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Army can prevent future attacks given authority – Army chief

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Army Commander Lt. General Mahesh Senanayake said on Monday (22) the Army had not been privy to the warnings on Sunday’s devastating blasts, and that given enough power, it could do a better job in preventing future attacks.

“There is no need to heap blame on anyone, but the Army was not educated on this. The Army, given the authority to conduct searches, arrests and roadblocks would be able to do a better job in future, and I appeal everyone to remain calm and quiet, irrespective of ethnic or religious differences at this critical moment,” he said.

As the Commander, he said that he would wish that they had emergency regulations enacted at least for a short period. “We would be able to carry out search operations, but it is essential to be able to arrest any suspect too at this moment. He emphatically denied knowledge of the attacks, but added the Sri Lanka Police had been “aware of it in advance.”

Lt. Gen. Senanayake was speaking to journalists following a discussion with Archbishop of Colombo Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith yesterday (22) at Bishop House, Colombo.

According to a statement released by the Sri Lanka Army, the Commander had made these remarks in response to questions from the media regarding the need for proper coordination among all intelligence wings. A lapse in sharing vital information had allegedly resulted in the Easter Sunday bombings.

A special Security Council session was held yesterday morning (22) with the attendance of the Prime Minister, Minister of Justice, several Ministers and all others, including Secretaries, Chief of Defence Staff, Tri-service Commanders, IGP and others, said the Commander, adding that discussions were held on how Sunday’s incidents might’ve taken place and any measures that should be adopted in this regard.

“We also discussed how the repetition of such incidents could be avoided in the future. Respective agencies or services have their own roles and tasks. For example, Police, Army, Navy and Air Force have their own separate service roles. Similarly, we discussed the role of the political authority, judicial authority, etc at different levels, and the President specifically underscored several areas that should be implemented without fail,” he said.

The Army has no legal provisions to act under existing conditions, Senanayake went on to say, but given the prevalent situation, the army has already deployed troops across the country for security purposes and also to ensure no recurrence of riots like 1983 July take place in the country.

According to Senanayake, investigations are underway into the organisational structure of the attackers, their international connections, local networks, their spread in different locations and all other links, etc.

The Army Chief also conceded that there had been a lapse in sharing intelligence and he also said that it does not mean that the Army should take responsibility. “I believe as per the president’s decision, there will be an integrated sharing of intelligence among all agencies in future and this would be the best for the country,” he said.

Lt. Gen. Senanayake appealed to all Sri Lankans to remain calm and support the Army’s intended roles, irrespective of ethnic, religious or any other differences. “We expect we will get those authoritative provisions for Army operations. We would certainly apply them within the prevailing legal framework in the correct manner,” he said.