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Easter Sunday probe: SJB demands answers to specific questions, disclosure of Fathima Hadiya’s testimony  

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Samagi Jana Balavegaya MP Manusha Nanayakkara says the government has not responded yet to specific issues raised by him and his parliamentary colleague, Harin Fernando in parliament in respect of the 2019 Easter Sunday carnage.

Reiterating that the SLPP government bore the responsibility for punishing those who perpetrated the crime regardless of political consequences, Galle district MP Nanayakkara said that the government owed an explanation.

Responding to a query, the former UNPer told The Island that the SJB raised several pertinent questions, both in and outside parliament and of them the foremost was the alleged link between the Easter Sunday suicide bombers and the intelligence services. 

A senior official who had served the intelligence services at the time of the 2019 attacks told The Island that interested parties were propagating lies for political benefit. “We never interfered with police investigations or tried to influence the Easter attackers,” the official said. He said so when The Island requested him to comment on SJB’s accusations.

MP Nanayakkara emphasized that the SJB sought an explanation as regards the involvement of some members of the intelligence services on the basis of statements made before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI). Therefore, there was no need for the SJB to lodge fresh complaints with the police as accusations, assertions and claims pertaining to the alleged intelligence services link were entirely based on what transpired before the PCoI. Of course some of those statements were made in camera as well as before the media by intelligence and police personnel, both in service and retired.

Lawmaker Nanayakkara said that the SJB demanded in parliament government response to the following questions (1) Did two officers from the Intelligence services and the Terrorist Investigation Department (TID) visit the home of Jamil, the person assigned to mount suicide attack at Taj Samudra, hours before he detonated himself at Tropical Inn, Dehiwela? (ii) Did Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) remove a person arrested by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) following investigations facilitated by technical means (iii) Did relevant authorities conduct an investigation into the alleged links between the DMI officer who removed the suspect claiming the operation was conducted by them? and finally (iv) would the government reveal the identity of the DMI officer identified as ‘Sonic’ on whose intervention with a person known as Matale Zahran soon after the Easter Sunday attacks the ISIS claimed responsibility for the April 2019 incidents.

MP Nanayakkara also raised issue over the failure on the part of the government to conduct a proper inquiry into the disappearance of Sarah, the wife of the Katuwapitiya bomber Hastun in spite of the law enforcement officer who allegedly helped her to secure refuge in India being in police custody. 

Emphasizing that the Easter Sunday massacre couldn’t be swept under the carpet under any circumstances, MP Nanayakkara said that the public realized those responsible for negligence should be dealt with. Similarly, those who perpetrated the heinous crime should be exposed without further delay, the MP said adding that they wouldn’t allow the government rhetoric to deceive the public.

Nanayakkara said that in addition to those questions there were other unexplained issues as well. The Galle district lawmaker said that the security establishment owed an explanation why specific intelligence on the impending attack made available by India on April 4, 2019 was ignored whatever the shortcomings on the part of the political apparatus. The MP said that an explanation was also required from the Attorney General’s Department sitting on Zahran’s file since 2017 and the turmoil created by Namal Kumara whose unsubstantiated accusations in respect of an alleged bid to assassinate the then President Maithripala Sirisena and at that time former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

The SJB lawmaker questioned the rationale in questioning Zahran’s wife, Abdul Cader Fathima Hadiya,  in camera. The government’s sincerity could be proved by making evidence before the PCoI public, the MP said, underscoring the importance of inquiring into the possibility of rogue group operating outside the government control backing Zahran’s gang. The MP also made reference to the members of Zahran’s group taking refuge in safe houses at Panadura and Ja-ela three days before the Easter Sunday attacks.

Claiming that they had discussed the delay in mounting the attack, MP Nanayakkara said that reference had been made to a person identified as ‘Boss’ who expressed concern over that.

The SJB spokesperson asked whether a person who headed a particular intelligence service regularly attended meetings chaired by the Attorney General to discuss matters pertaining to the Easter Sunday attacks. The MP declined to name the person when The Island sought an explanation.

Referring to Chief Government Whip Johnston Fernando’s challenge to the SJB to repeat its accusations outside the parliament, lawmaker Nanayakkara pointed out his party was concerned about leaving out a section of evidence received by the PCoI  out of the Easter Sunday report.

When The Island pointed out that Attorney General Dappula de Livera, PC, had been provided with altogether 87 volumes, MP Nanayakkara said that they didn’t receive the entire report.

In spite of the government resorting to various pressure tactics meant to silence the SJB, the party was determined to pursue the case, MP Nanayakkara said.

How could Public Security Minister (ret.) Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera claim that they didn’t have information on Katuwapitiya Church suicide bomber Hastun’s wife Sarah, while the policeman who allegedly helped her to flee the country remained in the custody of the TID, MP Nanayakkara asked. The lawmaker also stressed the need to clarify matters pertaining to an alleged conflict between the DMI and the police intelligence (State Intelligence Service) at the time Zahran mounted the attacks.

The CID recently recorded statements from SJB lawmakers Eran Wickremaratne, Nalin Bandara and Ashoka Abeysinghe as regards accusations they made in respect of Easter Sunday attacks. SIS Chief Maj. Gen. Suresh Salley has complained to the CID regarding misleading statements made by lawmakers.



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Crisis over fuel price hike: SLPP constituents crank up pressure on party General Secretary

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Eight lawmakers representing political parties affiliated to the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) have urged President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to take action against SLPP General Secretary Sagara Kariyawasam, MP, for challenging the government decision to increase fuel prices.

The group consists of National List MP Ven. Athureliye Rathana (Our Power of People Party), Wimal Weerawansa (National Freedom Front), Vasudeva Nanayakkara (Democratic Left Front), Prof. Tissa Vitharana (LSSP), A.L.M. Athaulla (National Congress), G. Weerasinghe (Communist Party), Tiran Alles (United People’s Party) and Asanka Nawaratne (Sri Lanka Mahajana Pakshaya) in a joint letter, dated June 14, have appealed for the immediate intervention of the President and the Premier in this regard.

Prof. Tissa Vitharana and Alles are among 17 appointed to Parliament on the SLPP National List.

They warned that failure to take tangible measures against such actions would result in the deterioration of public confidence in the government. The SLPP parliamentary group comprises 145 MPs.

The group of lawmakers was responding to SLPP National List MP Kariyawasam’s controversial call for the immediate resignation of Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila over the sharp increase of fuel prices at midnight on June 11.

They issued the statement consequent to a hasty  meeting called at Minister Weerawansa’s official residence on Sunday.

Noting that the Presidential Secretariat, too, on Sunday confirmed that the decision to increase fuel prices had been taken on June 09 at a meeting chaired by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and attended by Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa, the group of MPs accused the SLPP General Secretary of causing a wholly unnecessary problem. The group alleged that MP Kariyawasam’s actions had caused suspicion among the electorate whether a clique was in operation in the SLPP.

Minister Gammanpila, embroiled in simmering controversy has refrained from signing the petition though he called another press conference today (15) to explain the developments.

 The group said that in view of the financial crisis that had been caused by the rampaging Covid-19 pandemic the government was forced to increase fuel prices in spite of it being an unpopular measure.

Political sources pointed out that in February this year MP Sagara Kariyawasam caused a media furore when he asked Minister Weerawansa to apologise for suggesting President Gotabaya Rajapaksa should be accommodated in the SLPP decision-making body. The group that has thrown its weight  behind Minister Gammanpila also clashed with a section of the SLPP lawmakers over the government bid to allow Indian investment at the East Container Terminal (ECT) of the Colombo port.

MP Kariyawasam did not answer his mobile phone.

In addition to MP Kariyawasam, MP Jagath Kumara (Colombo District) too strongly condemned the fuel price hike.

The SLPP MPs demanding action against Kariyawasam assured that they would soon submit a comprehensive proposal to President Rajapaksa to provide support to low income groups.

The Presidential Secretariat said that the price increase was necessitated by the financial crisis caused by the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) being heavily indebted  to the Bank of Ceylon  and the People’s Bank to the tune of Rs 737 bn. Of that sum, CPC owed Rs 652 bn, the biggest single amount in any of the state sector enterprises.

The Samagi Jana Balavegagaya MP Mujibur Rahman said that Minister Gammanpila owed an explanation why he made the announcement as regards the fuel price hike as the matter came under the purview of the Finance Ministry.  Rahman pointed out that Minister Gammanpila himself subsequently admitted that only the Finance Ministry could decide on this matter. The former UNP MP said that the government’s much touted claim that the decision to increase fuel prices had been finalized on June 09 at the Cost of Living Committee was nothing but a joke. “We thought the Cost of Living Committee was meant to provide relief to the people not to increase their burden,” MP Rahman said.

The SJB spokesperson ridiculed the statement issued by a group of eight MPs. He alleged that the SLPP was staging a drama to divert the attention of the public. Their parliamentary group should take up responsibility for the current crisis having promised to transform the country overnight. Those who had voted for the 20th Amendment in October last year as well as the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill last month were engaged in a futile campaign to save the government, the SJB MP said.

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Basil R wouldn’t have allowed fuel price increase – MP

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Gampaha District SLPP MP Nimal Lanza yesterday said that if Basil Rajapaksa had been in the country, he wouldn’t have allowed the fuel price increase. He said that he strongly opposed the decision as it seriously affected the people, particularly the fishing community.

 

 

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1198 lockdown violators arrested

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By Norman Palihawadane

The Police had arrested 1,198 people countrywide for violating lockdown regulations in the 24 hours that ended yesterday morning, police spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said.

A total of 32,593 persons had been arrested on the relevant charges since Oct 30, last year,  he said.

DIG Rohana said that special police teams had been deployed to continue the operations today as well to nab lockdown violators.

During the same period 3,051 persons travelling in 1,757 vehicles were inspected at 14 entry and exit points in the Western Province. Of them, 160 persons travelling in 100 vehicles were sent back for attempting to cross provincial borders for non-essential purposes, violating travel restrictions.

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