Former President faults Defence Secretaries for not holding ICMs

Former President faults Defence Secretaries for not holding ICMs

Defence Secretaries who served between 2015-2019 had cheated and misled then President Maithripala Sirisena by pretending that the weekly Intelligence Coordination Meetings (ICMs) were being held regularly, it was revealed before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry probing the Easter Sunday Attacks on Monday.

Former President Maithripala Sirisena testifying before the Commission on Monday said five Defence Secretaries who served under him had informed at the National Security Council meetings that the ICMs were being held continuously on every Tuesday but when scrutinising the reports, it was now clear that it was not so.

The Commission drew Sirisena’s attention to several reports containing the details of the ICMs held between 2015-2019 period. According to these reports no weekly meetings had been conducted consecutively other than in August 2016 and May 2017.

These Secretaries had neglected the basics of the National Security by not holding the ICMs properly, Sirisena said.

The PCoI also questioned the witness as to why he had to make several appointments to the positions of Secretary to the President and Secretary to the Ministry of Defense. There were three Secretaries to the President and five Defence Secretaries served from time to time between 2015 and 2019.

The former President said P.B. Abeykoon,who was his first Secretary wanted to get retired while in service. Next appointee Austin Fernando later expressed his preference to be an Ambassador. Accordingly, he was appointed Ambassador to India and was replaced by Udaya R. Seneviratne.

He said the Defence Secretaries who served under him were B. M. U. D. Basnayake, Engineer Karunasena Hettiarachchi, President’s Counsel Kapila Waidyaratne, Hemasiri Fernando and Gen.Shantha Kottegoda. They all had suitable qualifications for the position.

However, he was hesitant to reveal the specific reasons behind the appointment and and removal of each of these Defense Secretaries in the presence of media and accordingly handed over them in writing to the Commission.

“The Defence Secretary is one of the most important positions in the country, which includes the supervision of the Tri-Forces, the Chief of Defence Staff and the Department of Civil Defence. But, I have studied that when those officers and institutions come under the control of the Defence Secretary, these Secretaries lose their humanity and then causes problems,”he added.

He also said that there were grievances from the Tri-Forces commanders regularly and the Defence Secretaries were removed due to such matters. Some others resigned due to health reasons and some resigned due to various institutional issues.

When the ASG asked if the witness would agree with what previous witnesses told the Commission that constant removals and appointments of the Defence Secretaries caused issues with regard to National Security, the former President replied such problems did not and do not arise through the appointment of secretaries.

“As far as I know the ICM was held every Tuesday. Everything related to National Security was discussed there. In addition to the NSC, as the President, I called the Defence Secretary at least once in every two weeks to discuss issues related to the matter”, he added. However when the Commission drew his attention to the aforementioned reports of the conduct of ICMs by the Defense Secretaries, the witness said “This shows that I am correct in removing the Defence Secretaries from time to time. Not conducting the ICM seems to be a failure to take basic steps that needed to be taken regarding National Security”.

The former President will continue his testimony for the third day today (14).