COLOMBO: Sri Lankas police chief has refused a request by President Maithripala Sirisena to step down following suicide bombings on churches and hotels, two sources at the presidents office said on Saturday, deepening the rift at top levels of government.

Sirisena, facing criticism over the failure to thwart the attacks, blamed the inspector general of police Pujith Jayasundara and defense secretary Hemesiri Fernando for not sharing advance warnings of the attacks with him.

Fernando resigned earlier in the week, but Jayasundara was holding on, the two officials said.

He has refused to resign despite the presidents request, one of the sources said. Under Sri Lankas constitution, only parliament can remove the police chief through a lengthy process designed to shield officers from political interference.

The attacks in which more than 250 people were killed have exposed the divisions between Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, with both saying they had not seen warnings given by Indias spy service about impending strikes on churches and the Indian embassy including one just hours before the attacks.

Jayasundara, the police chief, was handpicked for the job by Wickremesinghe. The first source at the presidents office said Sirisena was still expecting him to turn in his papers. The second source confirmed the situation.

Both sources declined to be identified as they were not authorized to speak with media.

Jayasundara did not answer his phone or email seeking comments. An officer at the police department said the police chief had not resigned but did not come to work on Saturday.

Reuters

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