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Ex-CNI says he grappled with inadequate funding

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Office of the Chief of National Intelligence (CNI) had not been able to maintain contacts with informants due to inadequate fund allocations, former CNI Sisira Mendis yesterday told  the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) investigating the Easter Sunday attacks.

Asked by Commissioner whether the CNI’s office had maintained contacts on the field, Mendis said that funds were required for that purpose.

“We didn’t even have good vehicles. We needed money and other facilities to maintain a network of informants.

But funds were always in short supply.”

Mendis said that when he assumed duties on July 28, 2015, there had been about 22 army officers in the CNI’s office including a Lieutenant Colonel, but he was arrested by the CID. He was replaced. Then there were two majors. All of them were good officers.”

It was also revealed at the commission that although Mendis assumed duties on July 28, 2015, his appointment letter said that he had taken over as the CNI on April 10, 2015.

The Attorney General’s Department (ADG) Official, who led evidence, asked the witness whether that undermined his office from the very beginning. “You might be held responsible for something that happened when you were not in charge at all,” she said.

Mendis also said that he had been paid a salary of Rs. 42,000, a fuel allowance of Rs. 20,000 and a phone allowance of Rs. 8,000.

Mendis, 69, retired from the police in 2011 as a DIG.

The Rs. 42,000 is the pension he received.

The former CNI said he had found employment in the private sector after retiring in 2011. In April 2015, B. M. U. D. Basnayake called Mendis and asked if he was interested in becoming CNI, as the post had fallen vacant after Maj. Gen. (Retd.) Kapila Hendawitharana left on January 09, 2015. He had been hesitant initially, but he had been assured that he would receive the kind of support Hendawitharana had from former Defence secretary, Gotabaya Rajapaksa and other senior officers, Mendis said.

“Two persons called and assured me of this,” Mendis said. The names of the two officials were not revealed to the media.

“I had seen how Hendawitharana operated when I was the Director and DIG of the CID. I saw him coordinate with all intelligence agencies. How everyone cooperated with him and the support the current President gave when he was the Defence secretary and I felt confident that I too could do so.”

 

 

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Hemasiri’s counsel complains to PCoI against ex-President Sirisena’s media statement

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… says it has placed the life of his client at risk

By Rathindra Kuruwita

Former President Maithripala Sirisena had placed ex-Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando’s life at risk by issuing a media statement that the evidence given by the latter before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) investigating the Easter Sunday attacks was “malicious and fictitious”, Attorney-at-Law Dilshan Jayasuriya appearing for Fernando said yesterday.

Jayasuriya told the PCoI that by issuing that statement Sirisena had also undermined the PCoI.

Sirisena, on Sunday, issued a press release claiming that the testimony given by Fernando at the PCoI about his behavior was completely false.

“I vehemently deny what was said at the Commission by Fernando. These are malicious and fictitious statements and I wish to reiterate to the public that Fernando’s statements are false,” Sirisena said.

Counsel Jayasuriya pointed out that by disseminating such an idea, the former President was trying to intimidate the former Defence Secretary who was still testifying before the PCoI. Sirisena, who was a former President, a current Parliamentarian and a party leader, was powerful and thus, there were now concerns about the security of his client, Jayasuriya said.

The counsel said that it was up to the Commission to decide whether Fernando’s evidence was true or false.

Issuing of a statement undermining Fernando by Sirisena, who was the Commander-in-Chief, the Minister of Defence and the Minister in charge of law and order at the time of the Easter Sunday attacks, was a very bad precedent, the counsel for the ex-Defence Secretary said.

“The former President has been given the opportunity to crossexamine Fernando. However, he has issued press releases. People will be afraid to tell the truth openly if powerful people start issuing press releases on judicial matters,” counsel Jayasuriya added.

Jayasuriya requested the Commission that Sirisena’s Personal Secretary, Sameera de Silva, who issued this media statement, be summoned before the Commission. Silva should explain why he should not be charged with contempt of court. He also requested the Commission to take measures to ensure the safety of his client.

When the Commission asked the counsel appearing for the former President if he had anything to say in that regard, he said that he had not received any advice from his client. Accordingly, the Chairman of the Commission ordered that if there was anything to be said by Sirisena in that regard, it be presented before the Commission today through his legal representatives.

The Additional Solicitor General, who is leading Fernando’s evidence, also informed the Commission that she hoped to comment on the matter once the explanations were made by the former President.

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Kandy tragedy:

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What remains of the building that collapsed

Ill-fated building constructed on loose soil

By Ifham Nizam

Structural engineers’ approval was essential for the construction of building in hilly areas, a senior scientist said.

The National Building Research Organization (NBRO) Director (Landslide Research and Risk Management Division) R.M.S. Bandara told The Island to ascertain the real cause of the building collapse in Kandy on Sunday, an investigation would be conducted within the course of this week. “Initially we thought that could be done in two days or so,” he said

Bandara said that they would work with the Kandy Municipal Council Building Department to find out whether the original plan of the structure had been changed.

According to Senior Chartered Geologist Laksiri Indritilake, who was at the site, the NBRO team was carrying out the technical inquiry into the incident. He said as per their observations the collapsed building was an ad-hoc construction which had been erected blocking a valley path.

“Water flows from above grounds via a valley path. From our preliminary observations, it was evident that this building has been constructed blocking such a valley path. No safety precautions had been taken.”

“The multi-storyed building has been constructed on loose layers of soil in the respective valley region, and the building had caved-in, as the soil layers could not bear the weight of the construction,” said Samantha Bogahapitiya – NBRO’s Geologist in-charge of the Kandy district.

According to him, four families in the area have been were temporarily relocated as a precaution measure.

Meanwhile, Chairman of the Geological and Mines Bureau, Anura Walpola said that the collapse had not been caused by a tremor.

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SJB MPs decide unanimously to oppose 20A

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by Akitha Perera

The Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) would oppose the 20th amendment to the constitution to be presented to Parliament, today, Chief Opposition Whip, MP Lakshman Kiriella said yesterday.

The SJB had studied all the proposed amendment in detail and they couldn’t agree with any of them, he said. Therefore, the SJB had no choice but to work with like-minded forces inside and outside parliament to prevent the bill from becoming law, the MP said.

Kiriella said that SJB MPs HAS met yesterday in Parliament to discuss the matter and they unanimously agreed to oppose the amendment given the weakening of checks and balances imposed by the 19th amendment to the Constitution.

The Chief Opposition Whip said that the replacement of the constitutional council with a parliamentary council, the weakening of the independent commissions, increasing the powers of the executive presidency and removing a number of key institutions from the purview of the auditor general were proposals that would not be accepted by any democratic minded person.

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