By Rathindra Kuruwita
National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) leader Zahran Hashim and his associates had initially planned to carry out a suicide attack in 2020, former SDIG of the CID, Ravi Seneviratne on Friday night told the PCoI investigating the Easter Sunday attacks.
Seneviratne said that while they were aware of Zahran’s ideology, it was during the CID investigations into the Jihadist Training Camp at Wanathawilluwa that they had found his direct involvement with extremists.
Seneviratne had earlier said that they presented former IGP Pujith Jayasundara with a report on the Jihadist training camp and information elicited from the suspects arrested at the camp on January 26, 2019. However, as the IGP was banned from attending the National Security Council (NSC), the report could not be sent there.
The AG’s Department representative leading the evidence asked the witness if he had also received a letter in early April 2019, sent by former Director of the State Intelligence Service (SIS) SDIG Nilantha Jayawardena about a possible terrorist attack.
“Jayawardena sent it to the former IGP on April 09, 2019 about the attacks. On April 16, 2019, I got a copy of the letter from Jayasundara. I was out of the country on an official visit and I only came to office on April 16. We were to arrest those who were mentioned in the letter. So I forwarded the letter to Director of the CID, Shani Abeysekera and ASP Wickramasekera. But Shani had only seen the letter on April 23, 2019, after the attack.”
The AG’s Department representative then asked the witness if he had received a text message from the former SIS Director on the morning of April 21 warning that an attack would take place on that day. The former SDIG said had seen that text after the bomb explosions.
The AG’s Department official said: “After the attacks, MP Harin Fernando told the media that his father had asked him not to go to Church on April 21. From what was revealed at the PCoI, police sergeant Nandalal, who was involved in CID investigations into the Mawanella Buddha statue vandalisation and the Wanathawilluwa Jihadist camp, had called Harin’s father on April 20 night. It is likely that Nandalal warned him of the attacks. How would CID officials know about such an attack on April 20?”
Seneviratne said that although he was not aware how Nandalal had received information about the attacks, Nilantha Jayawardena, on April 20, had informed him that a terror attack would take place on April 21. “I shared that information with Shani and ASP Wickramesekera,” the witness said.
Seneviratne also told the PCoI about NTJ preparations for the attacks. The witness said that Zahran and his associates were planning to carry out an attack from 2017. Unhappy about the progress they had made in 2018, Zahran had asked Shaheed Abdul-Haq, who was behind vandalizing Buddha statues in Mawanella, to attack the statues.
Seneviratne said: “Zahran also asked those who were with him, if they wanted to become fighters or suicide bombers. While Zahran was away, NTJ members decided to carry out suicide attacks outside Sri Lanka. However Zahran then motivated them to carry out attacks here. They decided that the attacks should take place in 2020. However, by the first week of April 2019, Zahran decided to launch the attack as soon as possible. Although there were initial disagreements, NTJ members agreed by April 09 and by April 17, they decided to launch the attacks on Easter Sunday, which fell on April 21. Looking at these revelations I felt that Zahran was being handled by someone else. I wanted to find out who this was before I retired.”
At his point the AG’s Department official wrote a name on a piece of paper and showed it to Seneviratne . “Could this be the person?” he asked the witness.
“Yes, it is possible. The name you showed me had worked with Zahran,” Seneviratne said.
The former SDIG overseeing the CID also revealed that NTJ had arranged for a hiding place where those who failed to carry out the suicide attack could gather. “This was a place of worship in Colombo. The person who failed to carry out the attack should get there and tell another person that he was there. Then a person would come to pick up the unsuccessful attacker and take him to a safe house.”
Seneviratne also wrote the name of the person who was to transport the unsuccessful attackers into a safe house. The witness said that person had been arrested.
“We must find out those who handled Zahran. Until they are revealed, the threat to national security will always be there,” he said.
Members of the PCoI also asked Seneviratne if the NTJ had received financial aid from an Islamic State. The witness said that the CID had not been able to find such a link. “We found about 42 bank accounts belonging to this group. They all belong to Sri Lankans and the money had been provided by the Ibrahim brothers (Mohamed Ibrahim Insaf Ahmed who carried out the suicide bombing at Cinnamon Grand Hotel in Colombo and Mohamed Ibrahim Ilham Ahmed who carried out the suicide bombing at Shangri- La hotel in Colombo).”
There’s nothing prescribed as Parliament has failed to enact legislation for contempt of court — Sumanthiran
TNA MP M. A. Sumanthiran, in an intervention in Parliament, said he was privileged to appear for Ranjan Ramanayake, a clean, honest politician in the Supreme Court and he was proud of that.
Nevertheless, Ranjan Ramanayake was convicted and sentenced. The sentence of four years’ rigorous imprisonment was unprecedented and exceptionally severe, and Parliament has a responsibility in this regard because we have not enacted a law for contempt of court, the MP noted.
At the outset, he said, “I want to flag one or two issues concerning the responsibility of the Parliament in this regard. But before I do that I am bound by law and tradition to disclose my interest in the matter. I am the counsel who appeared for Hon. Ranjan Ramanayake in the Supreme Court”.
This has an implication to the article in the constitution that the Hon. Leader of the Opposition just mentioned because it says for an offense for which the prescribed punishment is two years or more. But there’s nothing prescribed, nothing prescribed in the law because for long Parliament has failed to enact legislation for contempt of court, the TNA MP said.
Although there had been in the public as well, a lot of instances where drafts have been made, we have not done that – that is one. And by failing to do that, it has been like the freedom of the wild ass; anything can be given as a sentence and that is not a good thing. I don’t want to go into the merits of the case or anything like that, but in this case Parliament has to take steps, to enact a law, he further said.
English law is supposed to be the substantive law because we don’t have a statute law now, and in English law itself scandalizing the court is no longer an offence of contempt of court. But unfortunately the court disregarded that, and has misdirected itself – that’s my position, Sumanthiran continued.
“But I want to bring to your notice a serious lacuna in the law with regard to a statue for contempt of court that has resulted in this unprecedented injustice to an honest Member of Parliament”, he added.
Colombo share market gallops to all time highs
The Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) galloped last week with the benchmark All Share Price Index (ASPI) hitting an all time high on Monday and improving on that performance on subsequent trading days to close the week at 8,463 points on Friday. The more liquid S&P Index that normally trails the ASPI also gained sharply though less so than the benchmark index.
Brokers and analysts attributed the surge to prevailing low interest rates and said that people holding funds in fixed interest instruments have seen greater potential in the stock market and have so far not been proved wrong.
“Take the case of vehicle importers,” said one businessman. “With imports disallowed, cash that would have been once used to replenish inventory becomes available for investment elsewhere. The stock market is a magnet for such funds.”
Also, many companies have resorted to a share split strategy to make their shares both more liquid and more affordable on the market.
“Take the example of a fifty-rupee share split into two. Theoretically, it should then trade at Rs. 25 a share after the split. But often it does better than that at no cost to the company that had split the share because its stated capital remains what it was,” explained and analyst.
“It’s different in the case of bonus shares or scrip issues as they are called where reserves are capitalized to pay for the new shares priced at realistic values.”
Last week the Hayleys conglomerate announced share splits in over a dozen group companies. These ranged from each share being split into ten in the parent company (Hayleys) and thriving subsidiaries like Haycarb and Dipped Products while other companies like Kingsbury split a share into two.
Brokers and analysts said that the current market surge was largely driven by the Dhammika Perera controlled Hayleys and the Ishara Nanayakkara controlled LOLC groups.
Last week Hayleys announced over a dozen share splits including in its recently acquired Singer Group companies. The majority of these involved dividing each share into two though at Singer Sri Lanka each share will be split into three.
The biggest share split ever proposed is one that is pending at EB Creasy (EBC) where each share is to be split into 100. The seldom traded EBC share is quoted at the top end of the CSE sharelist. Analysts said the massive split is intended to pump liquidity into the share and make it more affordable.
“There’s a lot of retail play in the market right now with new investors who recently took some risk doing very nicely in this bull run,” a broker said.
The CSE hit rock bottom after a seven-week closure in March last year.
Covid-19 has now spread geographically across SL
In small numbers to an extensive region
Pandemic situation in Western Province improves
by Suresh Perera
Though there are no big Covid-19 clusters at present, the dreaded virus has spread geographically across the country due to the unrestricted movement of people, a senior medical official said.
“The transmission of the contagion in small numbers to an extensive region was inevitable in a society which remains ‘open’ with inter-provincial travel happening on a daily basis”, says Dr. Hemantha Herath, Deputy Director of Public Health Services.
He said the spillover from the Western province was expected as there was an outflow of people to other districts particularly during the festive season.
“I am not blaming anybody, but a lockdown was not viable when taking into account the economic consequences and the livelihoods of the people. We could have imposed a curfew to restrict travel during the New Year, but we have to consider the fallout of such a measure”, he noted.
It true that geographically numbers have increased within a wide area, but the numbers are small and there are no big clusters as seen at Minuwangoda and Peliyagoda, the senior medical official explained.
Asked whether the pandemic has translated into a community spread as considerable positive cases continue to emerge on a daily basis, Dr. Herath replied, “no, that has not happened. If the Covid-19 situation was beyond control, we would have made a social and community transmission declaration”.
He said the pandemic situation in the Western province has improved with a dip in positive cases. However, the spillover is evident by the jump in figures at provincial level.
“We knew there was a risk, but we had to take it as locking down the country was not the solution
For example, if a Covid-19 patient infects two persons per day, there will be 200 positive cases within 100 days and one can imagine the critical situation that will emerge if the trend is allowed to continue, Dr. Herath continued.
“We are now managing under 1,000 cases per day”, he said, while assuring that the right mechanism is in place to identify positive cases through PCR and rapid antigen screening and place them under medical treatment, isolate and quarantine first contacts of patients”, he further said.
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