Colombo: Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena on Tuesday presided over a Cabinet meeting, days after he threatened to boycott it over Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s faction initiating a separate parliamentary probe into the April 21 Easter Sunday bombings. He convened the meeting amidst an infighting between the two factions of the ruling coalition over the abdication of responsibility to prevent the deadly attack despite the availability of prior intelligence. Also Read – Merkel warns UK Brexit deal ‘unlikely’ without compromise: LondonThe President, who is the head of the Cabinet in his troubled coalition government with Wickremesinghe, did not call last week’s meeting over a stand-off with his coalition partner. Sirisena wanted the halt to proceedings of the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) appointed by Assembly Speaker Karu Jayasuriya to probe the events leading to the attacks that killed 258 people, including 11 Indians, and injured nearly 500. He had threatened not to reconvene the Cabinet until the government abandoned the select committee process. Also Read – India, China should jointly uphold peace and stability, resolve disputes through dialogues: Chinese ambassadorSirisena claimed that the committee proceedings were aimed at putting the blame of the attacks on him being the Defence Minister for the intelligence failure. At the PSC, the security apparatus which gave evidence suggested that there was bungling at the very top of the defence establishment. The prior intelligence on the possibility of attacks had been ignored. Sirisena said he would not cooperate with the parliamentary probe and would not allow defence or police officials to testify before the committee. The government and speaker Jayasuriya had made it clear that the probe process would not be halted. On Saturday, Sirisena sacked national intelligence chief Sisira Mendis who reportedly said that the attacks could have been avoided and that the president had failed to hold regular security meetings to assess the threats from the militants. India had shared intelligence inputs with Sri Lanka about possible attacks weeks before the bombings. Nine suicide bombers carried out a series of devastating blasts that tore through St Anthony’s Church in Colombo, St Sebastian’s Church in the western coastal town of Negombo and another church in the eastern town of Batticaloa, and three high-end hotels frequented by tourists in the country’s deadliest violence since the devastating civil war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) ended in 2009.
Manoel de Almeida e Silva called on those responsible not to harm Shqipe Hebibi, Annetta Flanigan and Angelito Nayan. “We worry about them, about their medical and physical conditions, and about their emotional well-being,” he said.“All three require medical attention and the best response to such a situation is their immediate release – the most heartfelt wish of the parents, brothers and sisters, husband, friends and colleagues of Annetta, Lito and Shqipe.”He told a press briefing in the capital Kabul that the three, while coming from very different backgrounds, “have at least one thing in common – their commitment to serve people who can benefit from their knowledge and expertise.”He added that the victims had been warmly received by Afghans. “This is why it is so difficult to understand this abduction, this act of violence against three individuals who are working towards prosperity, reconstruction and peace in this country.”The spokesman also explained the lack of more detailed information, saying, “We feel that while our colleagues are not with us, we should avoid discussing any aspect of the ongoing investigations.”Responding to press questions, Mr. de Almeida e Silva said the responsibility for security in the country belongs to the Afghan authorities. “Do not lose sight of that,” he said. “It is the Minister of Interior that has the leadership in the investigation of this case.”The Afghan authorities, he said, “are working very hard with the resources available to them and they have the support of their international partners throughout this process.”