Former Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando, on Tuesday, claimed, before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI), investigating the Easter Sunday attacks, that he had never seen intelligence reports sent by the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) to the Defence Ministry, regarding National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) Leader Zahran Hashim and his extremist activities.
Fernando said so when the Commissioners drew Fernando’s attention to several intelligence reports shared by the DMI, between January and April 21, 2019, with the Defence Ministry. After going through the reports, the former Defence Secretary said that he had never seen them before.
“Former Chief of National Intelligence (CNI) Sisira Mendis didn’t inform me of the reports shared by DMI. I see that these reports contained information that I could have used to take certain preventive measures.”
When shown a DMI report, presented at an Intelligence Review Meeting (IRM), stating that Zahran may have fled to India in March, 2019, the witness said he had never seen the document, but he was aware that the State Intelligence Service (SIS) had rejected that DMI report.
“The SIS believed that Zahran was in the country by March 2019. This tallied with CID’s opinions.”
The witness added that he had been displeased with officials, including former CNI, for not sharing DMI intelligence reports with him.
Fernando added that, according to the Constitution, the President had to appoint an acting Defence Minister when he travelled overseas.
“However, former President Maithripala Sirisena didn’t appoint anyone as the acting Defence Minister when he left the country on April 16, 2019,” Fernando said.
Fernando said he had contacted former Director of State Intelligence Service (SIS) Nilantha Jayawardena on several occasions after the motorcycle bomb explosion at Kattankudy on 16 April, 2019, but the latter had never informed him that it was the work of Zahran Hashim and his associates.
Answering a question posed by the Additional Solicitor General (ASG,) who led the evidence about the incident, Fernando added that although SDIG Jayawardena had sent him some photos related to the incident through WhatsApp, they were not clear.
The witness was also asked about the detection of a stock of explosives at the Jihadist training camp in Wanathawilluwa on 16 January, 2019.
Fernando said he had been informed of the detection, but he did not think those explosives could be used for a terrorist attack.
A commissioner asked the witness if he had been able to assess the damage that could be caused by the explosives. Fernando he had no expertise in the subject.
Source : Island.lk