.
Witness: Plenty of things to be told, Jayasundara responded.
Former President Maithripala Sirisena was also present during the final half hour to hear former IGP Pujith Jayasundara testify before the Commission.