‘Political pressure behind failure to arrest Zaharan’ | Daily News

‘Political pressure behind failure to arrest Zaharan’

Former Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando testifying before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Easter Sunday Attacks on Saturday (19) revealed that there was political pressure behind the failure to arrest Zaharan Hashim.

While testifying for the fourth day, he said that there were obstacles for the Police to carry on their duties due to the behaviour of politicians in the Eastern Province.

The former Defence Secretary testified that the inability to arrest and the abduction of detainees, while they were under the police custody was not something that could be prevented by the Defence Ministry or its officials.

He said that this was an issue that needed to be resolved at the level of the President and the Prime Minister, adding that there were obstacles for the police to make arrests, especially in the Eastern Province.

The former Defence Secretary said this while giving evidence regarding the Easter Sunday attack as per a notification issued by the Commission.

The Additional Solicitor General (ASG) of the Government - Was it due to political pressure that it was unable to arrest Zaharan?

Witness –Up to some extent I think so. By that time Zaharan Hashim was even contesting an election from a political party.

ASG - What was the President’s response to the reports from the State Intelligence Service when it was taken into consideration by the Security Council on the radicalisation of Muslim youth?

Witness - The President was not interested in that. The President did not want to go into a crisis with Muslim politicians.

ASG - At the Security Council meeting held on March 19, 2019, did you pay attention to the people who come to this country after receiving foreign training?

Witness - Yes we focused on that. The Chief of National Intelligence had focused on the information provided by the State Intelligence Service. With the increase in Arabization, especially in the Eastern Province, we had an awareness regarding this because those who received such training will be an obstacle to reconciliation in the country. The intelligence service provided information in this regard. Although the legal framework for action against those trained by Islamic extremist organisations was adequate, there were political issues.

ASG - What are those problems?

Witness - I spoke privately with the President about the people and lecturers who come to receive the IS training. Some have even obtained visas here.

ASG - What was the President’s response to you?

Witness – He said that he did not want to have conflicts with Muslim Politicians, and he will slowly look into the matter.

ASG - Didn’t you ask why?

Witness – I was unable to question an Executive President further.

ASG - Didn’t the President pay attention to take immediate action on such an issue?

Witness – We discuss these matters in the Security Council with a least number of members. I cannot speak privately. We were alienated by a group. I was not in good terms with the President. I was about to leave, and it was quick due to the incident of Zaharan.

ASG - what was the reason for the detachment between the President and you ?

Witness – Five politicians have told irrelevant and unwanted stuff about me.

The witness who refused to make that statement to the Open Commission, submitted a written note to the Commission.

Hemasiri Fernando commented on the adequacy of the legal framework to take action against extremist trainees and said that these persons can be arrested and anyway they could be questioned. According to the information received by the State Intelligence Service, such questions can be asked. Otherwise, these cannot be controlled. The three Armed Forces also spoke about this.

Hemasiri Fernando said that he instructed the IGP to conduct a legal analysis and make the necessary recommendations in this regard.

ASG - Did you find out how motivated Zaharan’s followers were?

Witness - There is no need for the Secretary of Defence to do that, Sir. There are relevant officials. Like the Police, the CID, the SIS.