Sirisena tells Easter Attacks PCoI: I did not appoint an Acting President or Defence Minister
By Buddhika Samaraweera
Former President Maithripala Sirisena admitted, before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the 21 April 2019, Easter Sunday Bombings, that he did not appoint anyone to act as the President or the Minister of Defence on many occasions when he went abroad. He was testifying before the Commission on 14 October. He further said, at present, the technology is at an advanced level, and that it is therefore, possible to provide advice from anywhere. He also said the former State Minister of Defence, Ruwan Wijewardene, was appointed as the Acting Minister of Defence on some occasions when he (Sirisena) went abroad.
The Commission then questioned the witness as to whether he did not feel the need to appoint an Acting Minister of Defence when he went abroad on 16 April 2019, especially since it was the Sinhala and Hindu New Year season. Sirisena responded by saying that while in some cases Acting Ministers are appointed, often however, they are not. Also, a member of the Commission again queried him as to whether it did not seem to be a violation of the Constitution to not act in accordance with the appointment of an Acting Minister as mentioned in the Constitution.
In response, Sirisena said the Constitution does not mandate that it be done. Meanwhile, a member of the Commission questioned him as to whether he had gone abroad on 16 April 2019 due to some illness. In response, Sirisena said he had been receiving medical treatment from Singapore for a long time. In response to a question as to whether the Prime Minister should have been entrusted with the Acting President position in such a case, the witness said he was not seriously ill.
He also said although some have claimed that he had gone abroad after learning about the possibility of an attack, it was completely untrue. “If I had known about this, I would have cancelled my trip abroad and somehow prevented this attack,” he said.