The Police, Tri-Forces and other branches of the security apparatus would be restructured within a week and changes will be made to those heading security institutions within the next 24 hours, Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena said.
President Sirisena was addressing the nation in the wake of Sunday’s devastating bombings targeting several churches and hotels in the country.
At least 359 people were killed and over 500 injured in attacks on three churches and three luxury hotels on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka. The government has said that 60 people have been arrested in connection with the Sunday blasts and that the attacks were carried out by a Islamist splinter group, despite the Islamic State claiming responsibility .
The President said he would take stern action against officials who failed to heed and act on warnings from intelligence agencies from a friendly neighbouring country about the threat of an attack.
“The information received from the state intelligence agencies of that country was not passed on to me by relevant officials. If they had done so, I would have taken immediate action. I have decided to take strict action against those who failed in their duty.”
The President revealed that already eight countries with experience, intelligence skills and high technology capabilities to fight terrorism have assured Sri Lanka that they would provide assistance in the fight against the menace of terrorism.
“I am confident that with such reorganization of the security sector and with the assistance of foreign expertise, the threat of terrorism could be curbed soon,” he added.
The President assured that that the limited emergency regulations gazetted on Monday night will only be used to apprehend terror suspects and ensure security and they will not be used to curtail the freedom of the people or democratic rights. Recalling the difficulties faced during the country’s three decades of terror, the President said since the war ended, during the last 10 years the country has had a very peaceful time.
“Especially in the four years after January 8, 2015 you all know that that the people enjoyed freedom, democracy, media freedom and their rights to the maximum” he added.
On this backdrop the President said the tragedy which occurred last Sunday came as an unexpected shock to everybody. Revealing more details regarding the terrorist organization which allegedly carried out Sunday’s bombings the President said since 2017 security officials were alert to their activities.
“In 2017 security officials received information about this organization and their alleged links with certain foreign terrorist outfits. They were investigating this group’s activities,” he added. The President said security authorities however did not have enough evidence on any atrocities committed by them to take legal action against them.
The President also commended the efforts of Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, the Catholic clergy and other religious leaders to maintain peace and calm within the Christian community and the people in general following Sunday’s bombings.
President Sirisena stressed that Sunday’s mayhem was caused by a small group of extremists and the Muslim community as a whole should not be blamed for the incident.
He said that reconciliation and co-existence among all communities was vital to defeat such extremists and terrorists in the future.Expressing grief, shock and deep dismay over the loss of lives, the President stressed the need for the support and unity of everybody in this national endeavour.
President Sirisena also praised the swift action taken by the Tri-Forces and the Police to apprehend the suspects and bring the situation under control. The President expressed his condolences over the death of three Police officers who died while carrying out investigations in the aftermath of the terror attacks. He said the fight ahead was different to the one which was waged to defeat LTTE terrorism. He said this was a fight against an extremist, terrorist group with international links.
He said this fight has to be waged using high tech equipment, intelligence units and with foreign assistance.The President stressed that it was not the time for finger pointing or fight over political, ethnic, religious or other differences but to work in unity to defeat the scourge of terrorism and oput the country back on the right track.
President Sirisena also announced that he would invite all political party leaders to discuss the matter and inform them of the steps taken by the government.
Similarly, the President said he would have a round table discussion with religious leaders and intellectuals in this regard.