Had intel, but there was security lapse: Sri Lanka’s Dy Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardene

Three days since the deadly Easter Sunday blasts that killed 359 people, Deputy Defence Minister of Sri Lanka, Ruwan Wijewardene has said that residents will have to stay more vigilant. Speaking to our correspondent in Colombo, he also appreciated New Delhi’s help in tackling the carnage.

What is the current situation in your country?

All I can say is that citizens of this country have to stay alert and vigilant over the next few days. I believe we will have the situation under control in a couple of days, but until then, people should exercisecaution.

How is India helping you out?

The Indian government has been very helpful. They have, from the beginning, given us the assistance we needed to conduct the investigation the way we want. They have been helpful and given us constant information. As always, we looked to our neighbour when a crisis happened in our country.

India had provided intelligence before the attack. What happened to it?

Our intelligence agencies have links with intelligence agencies of other countries. So, I think, there has been information coming from many sources and our intelligence was briefed. Certain officials were also notified about a possible attack, but due to some lapse of security arrangements, most of the senior officials were not notified about the threats — including me and the prime minister. So, there has been lapse in that regard, but the President has promised an inquiry into why there was an information black hole.

You said the attack appears to be a response to the New Zealand killings. Where has that come from?

From the assessment available with our intelligence services, they believe this was definitely a motivated attack. In fact, while this group has earlier defaced Buddhist statues, they have never taken it up to this magnitude. As per intelligence, the fact that they planned the attacks for Easter Sunday to maximise damages implies that it was definitely motivated.

How many countries have offered you help?

Right now, we have assistance from the US, UK, India, and Australia. The UAE ambassador has also called me and offered us help.