STF was not privy to Easter Sunday attacks - Former SDIG | Daily News


STF was not privy to Easter Sunday attacks - Former SDIG

Former Police Special Task Force (STF) Commanding Officer, retired Senior DIG M.R Latheef said the Special Task Force had not been represented at the National Security Council although several requests were made.

Testifying before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry probing Easter Sunday carnage on Friday (26) he said that if he had known that an attack was imminent, he could have sealed off several parts of the country and carried out a oppressive attack to nab the suicide bombers.

He pointed out that a lot could have been done by informing the traffic sector, deploying vehicle safety and creating emergency check points, and told the Commission that they could have executed an ‘offensive offence’ in such a special case.

At that time a test blast had been carried out in Batticaloa. Unfortunately, the information received on April 20 was not shared with the Special Security Forces, he said.

I requested from former Law and Order Ministers Ruwan Wijewardene, Ranjith Maddumabandara and former Secretaries Padmasiri Jayamanne and Jagath Wijeweera to allow the STF to participate in the National Security Council.

The IGP was informed.The STF carries out underworld drug and criminal operations throughout the island. We had been called before to the Security Council. However, the President did not take the necessary steps to summon us until the attack.

He also said that about 90 percent of the officers in the State Intelligence Service in the country are police officers and they have the power to arrest suspects.

However, former Director of the State Intelligence Service Nilantha Jayawardena, who had earlier testified before the Commission, had said that the State Intelligence Service had not been able to arrest Zaharan Hashim as it did not have the power to arrest suspects, he said.

Latheef further said that the relationship between him and former IGP Pujith Jayasundara had not been as good as it should have been in the past few years and that the Law and Order Ministry had been informed about it.

He also said that relations were established with the IGP during the 52 day government.

“I returned to Sri Lanka on April 19 from abroad before the attack. That morning I called Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando and IGP Pujitha Jayasundara. He said that he was not aware of the information on April 4 at that time. He said that there was coordination between the National Intelligence Bureau and the Police Special Task Force at the beginning.” he said.

Latheef said that during the period 2015-2019, the State Intelligence Service had received information from its unit about persons involved in organized crime and drug trafficking and that the STF had conducted its operations accordingly.

However, he emphasised to the Commission that it was possible to deploy its teams for operations at any time.

“The intelligence is the end of raw information.Accordingly, the April 4 information received from a foreign intelligence source is clearly intelligence. It also had clear information on how to act on it and carry out an operation. The very fact that any information is referred to as ‘Top Secret’ suggests that it is in the process of being confirmed as intelligence,” he said.

The Commission asked if there was a possibility of arresting suspects by the officers of the State Intelligence Service at present?

He said that as an intelligence officer is also a police officer, that officer has the power to arrest a suspect. In many parts of the world, there is currently a separate law on intelligence, although an environment has been created in which intelligence officers do not engage in operational duties in an active background, 90% of the police officers present in the State Intelligence Service as an intelligence officer in this country has the power to arrest a suspect, he said.

As examples he pointed out that, during a recent robbery at the Colombo National Hospital, two State Intelligence officers were called in to arrest the suspect and a STF team was also deployed to search for explosives in the Wanathawilluwa area.

‘When STF officers request the deployment of teams when a senior officer makes a verbal or written request to me. Also, even in an environment where there is a legal framework for a circular not to directly contact the State Intelligence Service instead of contacting through the IGP, at the direct request of the Director of the State Intelligence Service, their officers have been directed to carry out operations,” he said.