COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena is opposed to police testifying before a parliamentary inquiry into intelligence failures that preceded the Easter Sunday suicide attacks that killed more than 250 people, police said.
Police said in a statement that Sirisena met with senior officers Friday evening and told them he doesn’t favor intelligence officers being summoned by a parliamentary committee to discuss sensitive details in the presence of the media.
The President also is said to have met the cabinet to give them the same message.
The meeting between Sirisena, who is also the minister of defense and police, and senior police officers came after intelligence officials, former bureaucrats and the suspended national police chief testified before the commission and described shortcomings in the security sector.
Sirisena promised to protect officers who refuse to attend the committee hearings, according to the police.
Hemasiri Fernando, the former secretary to the Defense Ministry who resigned after the blasts, told the committee that Sirisena as his minister wasn’t easily accessible for private discussions. The suspended police chief, Pujith Jayasundara, said that Sirisena asked him to resign to take responsibility for the blasts and ensure that he will have his name cleared in any subsequent inquiry.
Jayasundara also said that Sirisena had asked him not to attend the National Security Council meetings since last October, when Sirisena fired Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in a power struggle that triggered a seven-week political crisis. Wickremesinghe was subsequently reinstated by the Supreme Court.
The police statement quoted Sirisena as saying there are five cases being heard at the Supreme Court in relation to the blasts, and that the attorney general had informed him the parliamentary hearing may be a hindrance to the court cases.
Meanwhile SriLanka’s National Intelligence chief Sisira Mendis resigns from his post this morning. He had testified before the parliamentary committee last week.
Seven Sri Lankans who had pledged allegiance to Islamic State group blew themselves up at three churches and three luxury hotels on April 21. Some 500 people also were wounded in the blasts.