COLOMBO Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena has suspended police chief Pujith Jayasundara, his office announced on Monday after the defiant Inspector General refused to quit following the massive Easter Sunday bombings.
Sirisena on Friday said that Jayasundara had resigned but he never sent the letter and remained in his official residence, according to officials. The police chief in Sri Lanka can only be removed through a parliamentary procedure and Sirisena’s action suspending him is the first step towards that, the officials said.
Senior Deputy Inspector General C D Wickremaratne, the second-in-command in the force, has been appointed as the acting police chief. Jayasundara was asked to quit along with defence ministry secretary Hemasiri Fernando, taking responsibility for the intelligence failure that led to the bombings.
Police chief Jayasundara has steadfastly refused to heed Sirisena’s call to resign following April 21 coordinated blasts on three churches and three luxury hotels. The attacks carried out by suicide bombers came in spite of early warnings and the security establishment’s failure to take preventive action has come under severe criticism.
Sirisena, who also keeps the defence portfolio with him, said he wanted to revamp the security system and his defence ministry secretary Fernando resigned promptly on his request on Thursday. Former Inspector General N K Illangakoon has been appointed as an advisor to the Defence Ministry, according to the President’s office.
Deputy Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade Nalin Bandara said a motion to remove the police chief will be tabled in Parliament within this week, Sri Lanka Mirror reported. Noting that the motion will be tabled on the agreement of all government MPs, he hoped to get the backing of opposition MPs as well, it said.
President Sirisena last week said that intelligence failures led to the blasts, the country’s worst terror attack. Meanwhile, the police chief has said that he has done nothing wrong and that he would resign if the defence minister resigns as well. Nine suicide bombers carried out a series of devastating blasts that tore through three churches and three luxury hotels on the Easter Sunday, killing 253 people and injuring over 500 people.
The Islamic State claimed the attacks, but the government has blamed local Islamist extremist group National Thowheeth Jamaath (NTJ) for the attacks. Sri Lanka on Saturday banned the NTJ and a splinter group linked to the ISIS.
A total of 106 suspects, including a Tamil medium teacher and a school principal, have been arrested in connection with the Easter Sunday blasts. According to Sri Lanka’s Foreign Ministry, the number of foreign nationals who have been identified as killed remained at 40, including 11 from India.
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