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Ex-Defence Secy claims he was never shown Military Intelligence reports



Easter Sunday probe:

By Rathindra Kuruwita

Former Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando, on Tuesday, claimed, before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI), investigating the Easter Sunday attacks, that he had never seen intelligence reports sent by the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) to the Defence Ministry, regarding National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) Leader Zahran Hashim and his extremist activities.

Fernando said so when the Commissioners drew Fernando’s attention to several intelligence reports shared by the DMI, between January and April 21, 2019, with the Defence Ministry. After going through the reports, the former Defence Secretary said that he had never seen them before.

“Former Chief of National Intelligence (CNI) Sisira Mendis didn’t inform me of the reports shared by DMI. I see that these reports contained information that I could have used to take certain preventive measures.”

When shown a DMI report, presented at an Intelligence Review Meeting (IRM), stating that Zahran may have fled to India in March, 2019, the witness said he had never seen the document, but he was aware that the State Intelligence Service (SIS) had rejected that DMI report.

“The SIS believed that Zahran was in the country by March 2019. This tallied with CID’s opinions.”

The witness added that he had been displeased with officials, including former CNI, for not sharing DMI intelligence reports with him.

Fernando added that, according to the Constitution, the President had to appoint an acting Defence Minister when he travelled overseas.

“However, former President Maithripala Sirisena didn’t appoint anyone as the acting Defence Minister when he left the country on April 16, 2019,” Fernando said.

Fernando said he had contacted former Director of State Intelligence Service (SIS) Nilantha Jayawardena on several occasions after the motorcycle bomb explosion at Kattankudy on 16 April, 2019, but the latter had never informed him that it was the work of Zahran Hashim and his associates.

Answering a question posed by the Additional Solicitor General (ASG,) who led the evidence about the incident, Fernando added that although SDIG Jayawardena had sent him some photos related to the incident through WhatsApp, they were not clear.

The witness was also asked about the detection of a stock of explosives at the Jihadist training camp in Wanathawilluwa on 16 January, 2019.

Fernando said he had been informed of the detection, but he did not think those explosives could be used for a terrorist attack.

A commissioner asked the witness if he had been able to assess the damage that could be caused by the explosives. Fernando he had no expertise in the subject.


Cardinal: Was there any link between passage of 20A and Easter Sunday probe outcome?



… stands by his claim of foreign involvement

By Norman Palihawadana

Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith yesterday said that there could be a connection between the outcome of the probe into the Easter Sunday attacks and the enlisting of Muslim MPs’ support for the passage of the 20th Amendment.

The Cardinal said: “The leader of a Muslim political party voted against the 2Oth Amendment. But his MPs voted for it. The brother of Rishad Bathiudeen too was released around the same time. These are questionable developments. These events could be part of a deal.”

The Cardinal reiterated that international forces were behind the Easter Sunday attacks and that he did not believe that there had been any local political group directly involved in the Easter attacks.

Addressing the media yesterday, the Cardinal said that the remarks he made on Sunday had been misunderstood. He stood by his claim that international forces had been behind the attacks, he said.

“However, some people claim that I said a local political group was behind the attack. I have always maintained that there are international forces that use religious and ethnic extremists such as Wahabists to create conflicts. I was referring to such groups.”

The Cardinal added that only a small group of Muslims was involved in extremism.

The Archbishop also said that former President Maithripala Sirisena believed that taking action against extremists like NTJ leader Zahran Hashim would create unnecessary issues.

“Something along these lines is also in the PCoI on Easter Sunday attacks. The report also implies that the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was lenient in dealing with growing extremism in Sri Lanka.”

The Cardinal urged the government to protect the country and ensure that there would be no repeats of incidents like the Easter Sunday attacks.

The Archbishop of Colombo requested all religious leaders to work on rebuilding trust among all communities.



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AG appeals to Supreme Court against granting of bail to Ravi, others



The Attorney General yesterday appealed to the Supreme Court against bail for former Minister Ravi Karunanayake and seven others indicted in the bond case by the Colombo Special High Court Trial-at-Bar.

The eight accused were arrested and remanded over the bond scams. Later, they were released on bail.

The court warned that if the accused attempted to exert influence on the witnesses, by any means, bail would be revoked and they would be placed on remand until the end of the trial.



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26 more coronavirus cases detected in Jaffna Tirunelveli market area



Another 26 COVID-19 cases had been detected on Sunday, from the Tirunelveli Market in Jaffna, which was the epicentre of the recent outbreak in the town, Dr. A. Kethiswaran, Regional Director Health Services told the media yesterday.

The market and its surroundings had been reopened on April 11 following a 19-day lockdown. However, 378 PCR tests were conducted after the Sinhala and Tamil New Year and 26 of them proved positive.

Dr. Kethiswaran warned last week that there might be a spike in COVID-19 cases in Jaffna after the New Year celebrations.

A large number of COVID-19 cases had been reported in Jaffna in the past few weeks. Thus, the people should adhere to health guidelines. If people did not follow the guidelines, there would be a spike in cases and then some places would have to be lockdown, he warned.

“It’s too early to say whether we have to close the area down. We are monitoring the situation,” DR. Kethiswaran said.

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