Veteran intelligence expert and one time Director General of Intelligence and Security (DGIS), retired DIG Merril Gunaratne, assumed duties this week as Defence Advisor to the Ministry of Defence.
DFI's French connection
Instead of Monday, the regular weekly meeting by Chief of Defence Staff, General Rohan de S. Daluwatte, with Service, Police Chiefs and intelligence top brass took place last Wednesday at the Joint Operations Headquarters (JOH).
Director of Military Intelligence (DMI), Brigadier Kapila Hendavithana and Director of the Directorate of Internal Intelligence (DII), Neville Wijesinghe, gave their regular weekly intelligence briefs.
It was now the turn of the man from the Directorate of Foreign Intelligence (DFI), for all intents and purposes, the external intelligence arm of the Government of Sri Lanka.
Its Director of Intelligence, Pat Suwaris, who, like his counterpart in the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), George Tenet, prides himself in being the undisputed local boss for external intelligence, could not be present. He was busy with more important tasks.
Standing in, like on some previous occasions, was 70 year old G.B. Dissanayake, a one time Commandant of the Police Field Force Headquarters and security advisor to a State bank. Years after his retirement, he has chosen a career in foreign intelligence.
His briefing began with reports of alleged arrests of Tamil Nadu fishermen by the Sri Lanka Navy in the Palk Straits. With that and a few other matters over, Mr. Dissanayake, currently Director (Administration) of the DFI, made what he perhaps thought was a "top secret" disclosure. This time, it was not from a foreign publication, news agency or a website like Tamilnet.
It was a report from Paris. He revealed that Iqbal Athas of The Sunday Times had visited France. His itinerary had included a meeting with Counter Terrorism Judge, Jean Louis Bruguiere, meetings with senior French Defence Ministry officials and a visit to Gare du Nord or the little Jaffna in Paris. (The latter of course was with the able guidance of a French Government escort)
What this visit had to do with an int. briefing amused those at the conference, so much so, an outspoken service chief let fly "…Tell us what he has done…. was there anything against the Government or for it…" The reply: "…we are not aware…" There was laughter all round as an embarrassed Mr. Dissanayake found he had nothing more to add.
Even if the DFI, which is utilising billions of rupees of tax payers' money to gather foreign intelligence is unaware, The Sunday Times of March 3, a full 12 days before the JOH conference, said Athas was on a tour of France. What Mr. Dissanayake's learned discourse, or the Paris "report" did not contain – Athas was invited by the French Government.
Athas says Frank Silva, Director General of DFI, due to go on leave prior to retirement, or his spy masters are welcome to interview him or ask for a copy of the official programme, if they require "further intelligence."
Who said the DFI stands for Directorate of Foolish Intellectuals?