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Sri Lanka: Hemasiri Fernando's self-deception

Has anyone asked Hemasiri Fernando why he thought that he was the most suitable person for the post of Secretary to the Ministry of Defense? Why he doesn't feel that it is an essential to explain his inability to tender the resignation when, as he accused, then the President was sidelining and intimidating him? 

Editorial 

The previous government was confused. Once a government with confusion comes to power, many are waiting to take advantage of it like what has happened during the last government. Those on duty with excellence were subjected to false accusations and those who abused their positions without doing anything were crowned. As the result, like many other institutes, the security forces and the police department further deteriorated. The consequences of that deterioration were dire. 

Mr Hemasiri Fernando shortly after the terror attacks on Easter in 2019 is talking to media 


The terrorist attacks on Easter in 2019 symbolized this very collapse of the institutional structure. Many alleged, however, that the attacks could have been prevented. Once something happens, it is very easy to give different interpretations to it. As an old saying goes, the answer is philosophical as long as the question is not theirs. The same can be said of the statements made by many about the Easter bombing in 2019 by killing nearly 300 unarmed innocents. The attacks, we believe, was a collective failure of the state machinery and political leaderships.   

The former Secretary to the Ministry of Defense Mr Hemasiri Fernando was also one of the officials who gave evidence before the investigative commission initiated by the current government to probe the terror attacks. No one seems to have asked him the question of why he thought he was the most suitable person for the post when he became Secretary of Defense. Isn’t it important for him to explain his inability to tender the resignation when, as he accused, then the President was sidelining and intimidating him? 

Mr Basnayake was appointed as the first Secretary to the Ministry of Defense during the previous government which was administered under the slogan of good governance. He was given that position because he was the most senior person after counting his tenure in the administrative service. Mr Hettiarachchi, who was a friend of Mr Sirisena and had no knowledge of security but administration, was appointed as the successor of Mr Basnayake. Thereafter Mr Kapila Vaidyaratne was appointed to the post. He sought to understand all the scope of national security based on his legal knowledge alone. All three were failed as secretaries. Then, Hemasiri Fernando, who once served in the Navy, was appointed to the post. He made a great effort to get that position. He was not forcibly appointed to the post by the President. As reports indicated at the time, Mr Hemasiri worked hard to get the post. 

However, Mr Hemasiri Fernando was the last choice of former President Maithripala Sirisena because the other secretaries appointed to the Ministry of Defense were utter failures. Hemasiri Fernando was the fourth secretary to be appointed by former President Maithripala Sirisena to the post of Chief Administrative Officer (secretary) of the Ministry of Defense in about five years. This shows the extent to which Mr Sirisena, one of the most senior politicians in the country, had an understanding of the subject of national security. It is also a matter of inquiry as to whether those who have been appointed to office have done what the State and its leadership have expected of them while maintaining the dignity of that position. 

Some say that Hemasiri's history is full of political manoeuvres and appointments. Also, many refer to him as an unscrupulous thief. Whether these allegations are true or not remain to be seen what he did after taking over as Secretary of the Ministry of Defense and what the consequences were. As the harvest of having four secretaries in five years, the ships without guns and ships with toilet-sized operating compartments have been handed over to the Sri Lanka Navy at exorbitant prices. The list goes on and on. 

How did people like Hemasiri become so important in the country? Were most of these people elected at the behest of President Sirisena? Were they asked if they had an understanding of the duties they were required to perform in assigning positions in most sensitive areas of the country? Only those who have been appointed and the person who has been appointed know the truth. Constructive answers to those questions are essential. Only then can we find out how the background to the Easter attacks was set. 

However, according to Mr Hemasiri, the former head of the state intelligence service should take responsibility for the attacks. He has said that not only he but also the suspended IGP Pujith Jayasundara had performed his duties correctly. He says the state intelligence service did not provide him with a written statement confirming the attack. Many of the witnesses also said that the state intelligence service had failed to identify Zaharan Hashim, a key figure in the attack, as a terrorist. Therefore they took this issue lightly. All these stories are just attempts by individuals to cover up their failures. It is noteworthy to mention here that the LTTE was first proscribed as a terrorist organization in Sri Lanka from 1998 to 2002. The LTTE was again proscribed as a terrorist organization in 2009, but Pirabaharan killed the first unarmed man in 1975. Sri Lankan government did not proscribe the LTTE as a terrorist organization for many years for various political reasons. Did the then secretaries of the Ministry of defence or any other competent authority advise the army and other security apparatus not to fight against them because they were not designated as terrorists?   

Mr Hemasiri told the national and international media shortly after the Easter attacks that he knew the attack was taking place but did not think it was such a serious attack. Is that not enough to prove his folly and ignorance? But he now says he has fulfilled his responsibilities. He seeks to place full responsibility for the attack on the head of the former state intelligence director. This is ugly and nonsense. 

According to Mr Hemasiri and his colleagues, it is not enough for an intelligence service to verify intelligence and provide analysed information in whatever means of communications but like the legislation, the intelligence should give him in writing in decorated files. Only then will he act on that information. In which country on earth is engaging in intelligence in such a manner? Isn’t it fair to say that the President Sirisena should apologize for appointing such megalomaniac person to important positions in the country that led to the carnage? 

One thing is clear from the whole incident. That is, Mr Hemasiri and his team have no basic knowledge of national security and its scope. Also, they did not have the calibre to take responsibility for acting on the intelligence provided. They only knew how to get a position by licking someone’s feet. The country and the innocent always have to pay the price. This is the true nature of ugly and cruel self-deception. Shouldn't these swindlers be held accountable if justice is to be done to the victims of the Easter terror attacks and to protect the officials who have done their duty properly? 

Mr Hemasiri, take a deep breath and go to your library, if you have one, turn the pages of a wonderful account on mankind, The Brothers Karamazov, written by Fyodor Dostoevsky, where the author helped common man to educate that, “above all, don't lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.”    

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