Former DIG Nilantha Jayawardena testified before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Easter attack that he tried to inform former President Maithripala Sirisena a few minutes before and just before the Easter attack, but was unable to do so.
He testified that he could not be reached by phone as the former president was on a private visit at the time.
Giving evidence before the Commission on the 16th and on the 21st, the former Chief of Intelligence responded emotionally to the Commission’s questions.
The witness also said that the last meeting of the National Security Council was in February before the attack.
The Commission today called on the Director of State Intelligence to obtain information on the day before and on the eve of the Easter attack and how the appropriate authorities acted in this regard. Additional Solicitor General: Didn’t you inform the then President of the intelligence of the foreign correspondent you received the day before the Easter attack that ‘the attack will take place tomorrow’?
Nilantha Jayawardena – I tried. I called DIG Rohan Silva and asked where Rohan was. I want to contact the President. He informed me that the President had gone on a private foreign tour. I saw that the President had gone on a trip abroad. Presiding Judge: Didn’t the Director of State Intelligence know that the President was leaving the country?
Nilantha Jayawardena – Not aware until. But when the airport officials were informed, they found out. Presiding Judge: Now you said earlier that you saw it in the newspaper, didn’t you?
Nilantha Jayawardena – No. It’s a mistake.
Additional Solicitor General: What else did you say when you spoke to the DIG of the Presidential Security Division on the 20th?
Nilantha Jayawardena: I asked if you went with the President. He said he did not go. He also said that the President’s personal security could be contacted by telephone at the President’s official residence on Paget Road and that the President did not have a mobile phone. Additional Solicitor General: So did you call former President Maithripala Sirisena to provide this information?
Nilantha Jayawardena – Yes. I called Paget Road at 6.18 pm and asked him to contact the President. They said they would try. However, the President could not be contacted on April 20, the day before the Easter attack. Additional Solicitor General of Government – Haven’t you tried to contact him again later?
Nilantha Jayawardena – No. I should have informed the President on April 4 when I received this information. But I did not. My duty was to inform the Secretary of Defense, the Chief of National Intelligence and the Inspector General of Police. I did the best I could. I thought I would tell the President … and then say you did not say. Nowhere is there any written or verbal advice that I should inform the President of all the information I receive.But the President is busy when I get to say this message. Since I don’t usually talk to him often, they should think that I can contact him somehow.
Commission: Don’t you think now that people would have been saved if the President had been informed? Nilantha Jayawardena: I still do not feel that way.
Commission: Why did you not think that if you had told the President, the curfew would have been lifted and the army would have been called in to stop the deaths?
Nilantha Jayawardena: Many people can say many things after the incident. We worked responsibly. Educating the President is not something I should do alone. It can be done by the Chief of National Intelligence, the Defense Secretary and the Inspector General of Police. I don’t know if they did it. But I tried.
Presiding Judge: You said earlier that when you said there would be an attack tomorrow, you thought the IGP did not take it seriously. Why was the President not informed even then? Nilantha Jayawardena: Although he speaks to the President, he also speaks to the Defense Secretary. Or talk to the Prime Minister. I do not know if he will speak to the Prime Minister. If I had talked to the President and nothing had happened, he would have said that the state intelligence service had not done anything.
Presiding Judge: If the President was not in Sri Lanka, why did he not tell the Prime Minister or the Minister of Defense Ruwan Wijewardene?
Nilantha Jayawardena: The Prime Minister was not informed. The Minister of State for Defense was not told, as he did not make a significant contribution to such activities.
Additional Solicitor General: Did you receive any information on April 21 before the attack?
Nilantha Jayawardena – My correspondent told me at 8.27 am. One of their targets is a Colombo Methodist church, which they say will carry out the attack between 6 and 10 this morning. As soon as I received this information I spoke to Senior DIG in charge of the Western Province Nandana Munasinghe at 8.28 am and IGP Pujith Jayasundara at 8.30 am. They’re about to start hitting. They are also trying to attack a Methodist church.Nandana Munasinghe was also informed about this. But the IGP did not give me any advice. After that at 8.32 I called Defense Secretary Hemasiri Fernando and told him the details.
Additional Solicitor General: If that information had worked properly, this could have been prevented, right? (The Commission focused on the events that took place from April 4, 2019 to Easter Sunday, 2019, when information was provided to Foreign Intelligence Officer Nilantha Jayawardena.)
Nilantha Jayawardena: One man could have been saved then Additional Solicitor General: What did you think of the Director of State Intelligence after learning that the first bomb had exploded? ”
Nilantha Jayawardena – (emotionally) I was deeply saddened to be the Director of the State Intelligence Service. I tried. But I could not. After several attacks, we met at the Ministry of Defense under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister. I said there, ‘Currently six have exploded. There are two more. There is another van loaded with bombs. So don’t go anywhere. ”
Presiding Judge: Did you receive a phone call from the President on the morning of the 21st?
Nilantha Jayawardena – At 7.59 am the officer on Paget Road took me and told me to stay in Sir Line. That the President will be contacted. I said then. I told you yesterday what to do now. But did not join. When I was attacked again, it was 8.58 and I was told to call now. Then at 9.13 in the morning the President called me. I said Mr. President I have been trying since yesterday. There is a problem here. That there is more to come. Then he said ‘OK I will talk to the secretary’. Later in the day he called again and asked me for full details.
Presiding Judge: When asked about the attacks, did the President just say that I would call the Secretary? Nilantha Jayawardena – That’s all I remember. No other action or advice was mentioned.
Presiding Judge: When was the last meeting of the National Security Council before this attack?
Nilantha Jayawardena – 29 February 2019 Aruna newspaper