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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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Majority of 300 luxury vehicles to be released

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… some shipped in without opening LCs, EU wants restrictions abolished

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The majority of the luxury vehicles imported by special permit holders in contravention of the import ban imposed by the government in view of precarious economic situation caused by corona first wave are likely to be released subject to penalties.

Well informed sources said that those vehicles shipped in without even opening LCs would be released. Among the violators were many government servants.

Sources said that vehicles brought in without opening LCs were likely to be confiscated.

“We have categorised over 300 vehicles, including BMWs, Mercedes-Benz and Audis into two groups. Customs are now in the process of evaluating individual cases,” a high ranking state official said.

The government announced a ban on vehicle imports to arrest the depletion of foreign reserves. Sources acknowledged that at the time the vehicles

arrived in Sri Lanka the second corona wave hadn’t erupted. The situation was far worse now and further deteriorating, they said, adding that the Customs were being inundated with requests for releasing vehicles on sympathetic grounds.

Controversy surrounds the failure on the part of the government to strictly implement the import ban in view of the sharp drop in state revenue due to the pandemic.

Recently, the EU demanded that Sri Lanka immediately lift import ban or face the consequences. The EU issued the warning in talks with government representatives. Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena explained the circumstances that compelled the government to impose import restrictions. The EU sought an explanation as to when the ban would be lifted. The Foreign Ministry quoted Foreign Minister Gunawardena as having explained to the EU the challenges Sri Lanka economy was facing amidst the dwindling foreign currency reserve situation due to the significant reduction in remittances and tourism revenue induced by the COVID-19 global pandemic. The minister said that the import restrictions were being reviewed.

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Nearly 74,000 persons under home quarantine

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Close to 74,000 people belonging to 27,974 families had been placed under home quarantine, Police Spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said on Wednesday (25).

He said that the number of cases from the Minuwangoda and Peliyagoda clusters had increased to 17,436 with 458 persons had tested positive for the virus on Tuesday.

Two wards of the Kethumathi Maternity Hospital, Panadura were temporarily closed on Wednesday after two pregnant women admitted there tested COVID-19 positive.

The two women are from Atalugama, which has been declared an isolated area. During the last few days close to half of the COVID-19 patients detected in Colombo District are from Atalugama.

The two women have been sent to Neville Fernando Hospital, Malabe. The patients and staff in Wards 3 and 4 at the Kethumathi Maternity Hospital are now under quarantine. Their family members too have been asked to undergone self-quarantine.

The Police had arrested 61 persons who had violated quarantine laws within the 24 hours that ended at 8 am yesterday, Police spokesman, DIG Ajith Rohana said, adding that they had been arrested for not wearing masks or for not maintaining physical distancing. With those altogether 688 persons had been arrested for violating quarantine laws from October 30, he said.

Commissioner General of Prisons Thushara Upuldeniya said that apart from Welikada, the spread of COVID-19 had been controlled at other prisons. COVID-19 cases had been reported from six prisons, he added.

“We are conducting PCR tests and hope that the situation in Welikada too would be brought under control. Twenty four new cases were detected from prisons on November 24 and from October 04, we have identified 708 cases within the prison system.”

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Severity of impact of second wave on economy could be far worse than anticipated – CBSL

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By Shyam Nuwan Ganewatte

The impact of the second wave of COVID-19 could be severer on the economic growth than previously anticipated, Director of Economic Research at the Central Bank Dr. Chandranath Amarasekara said yesterday (26).

Dr. Amarasekera said so responding to a query by The Island at a CBSL media briefing. The top official said that an assessment couldn’t be made yet as the second wave was continuing.

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