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3 Letters to Govt and a Nationwide Alert: Who is Responsible for Ignoring Intel on Sri Lanka Blasts?

3 Letters to Govt and a Nationwide Alert: Who is Responsible for Ignoring Intel on Sri Lanka Blasts?

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe late on Sunday said that the government had information about possible attacks, which were ignored by the Defence Department.

New Delhi: Eight powerful blasts ripped through Sri Lanka on Easter Day, killing 290 people on Sunday. At least six Indians, including four JD(s) workers, have been killed in a string of powerful blasts, including suicide attacks that struck three churches and luxury hotels frequented by foreigners in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, officials said on Monday.

The blasts targeted St Anthony's Church in Colombo, St Sebastian's Church in the western coastal town of Negombo and another church in the eastern town of Batticaloa around 8.45 a.m. (local time) as the Easter Sunday mass was in progress. Three explosions were reported from the five-star hotels — the Shangri-La, the Cinnamon Grand and the Kingsbury. Foreigners and locals who were injured in hotel blasts were admitted to the Colombo General Hospital.

While addressing the media in Colombo, Sri Lankan cabinet spokesman, Rajitha Senaratne, said that the government was informed about the attacks on the April 4, 14 days before the ghastly incidents occurred. Admitting to the serious lapse of intelligence by the govt, he added, “On the April 9, the chief of national intelligence wrote a letter and in this letter, many of the names of the members of the terrorist organisation were written down. The prime minister was not informed by these letters and revelations."

Did the Government Ignore Intel?

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe late on Sunday said that the government had information about possible attacks.

Addressing the media, the PM said that a thorough investigation would be conducted to look into the matter and how credible information was looked into. Further, documents seen by the AFP show that Sri Lanka’s chief of police, Pujuth Jayasundara, had issued the alert to his department a few days back about a possible attack. Harin Fernando, minister of telecommunications, foreign employment and sports, also took to Twitter to say that some intelligence officers were aware of the incidence and that there was a “delay in action.”

Who is Responsible for the Miss?

The Lankan PM said that Intel had been missed. In Sri Lanka, the police and the armed forces report directly to the President of Sri Lanka, a position currently held by Maithripala Sirisena. While Sri Lanka has a state minister of defence (Ruwan Wijewardene), according to the country’s Constitution, Sirisena is the Minister of Defence.

Political Rivalry at Play?

Wickremesinghe’s statement on how the information was not looked into led to several people questioning the relevance of such a statement after a bloody attack. The political crisis that the country faced last year as a result of a showdown between Sirisena and Wickremesinghe is being widely seen as the reason for the latter to pass such a statement.

Last year in October, Sirisena had sacked Wickremesinghe and appointed Mahinda Rajapaksa as the PM. Soon after the appointment, Sirisena shut the Parliament for three weeks to keep protesters at bay. Besides, Wickremesinghe, who declared his shocking dismissal as 'illegal', ignored a deadline to vacate his official residence.

On the other hand, Rajapaksa had called for a snap parliamentary election to allow people to vote for a new plan to overcome the country’s looming economic and political crises. This was the first public statement by the former strongman since Sirisena appointed him as the new premier. As many as 13 petitions have been filed against Sirisena's order in November sacking the 225-member Parliament, almost 20 months before its term was to end.

The Sri Lankan Supreme Court on November 13 had issued an interim order ruling Sirisena's gazette notification as temporarily illegal and halted the preparations for snap polls. The Sri Lankan Supreme Court in November had issued an interim order ruling Sirisena's gazette notification as temporarily illegal and halted the preparations for snap polls. In December, Rajapaksa decided to step down from the position of the Prime Minister and Wickremesinghe was re-instated.