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IGP’s FR petition claims SIS requested suspension of investigations into extremist Muslim factions

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IGP’s FR petition claims SIS requested suspension of investigations into extremist Muslim factions

The State Intelligence Service (SIS), in a letter dated April 8, 2018, expressly requested Inspector General of Police (IGP) Pujith Jayasundara to instruct the Deputy Inspector General (DIG) in charge of the Terrorism Investigation Department (TID), to suspend all investigations into extremist Muslim factions associated with known international terrorist organisations operating within the country, according to the IGP’s Fundamental Rights (FR) Petition filed before the Supreme Court (SC) this week.

In his FR petition challenging the President’s decision to send him on ‘Compulsory Leave’, following the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks, the IGP states the SIS letter had asked for the TID investigations to be suspended, “as such investigations caused prejudice to the secret investigations being carried out by the SIS.”

The Attorney General (AG), Acting IGP C.D. Wickramaratne, Members of the Constitutional Council (CC), Director SIS Nilantha Jayawardena, Chief of National Intelligence (CNI) Sisira Mendis and former Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando have been cited as respondents.

In his FR Petition, the IGP states there was an ongoing intelligence operation against the National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ). The petitioner, however, claims he was unaware as to the specific manner in which the secret intelligence operations and investigations were conducted, as those operations are only privy to those within the intelligence community, from which the petitioner had been excluded.

The IGP states that the President excluded him from attending National Security Council (NSC) meetings from early October 2018, until after the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks on April 21. The petitioner had been excluded from NSC meetings, consequent upon the deterioration of the relationship between the President and the Prime Minister (PM), though the petitioner, being a responsible civil servant, did not take political sides with either the President or the PM, the petition claims.

The petitioner states that the first briefing done at NSC meetings is almost always by the Director SIS, regarding intelligence information, which includes the following: Developments pertaining to extremist organisations (whatever is relevant); LTTE and diaspora issues; threats to VIPs; activities of certain international terrorist and extremist groups.

The petitioner states that the importance of the NSC is that, the entire Intelligence Community [Director SIS, CNI, Director of Military Intelligence and Intelligence Heads of the 3 Armed Forces] is present at the NSC to discuss, decide and take remedial action from intelligence inputs.

In the absence of a State of Emergency in the country, preventive steps such as arrest and prosecution must necessarily be done by the Police hence, the presence of the IGP at the NSC was very critical, the petition notes, pointing out that, despite this, the petitioner was excluded from NSC meetings since early October 2018.

The petition further claims that the President required 4th Respondent SDIG Nilantha Jayawardena, as Director SIS, to report directly to him.

“The petitioner was only made privy to whatever information was sent to him from time to time, and was denied the ability to have full recourse to or participate in vital consideration of matters of national security.”

Regarding intelligence warnings about a planned attack, the petitioner states that, on or about April 9, 2019 at 10 a.m, the petitioner attended a meeting at the Defence Ministry, chaired by the then Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando, at which meeting the 4th Respondent Director SIS referred to information of a threat of an attack by extremist Islamist elements. “However, the 4th Respondent Director SIS did not emphasise the urgency and/or seriousness of the matter.”

The petitioner states that, on or about the same date, April 9, 2019, the petitioner received a letter from CNI Sisira Mendis, which enclosed certain contents of a letter by the Director SIS, as an annexure containing information regarding a planned attack by Zahran Hashim and associates. The petitioner was also sent a letter from the SIS, containing the same.

Neither letter contained any indication of the urgency of the situation, nor did they contain a classification to indicate the urgency or priority level, whereas the usual practice is to mark relevant letters “Top Priority” or “Top Urgent,” the petitioner claims.

In the circumstances, the petitioner decided to forward the CNI’s letter to four senior Police officers, namely SDIG- Western Province, Nandana Munasinghe, SDIG- Crimes, Organised Crimes, Police Narcotics Range and STF Commandant M.R. Lateef, DIG- Special Protection Range, Priyalal Dassanayake and Director- Counter TID, SSP Waruna Jayasundare.

The petitioner states that, when sending the CNI’s letter to the four senior officers, the petitioner marked the document ‘Top Priority’. This was done as the petitioner wanted the information to be seriously acted upon.

The petitioner states that, in addition to informing the aforesaid 4 officers, he also informed all 9 SDIG’s in charge of the 9 Provinces of the said information regarding possible attacks, over the telephone, on April 9 evening/April  10 morning, while discussing the Daily Situation Report.

The petitioner states he received three letters on 18th, 19th and 20th April 2019, all relating to the NTJ, Zahran Hashim and matters incidental to the same. “The said three letters did not request any advice and/or action from the petitioner and were shared with the petitioner, only for his information. The said letters expressly stated that the SIS was carrying on further investigations.”

The petitioner states that, on the night of 20th April 2019, the petitioner received a telephone call from the 6th respondent (Defence Secretary) regarding an intelligence input from the 4th respondent Director SIS, pertaining to an imminent attack.

He further claims that, at a meeting with the President on April 23, the President pressured him to submit his resignation immediately, accusing the petitioner of being grossly negligent of his duties.

On April 29, the petitioner says, he was sent on ‘Compulsory Leave’ with immediate effect, subject to the conclusions reached at the inquiries being conducted.

The petitioner states that, any steps to remove him from the office of IGP are required to be taken in terms of the Removal of Officers (Procedure) Act No. 05 of 2002, which was enacted to protect the holders of the offices of the AG and IGP from removal from such office, save in the manner and on the grounds provided for therein.

The petitioner urges the SC to grant leave to proceed with his application and also seeks, among other relief, to make a declaration, that the actions of the President and members of the CC have infringed the FR of the petitioner, guaranteed under Article 12 (1) and Article 14 (1)(g) of the Constitution.

Sunday Times 02-06-2019

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