Pujith and I were made scapegoats of Easter attacks – Hemasiri
Former Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando says he has found himself in a sorry state when then-President Maithripala Sirisena called him from abroad and asked him not to attend a meeting chaired by then-Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, after news broke that terrorists had struck on Easter Sunday last year.
Giving evidence before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) probing the carnage on Easter Sunday for the 8th day, Fernando said the former President had ruthlessly made him and the former Inspector General of Police Pujith Jayasundara culprits in the explosions, during his address to the nation while washing his hands off in the process.
Responding to the questions raised by the Additional Solicitor General of the Government, the witness said the meeting was scheduled to be held at 11 am, one hour in advance.
He further stated that the first person to call him was the Secretary to the then-President’s Udaya R. Seneviratne. “He asked me whether I am aware that a meeting is scheduled to be held at the Prime Minister’s office. He said he too got the message and that the President had called him to ask both is to refrain from attending that meeting.”
Speaking further, he revealed that 10 minutes after the presidential secretary’s call, he received a call from the then-President. “He told me sternly ‘You two are not to attend this meeting under any condition.’”
The Additional Solicitor General then asked the witness if the former President had asked him not to attend then-PM’s meeting, knowing that there had been bomb explosions, to which the response was in the affirmative.
He was then asked as to what his thoughts were when the former President while being overseas, asked him not to attend the meeting in question.
The former Defence Secretary replied: “My thoughts were on the sorry state I was in. There had been no delegation of powers to the Prime Minister or anyone else before leaving the country. It was a situation of anarchy. I was intent on attending that meeting. But since I cannot disregard the President’s order, I didn’t attend it.