Sirisena sees Select Committee hearing as an orchestrated effort to damage him
There will be no customary weekly Cabinet meeting today as the stand-off between the President and Parliament continues over the House probe into the Easter Sunday attacks.
Informed sources said that Speaker Karu Jayasuriya will seek time with President Maithripala Sirisena today to find a way to break the impasse that has locked down the government.
On Friday, an angry President told his Cabinet colleagues that he would not chair Cabinet meetings as long as the Parliamentary Select Committee hearings into the terrorist attacks remain open to Media.
Sirisena disapproves of bringing in top officials, including intelligence officers, before the committee and exposing them to Reporters.
As of last night, no invitation had been extended to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to convene Cabinet today.
Ministers who met at Temple Trees last evening at the pre-Cabinet meeting did not discuss Cabinet papers but pondered how the current deadlock can be broken.
One Minister said, “we cannot stop the inquiry because this is an important matter.”
The Ministers concluded that “as this is a matter between the Parliament and the President, the Speaker should address it.”
They requested the Speaker to urgently request time with the President to resolve the matter.
In response to the President’s demands, the Speaker had earlier in a public statement rejected the call to hold the hearings in-camera.
Most members of the government are unwilling to stop the Media coverage as the inquiry has proved popular with the public, particularly the aggrieved families and their supporters who are keen to see who was responsible for possible lapses.
President Sirisena is due to leave for Tajikistan for a regional security conference later this week.
The PSC hearings resume today.
The inquiry up to now has revealed dysfunction at the highest level.
The point of contention is that Intelligence agencies at the highest level were aware of the National Thowheed Jamaat and its activities for some years, but failed to prevent them.
On or around April 8 these agencies received specific information about intended Islamic extremist attacks on Christian Churches and places frequented by tourists.
What the committee is trying to do is to find out why, despite having this information, no action was taken to protect these targets.
More than 250 people died in the attacks in Colombo, Negombo, and Batticoloa.
As Minister of Defense and the current Minister of Law and Order the President is directly responsible f or the security of the state and law and order.
There has been startling testimony at the hearings. Inspector General of Police Pujith Jayasundera alleged that he was asked by the President to take full responsibility for the failure and resign.
In return, he told the hearings, the President offered him a diplomatic posting.
Former Secretary to the Ministry of Defense Hemasiri Fernando revealed that he had been instructed by the President not to invite the IGP and the Prime Minister to the National Security Council after the 52-day political crisis ended.
These revelations are damaging to Sirisena who sees the open inquiry as a politically orchestrated exercise to harm his reputation.
One observer remarked that the PSC process is doing to “Sirisena what the Bonds Commission inquiry did to Ranil.”
After the first day of hearings Sirisena stopped live Television and video streaming of the proceedings.
Thereafter Media has been allowed into the Committee room to record the testimony for print and electronic media.