Prior information had been received, but I wasn’t updated: Wickremesinghe

Crime scene officials inspect the site of a bomb blast inside a church in Negombo, Sri Lanka on April 21, 2019.

Crime scene officials inspect the site of a bomb blast inside a church in Negombo, Sri Lanka on April 21, 2019.   | Photo Credit: Reuters

The government ordered an immediate nationwide curfew “until further notice”, and a “temporary” social media ban.

Prior information on possible attacks was available with Sri Lankan authorities ahead of blasts, but “neither I nor the Ministers were kept informed,” Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said on Sunday.

While it was important to probe why adequate precaution had not been taken, the urgent task ahead was to stabilise the situation in the country, he told media persons at a late evening press conference at Temple Trees, the PM’s official residence located a couple of blocks away from Cinnamon Grand, one of the Hotels targeted in Sunday’s coordinated blasts.

Requesting citizens to remain calm, Mr. Wickremesinghe said: “Any disturbance will divert attention of the security forces and police from this very important investigation into the attacks today.”

Earlier on Sunday, at least two cabinet ministers referred to possible prior intelligence gathered on the blasts, in their reactions to the developments. Cabinet Minister Mano Ganesan, leader of the Tamil Progressive Alliance, tweeted “A week before, my Ministerial Security Division (MSD) officers had been warned by their Division on two suspected suicide bombers in Colombo targeting politicians #lka.”   

Sports Minister Harin Fernando, who also tweeted about “the warning” being “ignored”, asked why the PM or Ministers were not informed about the threats. “The Law and Order Ministry, or the Defence Ministry is not with us,” he said, referring to the ministries that function under President Maithripala Sirisena. “The PM and ministers have also been kept out of security council meetings since December, after the political crisis,” Mr. Fernando told The Hindu.

When contacted military spokesman Brigadier Sumith Atapattu said the military did not have any prior knowledge of such attacks. “We came to know only when it happened today,” he told The Hindu.

President Sirisena, who is scheduled to return to the country on Sunday night after a private visit abroad, will hold a high-level meeting to discuss the development, sources said. The President has also formed a special panel of enquiry to probe Sunday’s attacks, local media reported.  

Meanwhile, police recovered a van and identified a house that they suspected were used in Sunday’s attacks.

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Printable version | Mar 27, 2020 2:21:07 PM |

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