Prioritizing reconciliation over national security was a mistake: Ex-National Intel Chief

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DIG (Retired) Sisira Mendis says that he made a mistake by prioritizing reconciliation instead of national security when he served as the National Intelligence Chief.

He conceded to this giving evidence before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry probing the 2019 Easter Sunday terror attacks, yesterday (08).

Commencing his statement, Sisira Mendis pointed out that he retired in 2011 after 38 years of service in the Sri Lanka Police. However, Mendis says, in 2015, then-Defense Secretary B. M. U. D. Basnayake had informed that his name had been nominated for the position of National Intelligence Chief and that he accepted the post only after instigation from several senior officials.

The Additional Solicitor General of the State probed the witness as what he understood as the duties of the position when he took over as the National Intelligence Chief, to which he replied he understood his duty as coordination between the State Intelligence Service (SIS), the Army Intelligence, the Terrorism Investigation Division (TID), and the Criminal Investigation Department (CID).

Member of the Commission, Appeal Court Judge questioned the former National Intelligence Chief whether he had any understanding of how intelligence information was stored at the National Intelligence Headquarters when he served in the post.

The witness then admitted that he did not have an understanding of the matter as several senior officials were present to supervise the activity in the Headquarters.

The Presidential Commission then asked the witness whether he prioritized reconciliation instead of national security, to which he replied in the affirmative.

The Commission then asked the witness whether he now views prioritizing reconciliation over national security during the relevant time period as a mistake. Mendis replied saying that he admits that he followed a wrong course of action at that time.

Responding to a question by the Additional Solicitor General of the State, the former National Intelligence Chief said that then-Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe did not attend any of the National Security Council meetings following the 52-day government in October 2018.

Further, Mendis said that he was reluctant to relay a message to the IGP, by then-Defense Secretary Kapila Waidyaratne, that the President had asked the IGP not to attend National Security Council meetings.

Meanwhile, former National Intelligence Chief will be testifying before the Presidential Commission for the second day today (09).