‘Attacks would have never happened if I was Defence Secretary’ | Daily News

‘Attacks would have never happened if I was Defence Secretary’

Former Defence Secretary Kapila Waidyaratne testifying before the Parliament Select Committee revealed that the Inspector General of Police (IGP) had exempted from attending only the October 23, 2018 meeting and had been present thereafter, as far as he was informed. This, he says, may have been due to a matter that was investigated where the IGP had been named by Namal Kumara.

The panel is denoted by their initials JW for Jayampathy Wickremaratne, SF for Sarath Fonseka, NJ for Nalinda Jayathissa, RK for Ravi Karunanayke, RH for Rauff Hakeem, AM for Ashu Marasinghe, AS for Abraham Sumanthiran and KS for Former Defence Secretary Kapila Waidyaratne.

Below are excerpts of the proceeding.

KW: Takes oath.

JW: The committee is grateful to you for taking the time to be here. We refer to the testimony by the IGP who told this committee that you had told him that he need not be present for Security Council meetings.

KW: That is untrue. On October 23 last year, I clearly remember that meeting as it was the last Security Council meeting, which I sat at as the Defence Secretary. Please bear in mind that I was Defense Secretary only from July 4, 2017 to October 23, 2018.

The President requested me to take over this position on July 4, 2017. No one asked me to leave, it was a decision I took on my conscience.

On October 23, 2018, former IGP Pujith Jayasundara, personally called me. On that day, the Security Council (SC) meeting was notified by the President.

On October 23, the President instructed me to hold the SC. He gave me the time and location and based on that, I did my duty the same manner it was done in the past. CNI Sisira Mendis was also informed to appear before the SC and to alert others.

The SC is held under the patronage of the President. An agenda is prepared beforehand and it is not me who notified the participants, but Sisira Mendis. It was held at 6am that morning. The President told me that the IGP need not come.

I don’t ask the President unnecessary questions but at that time there was an investigation against the IGP over the statement Namal Kumara had made as he had cited the IGP. Similarly, there were other reasons, as far as I remember. But, I never questioned the President on his decision.

Sisira Mendis told me that he could not inform this to the IGP. I said I would do so. The IGP called me himself, and I said that he need not come. He asked whether he should send anyone else and I said that if the need arose, I would inform him accordingly.

From July 2017, the IGP took part actively at all Security Council meetings. He produced every necessary statement, dispensed advice and informed the Council of what they needed to know.

It was only for that meeting, that he was asked not to come. On 30th, upon leaving the service, the next SC meeting was on November 13. I was informed that the IGP attended the meeting.

JW: You mentioned he was asked not to come only for that meeting?

KW: Yes, I was told he was present on the November 13 meeting. He took part in every meeting thereafter. I welcome those outside the membership of the SC to be present at the SC depending on the need.

JW: Who was present from the police on October 23?

KW: I don’t think there was anyone.

NJ: You have been a defense secretary for over a year. Is there a list of attendees for these meetings? If someone is not summoned, do you inform those who should be present to attend?

KW: That question is not clear.

NJ: Do you call those who need not come or do you call everyone?

KW: As a tradition, the President, Prime Minister, Finance and Foreign ministers are mandated to attend. But, in those instances where the minister is not available, the secretaries attend in their place. I do not recall any other such time than 23rd when someone was asked not to attend.

NJ: There is no definite date for the SC, so you not only need to tell those who should not come, but you need to inform those who have to come as well.

SF: In the past, no one was individually asked to come, only the date was notified. The attendee list was permanent.

KW: If I may answer that question, even those who are supposed to come, they were informed on the day that they must attend. Only the IGP was asked not to come and it was only for that meeting. After 23rd meeting, I was not there.

NJ: Did the PM take part?

KW: He was asked to come for every meeting. There is no attendance sheet, he was invited for every meeting during my term and was present.

NJ: The state minister for defence?

KW: Yes, he too was informed. Ruwan Wijewardena was personally asked to come for the meeting. The weekly intelligence coordination meeting was held every week. There are minutes of those meetings, but it cannot be discussed here. And if the state minister was unable to attend, no other individual was given the authority to attend the meeting on his behalf. It is those matters discussed at this meeting, that would be presented to the SC.

NJ: Based on what we have been told, the SC had not been convened during certain months.

KW: On 30th when I left my office, there are two files - one of the SC and the other meeting, it is a confidential and I cannot pass it on to you. There is a Secret Act and I will not detail it. The intelligence meeting was held regularly. There was no such month where it was only held twice. If two commanders were not present, their deputy was summoned and if not, the meeting was not held.

NJ: What is the agenda of the meeting like?

KW: Opening statement by the Defence Minister, a review of the meeting that was held to discuss the actions that have been taken. Current situation update, by Director-Military Intelligence, State Intelligence and any other matter to be taken by tri-forces commanders.

NJ: Was there a time when important information was received by the CNI, but not conveyed?

KW: I need to know what you mean by important information? If it was important, it would be discussed at the weekly intelligence meeting.

NJ: If he believes it is important he may discuss it?

KW: That is what I would expect from him. At any time I fancy, I had met the CNI even twice a day. He had given his utmost support. He never refused to meet to discuss.

NJ: What if it fell on a Poya or holiday?

KW: There were instances when he came to my home at 9pm in the evening. We used to even meet on Sundays to talk of matters of national security.

NJ: So, there is no need to hold on to a letter even though it is a Sunday.

KW: I would expect to be informed regardless of the day or time. I have been informed in evenings and even on Sundays.

JW: Before the Tuesday meeting, Nilantha Jayawardena said the CNI Director requested a meeting be held on Monday prior to the SC meeting.

KW: There have been times when the CNI who oversees national intelligence, has been empowered to take necessary action.

AS: You asked questions about matters that are serious and in the weekly coordination meeting, the SIS chief briefs the others and then the DMI. You mentioned those important matters would be discussed. You also said that matters which were of great significance, regardless of the day or time, you still met and discussed. In those instances, was the Defence Minister kept informed?

KW: It depends on the instance. For example, the incidents that took place in Digana, the President was personally involved. If there was urgency, the Defence Ministry, the Attorney General’s Department and the Foreign Ministry worked closely. The Secretary to the President the EU, the European court had an issue with reference to lifting the ban on the LTTE funds, we met on Sunday. The information was subsequently passed to the President. During Digana incident, the Army Commander was overseas, but was brought down and sent to Kandy in a matter of hours.

AS: So, the President was closely involved of matters of national security.

KW: I could speak to the President at any time I wanted or meet him.

AS: Had the President been getting intelligence information directly?

KW: I cannot answer that question. I provided him with as much information. But, he had the right to summon the IGP and question him on anything.

NJ: During your time, did you ever feel that certain matters were informed to the President before you communicated it to him. Has he said that he was aware beforehand?

KW: It is difficult to speak of it in general terms. For instance in the Digana incident, he knew of what was happening. He was aware that there were incidents in Digana.

NJ: Digana incident happened in February and since March, it develops into a bigger issue. But based on your testimony, the President had taken certain actions.

SF: Please give us a simple answer.

KW: That is difficult as there is a series of incidents. There was an issue where a store was broken into and damaged in Ampara. I cannot say how the President was informed. The moment I was informed, I relayed it to the President.

NJ: But you are under the impression that there have been instances when the President was aware before you told him.

KW: It depends on the situation. If I say yes, then it’s an issue and if I say no, then it’s still an issue.

SF: Was there a mode of communication for the CNI or the SIS to talk to the President?

KW: No, the CNI goes through me, but the SIS may speak to him directly. I would like to believe that the SIS would inform me prior to informing President.

AM: You mentioned that the SC date is notified by the President. This membership is listed out in a gazette?

KW: In the past.

AM: And during your time?

KW: Based on tradition. During my time, the Digana, Dadalla, Galle and revamping of the LTTE was discussed. I don’t think opposition members need to be present at the meeting.

AM: If there is a letter containing intelligence information, if it is kept on the table, does it mean that action needs to be taken or should the individual speak of it and discuss it?

KW: If he has merely left it at that time and not taken it up, it goes against the duty. It means being irresponsible.

AM: Apart from the President, can the PM or the Minister summon anyone they wished for this meeting?

KW: During one such meeting during my tenure, Controller-General Immigration Nihal Ranasinghe was summoned. No other members were summoned.

NJ: Was there any instance where an official who took part in the SC who did not pay attention, leave early or was not interested in the meeting?

KW: The SC meeting to me was sacred as I am duty bound to safeguard national security. During my time, no such permission was given even during the weekly meetings. I am not for the use of telephones and no such permission was granted for its use in my presence.

But if you attend the meeting and take a call, I cannot stop you. It may be your duty. But my meetings, were sacred. I never even took my own phone.

During the weekly meetings, there was some leeway, but never for the SC meeting. No one got up and left either.

I am proud to say that no one took any calls, particularly the commanders of the tri-forces even when the call was from a Minister or PM.

NJ: During your time, was there any effort to ban the NTJ?

KW: I was not informed as the Defense Secretary. The TID did not personally divulge it, but we discussed informing the IGP. From March 2017, we did discuss Islamic extremists.

SF: Was Zahran discussed?

KW: Not as far as I can remember, but Rilwan name was mentioned.

NJ: What was discussed of him?

KW: It was discussed at the weekly meeting. (reads out a general statement where a report was summoned on Islamic extremist from the SIS chief to brief the President at the SC. This was discussed on May 15, 2017).

NJ: Who gets foreign intelligence?

KW: The SIS, but he may discuss with the CNI. I have not got directly from the CNI. There are many names that come out of the weekly meeting, so it is then taken up at the SC.

NJ: Was there any other meeting that foreign intelligence was discussed at any other meeting?

KW: No, not during my time.

SF: Do you know how many SC meetings were held from 2018 to 2019?

KW: I can say based on the papers I have, but there are some files missing, it may be with the Defence Secretary at the moment.

SF: The CNI said that at his testimony here, that his advice was not considered seriously by the SIS and others.

KW: There was no such instance during the time when I was the Defence Secretary.

SF: You said there was an instance when the SIS spoke to you directly without going through the CNI.

KW: Very rarely would such a matter would take place.

SF: The Thowheed Jamath and Zahran, were there any directions on those two matters?

KW: No, not on those matters. I cannot recall much. I think its best to investigate before going forward.

SF: Let me ask you a question, you may answer if you wish. You left on 30th, how did that happen, and why?

KW: I informed the President. It was for both personal and professional reasons. I had been a civil servant for 35 years, I had done my duty for the nation. I was in Yugoslavia for five years. It was after that I was invited to be the Defence Secretary. I was very stressed during my time as the Defence Secretary. I also realised that there was an issue, a constitutional issue and it would be best if I resigned.

AS: You had a long career in the AG and were senior Additional Solicitor General. Your name was on the list of names that came up to become an AG. You were acting AG on occasions. It is with that kind of experience you held the post of the Defence Secretary. This incident we are referring to happened six months after you ceased to be the Defence Secretary. You would have thought of what you would have done if you were still the Defence Secretary. This incident happened when the President was not in the country. We have evidence that more information was available before the bomb blasts. What would you have done in such situation? Maybe the previous meeting? The President being out of the country.

KW: This would have never happened. But it is not proper for me to give an opinion or make comments because there are others who have been in that place. If I give my opinion, that would be detrimental to one person. It’s not that I can’t, but since the matter is pending before court, I would not make a comment as a legal person.

AS: We have not made up our mind, we are still hearing evidence. We don’t know yet if matters were reported to the President. Would you have informed the President?

KW: Definitely.

AS: Would you have informed the PM in the absence of the President?

KW: Very much.

AS: Would you have convened a meeting to discuss it?

KW: Yes.

 


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