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CID Sgt. tipped off Harin’s father about Easter attack a day earlier

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

A CID officer involved in a number of investigations into Islamic extremism had made a six-minute phone call to Nihal Fernando, MP Harin Fernando’s father on April 20, 2019 and probably warned the latter of the impending suicide bomb attacks, the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) investigating the Easter Sunday attacks was informed on Wednesday.

Nihal Fernando was in the ICU of Nawaloka Hospital when he had received the call. He had informed his daughter not to go to church on Easter Sunday.

Around 8.12 pm on April 20, 2019, the CID officer, sergeant Nandalal had taken a 356 second call to Nihal Fernando. Nandalal was involved in the investigations as regards attacks on Buddha statues in Mawanella, the Wanathawilluwa jihadist training camp, the van that transported explosives to Wanathawilluwa and NTJ Physical Instructor Army Mohideen.

When Mohideen was arrested, he had Nandalal’s number in his phone.

“Is Nandalal known to you?” the Attorney General’s Department official who led the evidence asked Harin Fernando. The witness said that he was not aware of Nandalal’s existence.

“Was your father in contact with the CID?” AG’s representative asked the MP.

“He was in contact with the CID about a financial fraud in which he was the victim,” the witness said.

Fernando said he had been in Badulla on the day of the Easter Sunday attacks and that it was former minister Neomal Fernando, who had informed him of the blasts. Then he had called former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and attempted to contact Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith but in vain, Fernando said.

“At this point my sister called me and she was very upset. She told me that our father had been aware that the attacks would be carried out. Then, I called Ranil Wickremesinghe and informed that my father had prior information about the blasts. Wickremesinghe asked me to come to Colombo immediately. Then, I called former state minister Ruwan Wijewardene and he said former Army Commander Mahesh Senanayake was in Diyathalawa and that a chopper was on its way to get him. I also could get into that chopper, which picked me up from the Badulla Church.”

Fernando said once he reached Colombo he had visited his father. “When I asked he told me, “I know a lot more than you.” He was sick and I couldn’t get any information out of him. He passed away a few weeks later,” Fernando said.

The witness said that he then went to see former Prime Minister and Wickremesinghe showed him a letter sent by DIG Priyalal, who headed the Special Protection Range (SPR) to heads of Ministerial Security Division (MSD), the Judicial Security Division (JSD), the Diplomatic Security Division (DSD), the Security Divisions of former Presidents Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and Mahinda Rajapaksa asking them to be extra cautious on April 21, 2019 as there was the possibility of a terrorist attack.

“This letter was proof that many people in the police and intelligence services were aware of the intelligence of attacks. This is what I told the press on April 21, 2019 as well,” he said.

Earlier retired DIG Lucien Priyalal told the PCoI that on April 10, he had received a warning of a possible terror attack, in the form of a letter with a three-page annexure, sent by CNI Sisira Mendis to the then IGP Pujith Jayasundara. Jayasundara had sent it to SDIG of Western Province Munasinghe, SDIG crimes, the STF, DIG special protection range and Director of the Counter Terrorism Investigation Division on April 09.  Priyalal said that he had seen it at around 2.30 pm on April 10.

Priyalal said that he had five divisions under him and right after receiving the documents he had informed the Directors of the warning over the telephone.

The witness said that, on April 11, he had sent the documents he received from the IGP and a letter he had prepared to the directors of all the divisions under his supervision. DIG Priyalal said that directors had been instructed to inform the officers under them of the warning.

Priyalal said that the Director of the MSD provided security to 268 VIPs, and the officers who provided security to the VIPs had been informed by the MSD Director. Representatives from each protection unit had been summoned for a special instructions session, too, he said.



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Domestic debt restructuring will cripple EPF, ETF – JVP

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By Sirimatha Rathnasekera

The Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) and Employees’ Trust Fund (ETF) will lose about 600 billion rupees during the proposed domestic debt structuring, Co-Convener of the JVP affiliated National Trade Union Centre (NTUC) Wasantha Samarasinghe claimed.

Samarasinghe is of the opinion that the government is planning not to pay 20 to 25 percent of the loans it has taken from domestic sources. Successive governments have borrowed significantly from the EPF and ETF, he said.

Samarasinghe said that due to the depreciation of the rupee, the real value of EPF and ETF funds had decreased by half. “In such a context, can these institutions take a 20 percent haircut? This might be a big problem to the workers,” he said.

The NTUC Co-Convener said that a number of domestic banks, too, had lent to the government and domestic debt restructuring might lead to a collapse in the banking system.

However, Central Bank Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe says that they are confident of reaching debt sustainability without re-structuring domestic debt, which would lead to problems in the banking sector.

“There have been concerns among domestic bond investors about rupee debt/internal debt to be restructured following comments made by President Ranil Wickremesinghe to the effect that financial advisors were looking at domestic debt. However, there has been no request to restructure domestic debt. We are confident that we can make debt sustainable without restructuring domestic debt,” Dr. Weerasinghe told the media at the CBSL’s 6th Review of the Monetary Policy stance for this year, at the CBSL head office auditorium, in Colombo, on Thursday.

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Powerful CEBEU says yes to restructuring but on its terms

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Sri Lanka will experience periodic power cuts until 2027 if the government did not take steps to increase electricity production, the Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers Union (CEBEU) said yesterday.Due to electricity shortages, the Norochcholai Power Plant had been operational non-stop, sometimes even without scheduled maintenance, CEBEU President, Saumya Kumarawadu said.

“A generator is down. We will get it back online within 14 days. We had started maintenance on another plant in June and it was to be back online in September. But it has been delayed till November,” he said.

Kumarawadu said there would be 10-hour power cuts without Norochcholai. However, the power cuts could be reduced in two weeks when the generator was restored, he said.

He added that while they support restructuring of the CEB, they oppose de-bundling and selling the CEB to various private actors.

“Power cuts might have to go on till 2026 or 2027 unless new plants come up. A proposal to build an LNG power plant is still languishing in the Cabinet,” he said.

The CEBEU President also said that the electricity tariff was last increased in 2012. In 2014, the tariff was reduced. Without increasing electricity tariffs, the CEB will have to get increasing amounts of money from the treasury.

“The government should have increased the tariff at regular intervals. We haven’t increased in a decade and suddenly we have increased by a large amount.That’s why it has come as a shock to people,” he said.

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SJB opposes blanket privatisations

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… questions logic of selling cash cows like Telecom and Insurance

The SJB was opposed to the privatisation of profit-making government entities, Chief Opposition Whip, MP Lakshman Kiriella, said yesterday, in Colombo.Kiriella said that President Ranil Wickremesinghe had told The Economist magazine that they are thinking of privatising Sri Lanka Telecom and Sri Lanka Insurance.

“These are two institutions that make a profit. What is the point in privatising these?” he asked.

MP Kiriella said that they are not opposed to privatizing SriLankan Airlines, which has been making losses for years.

“We can talk about these things in Parliament. Even when we privatize loss making entities we have to take a number of things into consideration. What will happen to the workers? How will we compensate them? How will we re-skill them? We have to talk about these things openly before doing anything,” he said.

The Chief Opposition Whip said that one of the main reasons why people oppose privatization is because everything is done in secrecy.

“People wonder why things are hidden from them. We need to be open and transparent when we restructure,” he said.

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