Security situation under control and normalcy restored – President

Security situation under control and normalcy restored – President

The speech delivered by H.E. President Maithripala Sirisena taking part in the Adjournment Debate in Parliament on May 07, 2019.

This incident occurred on April 21, and all of you know that I was severely criticized because of this incident. I was informed about this after 10.00 a.m. when I was in Singapore. At the same time, I was deeply pained and I wondered how this incident happened. I could not imagine that the attack had been carried out by an international terror group.

Around noon of the same day I was shown a letter circulated on social media which had been written by a DIG. When I saw that letter I realized that our security forces knew of the attack beforehand. Thereafter, I decided to appoint a Presidential Commission to find out who is responsible for the security lapse. Before leaving Singapore I contacted the Secretary to the President and instructed him to appoint an investigating body comprising members I have mentioned and to hand over appointment letters to them on the next day. A few hours later I left Singapore to return to the country.

The National Security Council met at 9.00 a.m. on April 22. This Special Investigation Committee was appointed before the NSC meeting on April 22. The Special Investigation Committee headed by Supreme Court Judge Vijith K. Malalgoda including former IGP N.K. Ilangakoon and former Law & Order Ministry Secretary Padamasiri Jayamanne. During the NSC meeting we discussed in detail regarding this incident. I gave instructions from Singapore to the Prime Minister and the heads of national security on how to face the situation.

We have taken all necessary measures during the last ten days to mitigate the damage and to prevent the recurrence of similar incidents.

On April 24, I had met with 53 members of the Colombo-based diplomatic corps on the situation and the action taken by the government. Also, I met with police top brass on April 24 where I instructed them on how to proceed with their investigations. On April 25 I called an All Party Conference with the participation of all party leaders, and representatives. All the political parties I invited attended this Conference. I take this opportunity to extend my gratitude to them for participating in this event. During this meeting, many proposals, criticisms and allegations were discussed in a very patient and disciplined manner. I consider that All Party Conference is very important. On April 25, on the same day, All Religions Conference was also convened and Buddhists, Hindu, Islam and Christian religious leaders participated in this conference and they were apprised regarding the current situation of the country and received their advices and guidance in the process of restructuring of the security of the country. Many factors discussed at the All Party Conference were also discussed at the NSC.

On April 26, I have met with the media heads of state and private media institutions. During this meeting, I have apprised them regarding the prevailing situation of the country as well as I explained them regarding the responsibility of the media institutions in the context of the situation under which Emergency Laws and Regulations were gazetted to curb terrorism.  On April 29, I held a meeting with hotel owners, officials of the Tourist Board and Ministry of Finance to pay attention to the difficulties faced by the entrepreneurs engaged in the tourism sector due to this tragic incident and we also discussed regarding the methods to rebuild the tourism industry. 

We entered into certain agreements regarding reliefs that should be given to the tourism industry, postponement of their loan repayment period, and to provide some sponsorship by the government to the institutions who are not able to pay wages for their employees.   

Furthermore, on May 02, I summoned the Governors of all nine provinces and apprised them regarding the steps that should be taken in their respective areas with the consultation of the Army, Police and state officials.

Particularly, I had discussed with the Governors regarding the importance of jointly working with the regional security officers in ensuring the safety of the public places, hospitals, bus halts and railway stations, especially when the schools are re-open, in their respective areas. Meanwhile, on May 02, the Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa with the former Security Heads met with me and handed over a report compiled by the former Security Heads on the security status of the country. Later, I have submitted that report to the present Defence Secretary at the National Security Council meeting and instructed them to take into consideration of the facts mentioned in this report when they carrying out the restructuring process of the security measures.

Moreover, on May 06, I summoned the representatives of the Chamber of Commerce and discussed regarding the reliefs that could be given by the Government for the entrepreneurs. I should clearly mention that the National Security Council meeting I didn’t hold alone. I have invited the Prime Minister, the Cabinet as well as the MPs from Opposition.  

I also invited special people who thought they should be summoned to the Security Council meeting. And, recently, I invited to Cardibal Malcolm Ranjith to attend the Security Council meeting. Then, he presented himself and offered his ideas. Also, intellectuals of National Security have been allowed to make presentations several times at this meeting. Therefore, I like to say that the Security Council is working very broadly and with a strong structure.

Furthermore, I changed the positions of chief officials of Defence Ministry.  And, I also changed the certain sections of Security forces. In addition to the current security chiefs, Chief of Defense Staff, Defense Secretary, tri-service commanders, I appointed  Major General Sathya Liyanage as the chief operating officer of the Main Control Center to monitor raids, security operations, surveillance and other security arrangements in the country.

I can definitely say that our security forces have launched successful operations to free the people of our country from the fears and mistrust and restore normalcy. Accordingly, the police, the security forces and the intelligence sections have succeeded in locating a large number of terrorists, their explosives and explosive materials. Accordingly, the security situation of our country is quite satisfactory.

Whatever criticism we have to face about this situation, we recognize the baselessness of these criticisms. When we encounter this kind of problem, we must acknowledge the criticism of such issues with some understanding of such matters. The United Kingdom’s Minister of Defense and Economic Crimes came to Sri Lanka and met me recently. And, he said that this situation is not a problem of our own country but it is an international problem. He asked me to tell that truth to our people. Actually, I can see that those who are unreasonably criticizing this issue and talking about the background of this crisis and they do not know properly about international terrorist organizations. As explained in Buddhist philosophy, the problems should be looked at together with the causation of that problem.

I am confident that the Security Forces have carried out operations successfully and brought the country to a satisfactory situation. Many suspects and explosives and weapons have been taken into custody so far. Of those taken into custody 54 have been identified as those with links to terror groups and of them, 12 are identified as the most dangerous. The security forces have so far found 13 safe houses and 41 bank accounts used by the terrorists. Those bank accounts have now been frozen. I would like to say that all those who have been identified as suspects of this terrorism should be confiscated and all the bank accounts, private homes, properties and assets have already been confiscated.

The terror group had paid Rs two million each to those who supported it. We have already discovered Rs 18 million of that money. We have arrested 15 vehicles and 04 motorcycles belonging to the terrorist. In addition, in these circumstances, I must state that these investigations, the arrests of suspects and confiscation of assets and property, our operations have been most successful.   

When we analysis about this terrorist attacks, we should speak about the nature of international terrorist movement. More than 2,700 people were killed in the United States on September 11 attack by Al Qaeda. The United States still cannot say exactly how many people died from that attack. At that time, terrorist bombed the US Defence Headquarters, the Pentagon as well. The US, with most modern technical expertise, was unable to stop these attacks indeed.

This committee is aware that the terrorist attack on April 21 has been condemned by all the world’s strongest countries. The United States, Russia, England, two thirds of Europe’s countries, Australia, Malaysia, Canada, Indonesia and India were attacked on several times. They were not able to prevent those terrorist attacks at that time. After the attacks, many powerful countries in Europe launched attacks on terrorist control centers. One was situation is Syria. They identified Syria as a control center of terrorist and then attacked that country. President Putin, Russia, has played a major role here indeed. Europe, America and Western countries were playing a major role in these operations to destroy terrorism. 

I would like to mention that some of our people have forgotten that our people faced terror bombs for 30 years. Actually, some people are talking about the terrorist incident on April 21st, as if this was the first bomb blast occurred in Sri Lanka. Therefore, it is important for this task to take these factors into consideration with the intelligence, knowledge and understanding of the history of the country, international politics and international terrorism.

When I talk about this, I should remind you to that I’m the 6th President in this country. Previously, during the eras of all the former Presidents there were many bomb explosions. But it is forgotten by many people.

With the experiences gained and understanding the political reality and the causes that were behind the war, we must work very vigilantly. When we talk about the global terrorism we must fundamentally understand that it is not a problem only of Sri Lanka, but an issue of the world. This is an issue of the international arena. There is no headquarters of these terrorists in Sri Lanka. You must recall that this incident took place on April 21st and after two days, exactly on 23rd of April, the leaders of this terrorist movement have announced from a certain part of the world that they take the responsibility for this action; the explosions in Sri Lanka. The leader of this terrorist movement who was earlier believed to be dead by the super powers of the world came out openly after the explosions announced that they take the responsibility of those attacks in Sri Lanka. We should understand how serious this issue is? Donald Trump of America, Putin of Russia, Theresa May of England, all these thought that this terrorist leader died 4 years ago.

We know their intelligence units, their security units, are very much in line with the cutting age technology. But when this terrorist leader came out after 4 years ever body was astonished. The intelligence experts from eight countries are in Sri Lanka these days and when they met, I could see they are more shocked than us about the fact that this terrorist leadr is still among the living. I saw that they are frightened by this terrorist leader who has risen up from the ashes, one who was believed to be dead for 4 years. It has become a big issue to them. How this person was able to be alive.

So that such matters should be deeply considered by us. Honorable Chairmen, even within such drastic circumstances with the knowledge obtained within 10 days on international terrorism, with the lesser amount of knowledge on the terrorist movement that attacked us on 21st of April, I must say that I do not want to use the two English letters that is used to identify this terrorist movement. Because any of the leaders of the world will not use these two letters to identify them. By using these two letters or four letters they get an undue acceptance as a terrorist movement.

I read a statement made by American President Barack Obama, “Any of the leaders of a state should not use these two letters or four letters. By using the words their expected state becomes acceptable.” As you have seen I have refrained from using those letters of identity. While reading about this movement I have gathered certain information and when discussing with the intelligence specialists who have come from foreign countries, they have told me about the people whom this movement will be targeting.

This terrorist movement is constructed against the Western ideology. One of the prime motives of a terrorist movement is to fight against the Cross. A fact that is considered they target American citizens at one side, then those as we speak often, the people with white skin, one of their main targets is the white skinned people. Then the Christians have become their targets. Especially within their vision against Western thoughts and with this obsession, they are fighting against the Holy Cross. One of their statements admited that in the day where their flag is being unfolded in Vatican will be the day their victory is won. Thus, we must clearly understand this circumstance.

Within the last month one of the old churches of France was in flames. You must be remembering that incident. So that, considering this circumstance we must look at certain sections of the within the country.

Our intelligence units and security forces are fighting to eradicate terrorism. I have advised we have to defeat terrorists and theses terrorists should be completely wiped out from Sri Lanka. I have advised everyone in the security forces to destroy everyone who are connected to this. I am aware that my statement will be criticized in different ways. Yet that will be my idea.

See what the situation is today. The Sinhalese fear their own lives. They suspect the Islamic people. A bomb will blast when an Islamic arrives, there can be a massive destruction, they fear. The children who are schooling are afraid too. The circumstances of the Islamic families are the same. The situations of the Tamil are worse and it is affecting them. When the schools were opened there was a better situation in the schools in North. But a number of   students in Northern Province have not attended school.

The behavior of the media is astonishing, as well as the social media and electronic media and print media. They should act for the sake of the national peace, the political stability and the need to eradicate terrorism. The media has a broad responsibility to make the people secure, yet it is also astonishing to see how certain news are being published. According to some media, 20 explosive Lorries have gone to north, as I have seen in newspapers.

The MPs who are representing Tamil National Alliance kept on saying in the recent past that they don’t want military camps in the North. But now they are asking to send the Army to the North. I am actually happy that they have understood the importance of that. People get scared by this news and when we work against them people talk of violation of media freedom and things like that. It is very important that we understand the role of media in a situation like this.

According our intelligence nearly 150 people are active in Sri Lanka for this terrorist organization. So are we going to make it look like all the other Muslims were involved in this? We have experience of war for 30 years. If you look at the early 80s, the Sinhalese people started looking at the Tamil in a suspicious way. They thought every Tamil was a part of terrorist groups through which we lost the unity and reconciliation among Tamil and Sinhala people. Due to the Black July in 1983 Tamil people lost a lot of lives and properties and as a result of that many Tamil youngsters got involved with LTTE. The Black July 1983 is something that made LTTE much stronger.

So, we should now think why the LTTE got strong, and how the war lasted for 30 years? The main reason is looking at every Tamil person in a suspicious way. I would like to kindly request all of you to act responsibly in order to end the fear among Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim people.

I would like to request from all the Ministers and Members of Parliament to avoid looking at Muslim people the same way people looked at Tamil people at the start of war against LTTE. Especially, I would like to request the Sinhala Buddhist people to change the current suspicious situation and make peace within the country. Certain fake news published in social media by some extremist organizations could distance Sinhalese and Muslims which might cause in Muslims getting involved in with terrorists very quickly. I have noticed that when you go to a village which is mostly surrounded by Muslims, generally there are more youngsters than that of in a Sinhala village. We must protect those youngsters. We should make sure that they don’t get involved in terrorism. In order to do so our Police and the Intelligence services must act responsibly. The Muslims should feel that they are being given the needed protection without hurting their feelings and causing them any pain.

It is only through that we could ensure that the Muslim people are not getting involved with the terrorism. We should also believe in our forces and the intelligence services.

The most basic requirement is to have faith in the security services and the intelligence services I have instructed the new Secretary to Defense Ministry to hold discussion with the chiefs of the forces and make the required decisions. I will not cause any problems to the particular process. I hear from media that certain people say that the Army has not been given the necessary authority and that they should be given more authority. But I have given the all the powers by declaring a state of emergency after which I hope you could remember Army Chief Mahesh Senanayake stated that they only need a foot bike to end this but they were given a motor bike.

Right now we are regrouping the intelligence services, security services as well as the Police. The Police was in disarray, and it has been just four months since I have taken it and I must say that people were very pleased with it before the April 21 attack. While eradicating drugs, we were able to conduct programs such as Bakmaha pledge, declaring Tripitaka a world heritage. The Police had not had authority to even arrest those who sell illicit brew for the last 3 years. The rules had not been amended. By the time I was taking charge, 30 Police stations did not have a single vehicle. We have corrected everything and we made arrangements to give Police a fresh start.

People have forgotten all that and now talk of this as it is a national issue. People talk of Police like that because of their lack of knowledge. Therefore, I would like to tell our people not to be scared and our security services have done very well and shown great results. Even this morning I had discussions with the chiefs of intelligence services. Every morning and evening I speak with the head of forces as well as intelligences services. National Security Council only meets twice or thrice a week but I do speak to all of them on a daily basis and carry on this. I will ensure that there are no shortcomings in this process. 

Nevertheless, one thing should be said that no one can say where and when terrorism will occur in the world. It cannot be said by either Donald Trump, Putin or the Prime Minister of India, Modi. That is the nature of the terrorism. If they can predict terrorist activities, powerful countries in the world will not suffer terrorist attacks. They could have avoided those attacks. We will do whatever we can do to a maximum level. I will not allow any room for shortfalls or occur deficiencies in these operations against terrorism.

In this context, the most important factor is the unity of the country, national reconciliation and harmony among all the communities. We should strengthen the national unity. I always urged religious leaders and priests to come together and work together unitedly.

I kindly request all of you to understand the gravity of this issue, without pointing fingers at each other. Criticisms are necessary. But those criticisms should be impartial. Allegations, with hatred as well as criticisms made without knowing accurate facts, information and knowledge have no sense. We need proper facts.

In any country in the world when this kind of incident occurred, all the people join hands with each other.   

I am thankful for the opposition leader. Even if he is not here he presented a set of proposals, together with the former heads of Armed forces to consider these proposals regarding security matters. Thus the opposition, the government and all should assist this. With regret I must admit that some think I am the leader of this organisation. Their attacks on me go to that extent. But I must say that they point finger at me due to lack of sense.

This is a responsibility of all of us You must have a country to do politics and run a government. When this type of serious terrorist organisation is destroying our country, we must consider how to wipe it out of our country and we all must join hands together.  

With all due respect, I, appeal to the leaders of all political parties, all the Members of Parliament, all the religious leaders of the country, again, that we all must work together in this situation. I urge all to dedicate themselves to this and understand the situation and to make a peaceful and free society for the people living in this country.

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