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



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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SF claims thousands of police and military personnel leaving



By Saman Indrajith

Thousands of police and military personnel had left the services recently as they did not want to carry out illegal orders, Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka told Parliament yesterday. According to the war-winning army commander 200 policemen have resigned during the past two months and 25,000 soldiers have left the army during the last two years.

“We urged the law enforcement and military officials not to follow illegal orders. We will reinstate them with back pay,” he said.

Fonseka also urged the President and the government MPs not to take people for fools.

“Sri Lanka owes 55 billion dollars to the world. Ranil’s plan is to borrow another seven billion during the next four years. So, in four years we will owe 62 billion to the world.

Ranil and his ministers ask us what the alternative to borrowing is. These are the people who destroyed the economy and society. They must leave. Then, we will find an alternative and develop the country,” he said, adding that the IMF loans had made crises in other nations worse.

“Ranil says that by 2025, we will have a budget surplus as in Japan, Germany and South Korea. These countries are economic power houses, and this comparison is ludicrous.”

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CEB hit by exodus of technical staff



By Shiran Ranasinghe

At least five technical personnel of the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) resigned daily for overseas employment, a senior CEB official said.They included electrical engineers, electricians and foremen, he added.

“Most of them are quitting due to the economic crisis while others are simply disillusioned. Trained and experienced technical staff are in high demand in many countries,” he said.

CEB United Trade Union Alliance President Ranjan Jayalal said that the CEB had lost about 2,000 employees in recent times due to the above reasons.

“We had about 24,000 such personnel a few months ago. Now the number has come down to 22,000. A number of people had to retire on 31 December, 2022.

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Sajith questions sudden decision to charge Rs. 225,000 from students following NDES



By Saman Indrajith

The government had decided to charge Rs 225,000 from those enrolling at the Institute of Engineering Technology, Katunayake under the National Apprentice and Industrial Training Authority (NAITA), Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa said yesterday in Parliament.

Premadasa said that the institute awards the National Diploma in Engineering Sciences (NDES) and no fee was charged from students until 2023.The IET awards the National Diploma in Engineering Sciences under the three major fields of civil, electrical and mechanical engineering, and eight sub-fields.

“This is an institute that has created over ten thousand tier two engineers. NDES is a four year programme,” he said.

The opposition leader said that the sudden decision to charge 225,000 rupees from students at a time when the average Sri Lankan family is facing significant economic challenges is unfair.

“This institute offered free tuition. We should continue this tradition. A large number of engineers are leaving the country and we need to ensure that we have a continuous supply of engineers to ensure we can maintain our essential technical services,” he said.

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