Monday 16 September 2019

Security failings deepen feud as president sacks leading officials

Sri Lanka's President Maithripala Sirisena has sacked the country's national police chief and defence secretary. Photo: Reuters
Sri Lanka's President Maithripala Sirisena has sacked the country's national police chief and defence secretary. Photo: Reuters

Ben Farmer Colombo

The Sri Lankan president yesterday sacked the defence secretary and national police chief as political recrimination over the failure to act on intelligence continued to grow.

The Easter Sunday attacks on four luxury hotels and three churches appeared to have deepened a feud between Ranil Wickremesinghe, the prime minister, and President Maithripala Sirisena.

An ally of the prime minister also accused officials of deliberately sitting on intelligence warnings.

Mr Sirisena said he would change the head of the defence forces, as well as asking for the resignations of the defence secretary and national police chief. Indian intelligence gave detailed alerts before the attacks, even naming the mastermind and giving details of where suspects lived.

But political infighting inside Sri Lanka's dysfunctional government meant intelligence alerts were not shared, diplomats fear.

The president fired Mr Wickremesinghe in October over political -differences, only to reinstate him under Supreme Court pressure. Their opposing factions often refuse to communicate and blame any setbacks on their opponents.

Asked if the rifts within the government had hampered the response to the intelligence, US ambassador to Colombo Alaina Teplitz said: "Clearly there were failures in the system." The breakdown in communication had been "incredibly tragic.

Lakshman Kiriella, leader of parliament and an ally of the prime minister, said:"Information was there but the top brass security officials did not take appropriate actions.

"Somebody is controlling these top intelligence officials. The Security Council is doing politics. We need to investigate this."

Ruwan Wijewardene, deputy defence minister, admitted there had been "a major lapse in sharing information".

Irish Independent

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