President solely responsible for National Security – Maj. Gen. Hendawitharana
By Buddhika Samaraweera
While there may be various institutions and individuals involved, the sole responsibility of safeguarding National Security lies in the hands of the Executive President, former Chief of National Intelligence, Retired Major General Kapila Hendawitharana said yesterday appearing before the Presidential Commission on Easter Sunday attacks.
He also said while the President stands responsible for National Security it is the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence that should be held fully accountable for the same.
Hendawitharana also said he had served as Chief of National Intelligence for about 10 years and he had resigned on 9 January 2015. Responding to a question by members of the Commission as to whether his resignation was due to any political influence, he said he resigned from the post as he realised that he could not carry out his duties with the group that came to power in 2015.
When Ranil Wickremesinghe was Prime Minister in 2001, he did not pay any heed to the information provided by Intelligence agencies, the witness added.
He also noted, from 2009 to 2015, after the end of the war, Intelligence review meetings and National Security Council (NSC) meetings were held regularly.
“The Intelligence review meeting was held every Tuesday with the participation of the Defence Secretary, the Chief of National Intelligence, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), the Director of the Terrorism Investigation Division (TID) and the heads of all other Intelligence agencies. The Defence Secretary or the Chief of National Intelligence advised the Intelligence agencies and the Police on certain matters,” he said.
He also said regarding matters which had been advised on, on the day of a Intelligence review meeting, follow up action would be taken concerning such at the next intelligence review meeting. Responding to a question raised by the Commission as to what kind of relationship existed between the then Defence Secretary and him as the Chief of National Intelligence, he said he was able to discuss matters with the Defence Secretary at any time. He also said if there was an essential matter, it could be discussed with the President.
Maj. Gen. (Rtd) Hendawitharana said Intelligence agencies at that time were aware of the threats that were likely to arise with the end of the war. He also said relevant instructions were duly received from the Defence Secretary at the time. Responding to a question by members of the Commission as to what information about extremism was received during his tenure, the witness said information on Islamic extremism was revealed.
“During my tenure as the Chief of National Intelligence, Intelligence agencies were collecting all information about those who believed in the Islamic State (IS) ideology. It had been reported that some religious preachers who came to Sri Lanka from foreign countries were conducting various extremist speeches,” he said, and recalled they had deported more than 100 persons who delivered such extremist speeches.
Chairman of the Commission, Judge of the Court of Appeal, Justice, Janak de Silva questioned Maj. Gen. (Rtd) Hendawitharana as to whether the Bodu Bala Sena was acting in an extreme manner at that time. In response, he said although the organisation was acting in an extremist manner, the General Secretary of the organisation Ven. Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thera’s statements regarding certain extremists and extremist organisations were true.