President MaithripalaSirisenasaid that he has fullest confidence that the law and order machinery has all the required capabilities to meet the challenge of terrorism and bring back peace and normalcy very soon.
Addressing heads of media today (April 26)at the President’s House in Colombo, he detailed out the short term and long term measures to curb terrorism and bring back normalcy. “Major search operation has been undertaken. Every household in the country will be checked. The lists of permanent residents of every house will be established to ensure no unknown persons could live anywhere,” he said and pointed out that during the fight against LTTE terrorism, similar methods were adapted.
President Sirisena acknowledged that there was aserious lapse on the part of Defence Secretary and Inspector General of Police (IGP), who failed to inform him about the intelligence agency letter from a friendly foreign country sent on April 4, warning about a possible attack. The letter warned of possible attacks on churches, places of public gatherings and VIPs. “IGP has sent that letter to Staff DIG and it was sent from table to table and finally it was forwarded to DIG Dissanayake of VIP Security, who. in turn, forwarded it to officers in-charge of security of VIPs protection. I was not informed. Neither my security head nor the head of Prime Minister’s security was informed. Both, Defence Secretary and IGP came to wish me on New Year Day (April 14) and they did not say a word about this warning letter. It was a serious lapse on their part and shirk of responsibility,” he said.
He said that he asked them to tender resignations immediately and they agreed to do so. He added that an appropriate process will be implemented while completely reorganizing the security services including State Intelligence Service and Intelligence Units of the Police and Tri-forces, to prevent recurrence of these kinds of terrorist activities.
Reffering to the current operations, raids and arrests of suspects, he praised the law enforcement and intelligence services for their efficiency and dedication in responding to this situation. “The government has already been able to crack down on many criminals, suspects and those responsible for the recent attacks and many arrests have taken place. Therefore, I truly believe that we can avoid a repetition of such gruesome acts of violence in the future,” he said. “I have already planned necessary actions to build an environment where the people of this country could live freely and without fear in the future.”
Answering a question about the safety of schools and places of worship, the President said that as the Government, it will create a background where the public servants, school children, entrepreneurs and the general public of the country could act liberally in a free and peaceful environment.
“We had to declare an Emergency situation tosuppress terrorists and ensure a peaceful environment in the country. What have been enacted by gazette are clauses pertaining to suppressing terrorism only. If these enactments were not made, the powers prevailed were not sufficient for Police to take proactive measures and the Army, Navy and Air Force could not take part actively in the operations,” he said.
The President said that this Islam extremist group carried out this attack at a least expected moment under the guidance, instructions, and leadership of a foreign terrorist organization to cause appalling loss of human lives.
Our security services received reports about this terrorist movement since 2015. It was observed that they were receiving training and certain guidance from foreign terrorist organizations. Our security services were monitoring them and investigating about them. However, our security services did not have enough evidence to start legal actions against them or clear information to be produced to courts, he said.
President Sirisena said he suspects that the terrorists, perhaps hastened the planned attack, because of the major campaign he launched against illicit drugs. “There is a nexus between international terrorism and international drug trade. Furthermore, I got staunch support for anti-drugs campaign from His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, who joined us at Anti-Drug Walks. Perhaps the terrorist hastened the attacks on churches for these reasons”.
Asked about proscribing the Islamic militant groups responsible for terror attacks, the President said that can be done under the emergency laws, but the ban would end, when the emergency is lifted. “I have asked to draft a new legislation for proscribing these organizations and we are studying such laws enacted in Singapore and other countries”.
The recalled that when the LTTE terrorism broke out in early 80s, most Sinhala and Muslim people used to look at Tamils as if all of them were terrorists. However, people quickly learned about the LTTE and the fact that not all Tamils were terrorists, and that laid the foundation for the nation to unite for peace. I request from Sinhala and Tamil people not to look at our country’s Muslim community with suspicion, fear or distrust. You must keep in mind that not all Muslims are terrorists. It is only a very small minority who are linked to such a barbaric terrorist organization, he said. “It is very important therefore, that peace and harmony among Sinhala, Muslim and Tamil communities prevail. It is important for us to foster trust among us.”
He emphasized the importanceof everybody joining together despite differences for the task of protecting the national security.
The Presidentbriefed the media about the steps taken to curb terrorism, ensure national security and safety of the people and bring back normalcy in the country and urged the media to support this endeavor.