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AG’s Dept. asked to explain why no action taken on Zahran file



PCoI probing Easter Sunday attacks

By Rathindra Kuruwita

It was only three weeks after the Easter Sunday attacks that the Attorney General’s Department had paid attention to the file on NTJ leader Zahran Hashim, sent by Terrorism Investigation Division (TID) in early June 2017, seeking its advice, Deputy Solicitor General, Azard Navavi, on Saturday (05) told the PCoI probing the Easter Sunday attacks.

The witness, however, insisted that their delay could not be considered as having led to the attacks. 

The PCoI had summoned a group of officers who handled Zahran’s file at the AG’s Department. Besides Navavi, State Counsel Malik Azeez also testified.

Chairman of the PCoI asked Navavi what the AG’s Department had done about the file on Zahran, sent by the TID for legal advice.

Navavi said that he had received the file on 07 June 2017 and he instructed Azeez, who was under him, to handle it.

Chairman of the PCoI: “Why did you assign Azeez? Was there a particular reason?

Navavi: “The file had two video clips of Zahran and his brother M.C. Zainee. These were in Tamil, that’s why I gave it to Azeez.”

However, the TID had sent Sinhala translations of what was said in the clips.

Chairman of the PCoI: “When did you pay attention to the file again?”

Navavi: “There was a meeting at the Presidential Secretariat, three weeks after the Easter Sunday attacks. The then head of the TID said they had sent a file on Zahran to us, for legal advice. Until then I had had no recollection of this file. Then I asked Azeez, who briefed me on it.’

Chairman of the PCoI again asked Navavi why he had entrusted the case to a Muslim officer.

Navai said that since the case was about Islamism, he believed it was better if a Muslim handled it.

Cross examining the witness, Shamil Perera, PC, asked if Easter Sunday attacks could have been prevented if he had taken action on the file before 21 April 2019.

Navavi insisted that he could not accept that claim.

Navavi said: “This idea became popular because it came up before the Parliament Select Committee (PSC) on Easter Sunday attacks. People started believing that if action had been taken on the file, the attacks could have been prevented. However, the investigators had not told us enough although they had ample evidence about the threat posed by Zahran to national security. So, I don’t think it’s fair to link a delay about this file to the attack. If they didn’t arrest someone for two years after obtaining a warrant, that’s not our fault.”

State Counsel Malik Azeez, who testified earlier,  said that on March 12, 2019 there had been a meeting  with several TID officers on the file and only at that point had the officers mentioned that the TID obtained arrest warrants twice to arrest Zahran.

“The arrest warrants were not attached to the file or the AG’s Department had not been informed of it until March 2019,” he said.

Azeez informed the Commission that the TID had added documents to the file twice, in 2017 and 2018. None of them included the two arrest warrants or statements recorded from Zahran’s mother and his wife.

Without such important documents, the AG’s Department officials could not detect a threat to National Security, Azeez said.

“The TID sent only some screen shots of the NTJ website and some speeches of Zahran’s brother. Along with the file the TID had attached a letter requesting legal advice on banning the NTJ website, Zahran’s Facebook account and arresting him. No proper inquiry had been conducted and there were no supporting documents. Until the consultation meeting on March 12, 2019 we had not been aware that the TID had obtained arrest warrants twice against Zahran.”    

The next witness was Deputy Solicitor General Dileepa Peiris. He that a moulavi, from a group that was attacked by NTJ members at Alliyar Junction on 10 March 2017, had handed over to the AG’s Department a letter highlighting the issues they were faced with.

Peiris said he had called the OIC of Kattankudy Police on 09 November 2017 for a discussion on the issue.

“I asked him what they were doing. By that time Zahran and his supporters had fled Kattankudy. I felt that the OIC was under political pressure and was hesitant to tackle action.

Chairman of the PCoI showed Peiris the files the TID had sent to the AG’s Department on Zahran.

Chairman: “Can you tell me if you feel that this man posed any threat to national security?”

“It seems so. This is on extremism,” Peiris said.

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UNDP: Rs 600 bn tax cut a huge mistake



Director of the Sustainable Finance Hub of the UNDP Marcos Neto has called the decision to do away with a range of taxes here a fundamental mistake committed by Sri Lanka.The comment was made at the Parliament complex during an interactive dialogue on ‘Revenue Generation as a Pathway to Sri Lanka’s Economic Recovery’ on Tuesday (09). It was organised on a request by Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, former Chairman of the Committee on Public Finance to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The Opposition as well as several other parties alleged that the government had lost as much as Rs 600 bn due to the controversial decision to do away with a range of taxes including PAYE, NBT (Nation Building Tax), Withholding tax, Capital Gain tax imposed on the Colombo Stock Exchange, Bank Debit tax and unprecedented reduction of VAT (Value Added Tax). The 15% VAT and the 2% NBT which amounted to 17% imposed on all goods and services were unified and reduced to 8%, effective from the first of December 2019.

The decision was taken at the first Cabinet meeting of the Gotabaya Rajapaksa government on 27 Nov. 2019.Governor of the Central Bank Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe is on record as having said that the powers that be ignored the IMF warning not to do so and also the immediate need to restructure Sri Lanka’s debt (SF)

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Debate on power tariff hike on 29 Aug.



Party leaders have decided to debate the electricity tariff hikes in parliament on 29 August.The date was fixed for the debate following a request by the main opposition SJB.The debate will be held from 9.30 am to 4.30 pm on 29 August.

Chief Opposition Whip Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella told Parliament on Wednesday (10) that as per the proposed tariff hike the monthly electricity bill of domestic consumers would increase by 75 percent to 125 percent. “This is unbearable. This is like sending the people to an electric chair while they are struggling to make ends meet amidst a massive increase in cost of living.

How does this government expect people would be able to pay such an exorbitant price for electricity? We demand a debate in parliament before this proposed tariff hike is implemented,” Kiriella said.

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British national to be deported



By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Department of Immigration and Emigration has ordered Kayleigh Fraser, a British national whose passport has been taken into custody after she posted on social media anti-government protests, for violating her visa conditions, to leave the country by 15 August. The Department has already cancelled her visa.

Earlier this month Immigration and Emigration officials visited Fraser at her home and took her passport into custody. The Department said Fraser had been in Sri Lanka for medical reasons since 2019. She had returned home several times, it said.

The Immigration and Emigration officers told her to visit them within the next seven days.Fraser on 02 August said that a group of immigration officers had visited her and asked for her travel document. She said that officials told her that they would return her passport when she visited the Department of Immigration and Emigration.

Fraser added that she had received an anonymous call asking her to leave Sri Lanka as soon as possible before facing ‘big problems.’ Immigration officials visited her house a few days after the call.

Fraser has shared a number of photographs and videos from the ‘Gota Go Gama’ site. Human Rights groups and activists have accused the Sri Lankan government of using Emergency regulations to harass and arbitrarily detain activists seeking political reform and accountability for the country’s economic crisis.

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