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Ex-IGP says he was at his official residence at the time of Easter Sunday attacks



By Rathindra Kuruwita

The police had not come up with a plan to deal with an impending terrorist attack after the State Intelligence Service (SIS) had received foreign intelligence, on April 04, 2019 that National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) leader Zahran Hashim and his associates would carry out an attack, former IGP Pujith Jayasundara on Saturday told the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) into the Easter Sunday attacks.

Earlier the Additional Solicitor General (ASG,) who led evidence asked the witness if the police had prepared a contingency plan to face emergency situations.

Jayasundara said that there were contingency plans at Police stations, Police divisions and at the national level.

“If the government declares an emergency, the plan is implemented as per the situation. The plan will be implemented through the IGP’s Command Room in Mirihana.”

A commissioner then asked Jayasundara why the plan had not been implemented although the Director of SIS, on 20 April, had informed him that a terrorist attack would take place on 21 April.

“I was at my official residence when I received the information. I took steps to inform the senior DIGs about it.”

“Where were you on the morning of 21 April?” a commissioner asked.

“I was at my official residence,” Jayasundara said.

The commission then asked why Jayasundara had been at his official residence instead of going to the IGP’s Command Room and taking any action.

Jayasundara said that he had instructed the SIS Director to inform the officials concerned about the relevant information.

“I had not been informed that there could be an attack on tourist hotels. Former SIS Director SDIG Jayawardena told me that the information received on 20 April was an update of the information received earlier. He only said there could be a serious incident on 21 April.”ness said.

Chairman of the Commission asked Jayasundara why SDIG Jayawardena and other SDIGs had not been summoned on the night of the 20 April to clarify the relevant information.

“At that time, we could only send officers to the relevant places. There was no time to discuss. Also, even though we were not aware, suicide bombers had also reached their targets by that time,” he said.

The ASG suggested that the Police had not paid enough attention to the information provided by the SIS for many years. The former IGP said that it was not correct.

“We never had a chance to question the information coming from the SIS. Given the political situation at the time, I was not even invited to the National Security Council meetings,” he said.

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Bid to use private member’s motion to put off LG polls alleged



By Shamindra Ferdinando

Former Foreign Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris has questioned the rationale behind President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s warning that the military will be deployed to curb protest vis-a-vis a Foreign Ministry undertaking to boost foreign trade and investment.

Addressing the Parliament, during the Budget committee stage debate, on 28 Nov., Prof. Peiris said the Foreign Ministry couldn’t expect to succeed in economic diplomacy while the government was resorting to repressive measures.

Prof. Peiris asked who would want to invest in a country where the people were warned of dire consequences if they held protests, and elections were arbitrarily postponed.

Referring to the long overdue Provincial Council polls, Prof. Peiris discussed how postponement of scheduled Local Government polls could further jeopardise Sri Lanka’s standing among the international community.

Prof. Peiris alleged that the government was planning to use private members’ motion submitted by Attorney-at-Law Premanath C. Dolawatta (SLPP, Colombo District) to put off scheduled Local Government polls further. The ex-Minister claimed that the motion meant to enhance youth representation in governance would be utilised to delay the polls indefinitely. He recalled how the Yahapalana government had postponed the Provincial Council elections indefinitely.

The rebel SLPP Chairman pointed out that the government had chosen MP Dolawatta’s motion, handed over recently, though SJB’s Imthiaz Bakeer Markar submitted a private member’s motion on the same lines much earlier.

MP Dolawatta handed over a copy of his motion to President Ranil Wickremesinghe on Oct 31. Prof. Peiris said that they wouldn’t find fault with the lawmaker for making proposals which the academic said were timely.

Prof. Peiris warned Foreign Minister Ali Sabry, PC, that Sri Lanka wouldn’t be an appealing destination for investments unless the government adopted tangible measures to curb corruption. Shocking disclosures at parliamentary watchdog committees underscored that corruption was at unprecedented level and needed immediate attention.

Speaking on behalf of the breakaway SLPP faction, Nidahasa Jathika Sabhawa aka Freedom People’s Congress Prof. Peiris said that the recent declaration by the World Bank that it would audit the procurement and distribution of fertiliser here meant that the world had no faith in our system.

Commenting on assurances given by the government that a new Anti-Corruption Bill would be introduced soon, Prof. Peiris said that existing laws were quite sufficient. The issue at hand is absence of political will to battle corruption, the former Minister said, meant flight of professionals and intolerable increase in taxes on business wouldn’t encourage Foreign Ministry’s drive.

At the onset of his speech, lawmaker Peiris asked whether the government was genuine about the recent declaration that the national issue could be resolved by the enactment of a new Constitution by the next Independence Day. Who would take such a promise seriously against the backdrop of all previous attempts undertaken by far more stable governments failing to achieve the desired results? the former law professor asked. The former minister also questioned the feasibility of forming an apparatus on the lines of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa. Prof. Peiris asked whether those now at the helm really had the wherewithal to meet the South African standards.

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State FM assures there won’t be shortage of milk powder



State Finance Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya told Parliament yesterday (29) that there would be no shortage of milk powder in the coming days due to the Customs holding a consignment of six containers of milk powder, imported into the country, for violating regulations.

Minister Siyambalapitiya said the six containers had 105,375 kilos of full cream milk powder, imported from New Zealand, via Malaysia. It reached the Colombo port on 20 Oct. It was only after the consignment had arrived in the Port that the importers submitted the letters to get the consignment released from the Controller Imports and Exports. Arrangements would be made to release the stock from the harbour on the recommendation of the Secretary to the Ministry of Trade and Food Security.

As such, there is no need for permission from the Controller Import and Export to release the stock, the minister said, adding that there were no limitations imposed on importing milk powder and there would be no cause for panic buying in fear of a shortage of milk powder in the coming days.

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SJB threatens to walk out of Chamber over MP Edirimanne reading AG’s report implicating Sajith



By Saman Indrajith

The SJB yesterday threatened to leave the Chamber if what it called derogatory remarks on Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa made by SLPP backbenchers, were not expunged from Hansard.

Chief Opposition Whip and Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella threatened to boycott the third reading debate on Budget 2023 if the Chair failed to conduct House proceedings, as per the Standing Orders of Parliament.

Kiriella said that as per Standing Orders, an MP could not abuse parliamentary privileges to level personal attacks on an Opposition Leader, or an MP, during their absence in the House. “If there are any charges, or accusations, against a particular MP, then that should have been raised through a substantive motion.”

Kiriella said so when SLPP backbencher from the Kalutara District Sanjeewa Edirimanne had alleged that Opposition Leader Premadasa was involved in financial misappropriation are regards the Central Cultural Fund.

Presiding member, Deputy Chairman of Committees, Angajan Ramanathan, said that the point of order raised by the Chief Opposition Whip had been noted and permitted MP Edirimanne to proceed.

As Edirimanne continued to speak of the CCF affair, Kiriella asked the Chair to stop Edirimanne.

Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said that MP Edirimanne was making his speech on the basis of an Auditor General’s report and therefore it should be permitted.

Kandy District SLPP MP Mahindananda Aluthgamage, too, stood Edirimanne.

Kiriella said it amounted to character assassination and the MPs who have only three years of parliamentary experience should study the Standing Orders. “The CCF matter has been investigated by several institutions. The Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption has ruled that there was no evidence to prove the allegations against the Opposition leader in the CCF affairs.

It is now before the parliamentary watchdog committee – COPE. How could that matter, under investigation, be abused to level allegations against the Opposition Leader?”

Kiriella asked the Chair to stop the violation of Standing Orders and give a ruling on the matter immediately or otherwise they would walk out of the Chamber.

Deputy Chairman of Committees Ramanathan told MP Edirimanne to refrain from levelling personal attacks on MPs who were not present in the Chamber.

MP Aluthgamage: It is not possible to assassinate a character of a person if that person has no such character. There is no character assassination in this instance.

Kiriella: We will walk out. As per the Standing Orders on character and conduct of an MP could not be debated in this manner.

As Kiriella led SJB MPs to walk out the Chamber, the Deputy Chairman of Committees promised to refer the matter to the Speaker for a ruling.

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