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‘Exodus of officers from SIS after 2015 played significant role in its inability to prevent Easter attacks’

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

A large number of senior intelligence officers had left the service after 2015 and that had caused the inability of the service to prevent the Easter Sunday attacks, former acting Director of the SIS, retired ASP Parakrama Lankapura told the PCoI investigating the Easter Sunday attacks on Wednesday night.

Lankapura said that producing an experienced intelligence officer was as difficult and resource intensive as producing a diplomat and that losing senior officers affected the intelligence services.

The witness said that the State Intelligence Service (SIS) had the ability act upon the foreign intelligence report on 20 April 2019, warning of a terrorist attack the following day and deploy its own officers in civvies.

Lankapura said that after learning that National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) leader Zahran Hashim and his associates could launch a terrorist attack, the SIS could have informed hotels and churches of it. He said that SIS had various divisions that had cultivated contacts in almost all institutions and through such divisions it could have warned the Archbishop of Colombo, Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith and hotel owners.

“Institutions such as the Criminal Investigations Department, the Terrorism Investigation Division and the Directorate of Military Intelligence could have also been notified as soon as possible. This information could have been disseminated through the media. Never in our history have we waited for others to do such things. The SIS is capable of carrying out operations.”

Lankapura also said that the SIS should have informed all senior officers of the imminent attacks and if anyone could not be contacted, SIS officers should have gone to their homes and inform them.

The witness was then cross examined by President’s Counsel Shamil Perera, appearing for the Archbishop of Colombo. Lankapura was asked if the warning sent on 04 April 2019 about an imminent attack by a foreign agency was reliable. Lankapura said the SIS had maintained files on Zahran and several other suspects mentioned in the intelligence report. The SIS already knew that Zahran and his associates were extremists, he said.

“Given this, it is doubtful if then Director of the SIS, Senior DIG Nilantha Jayawardena, who has years of experience, had sought advice from the then Chief of National Intelligence, Sisira Mendis on the intelligence information,” the witness said.

Jayawardena earlier said after receiving the report on 04 April 2019, he had asked Mendis for his advice.

Lankapura said that he had decided to retire at the age of 53 due to pressure from Jayawardena and two other officers had also resigned from the SIS for the same reason. He said that although he had worked as Jayawardena’s Personal Assistant, the latter had not shared intelligence information with him sufficiently.

Later, Attorney-at-Law Madu Jayathilake appearing for Jayawardena, cross- examined the witness.

 

Jayathilake:

“How many promotions have you received during your time at the Police?”

Witness:

“I received about four promotions.”

Jayathilake:

“Do you accept that the SIS sent only five intelligence reports on extremism to the relevant departments during the period from 2009 to 2015?”

Witness:

“I deny that. Intelligence reports are sent by the Director, and I was not the Director at that time.”

Jayathilake:

“You said that the intelligence information received about the Easter Sunday bombings could have been disseminated through the media. Did you take action to do so when the intelligence information received that there could be a bomb attack on the Temple of the Tooth Relic?”

Witness: “I don’t remember. I can make a statement only after studying the files.”

Jayathilake:

“Can you tell me of any instance where the SIS told media about an imminent attack?”

Witness:

“I can’t say off hand.”

Jayathilake then suggested that Lankapura had been continuously chastised by his superiors for his inefficiency. The witness denied this claim and said that Jayawardena had to appoint five people to do what he had done.

Jayathilake told Lankapura that his replacements had sent about 300 intelligence reports about Zahran and his associates within a year, the witness said that he was not aware of it.

Jayathilake:

“Did you know that the SIS had informed the relevant authorities that Zahran and his group were involved in extremist activities in Wanathawilluwa and Mawanella areas.”

Lankapura replied that he had no knowledge of what had happened since he left the SIS.

Jayathilake further asked the witness if he accepted that the SIS had established foreign relations with only five countries before 2015 and had established relations with 25 countries after Jayawardena became its Director. In reply, Lankapura said that he did not accept that.



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Cabraal: Prez appoints members to Port City Economic Commission

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By Shyam Nuwan Ganewatta

The President of the country would always appoint members to the Colombo Port City Economic Commission, entrusted with running of that city under the proposed CPCEC Bill, State Minister of Money & Capital Market and State Enterprise Reforms, Ajith Nivard Cabraal, yesterday, told the media, in Colombo.

State Minister Cabraal said that most critics of the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill had not even read it.

“Sri Lankans don’t need to obtain a visa to enter the Port City as some claim. The Port City will be administered by the Colombo Port City Economic Commission and the Bill we have presented details how the area will be governed,” Cabraal said responding to a question posed by a journalist.

The State Minister said that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had asked him to counter the misinformation and fake news that was being spread about the Bill. Once people have read and understood the Bill, most who criticise it would have to change their tune, the Minister said.

 

Journalists also questioned the State Minister on the allegations levelled by MP Wijeyadasa Rajapakse. The State Minister said that Rajapakse had not even asked a question about the Bill during the Parliamentary Group meetings.

“As I said earlier, the Port City will be administered by Colombo Port City Economic Commission. All members are appointed by the President. The Chairman of the Commission too is appointed by the President. The President can get rid of them anytime he wants,” Cabraal said.

The State Minister added that no one would be allowed to withdraw money or assets from Sri Lanka and invest in the Port City. “This is a special economic zone. We need to attract foreign direct investments. We need to have ease of doing business in this zone and we have to make it an important financial hub in the region.”

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Two hotels to be built obstructing elephant corridor in Sinharaja – MONLAR

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Forest land being cleared for the construction of a hotel

By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Bowitiyatenna elephant corridor, used by elephants in Sinharaja to travel to Dellawa – Walankanda forest had been obstructed by two businessmen by clearing a section of the forest to build hotels, Sajeeewa Chamikara of the Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) said.

“One hotel is being constructed in the Dolekanda Grama Niladari area after clearing seven acres of forest land. The Kalawana Divisional Secretariat has approved the construction of the hotel ignoring environmental regulations. Right now, forests are being cleared, land is being prepared and buildings are being constructed using heavy equipment.”

Another hotel was being built at the Bowitiyatenna Elephant Corridor, situated in Godakawela Divisional Secretariat area by a businessman from Godakawela. He has cleared around eight acres of forest land, the environmentalist said.

The two hotels were obstructing the elephant corridors used by the remaining two elephants in the Sinharaja Forest Reserve. Now, the the people of Rambuka, Thanawela, Ellagama, Handiyekade, Kajugaswatte, Pothupitiya, Kopikella and Cypresswatte would have the elephans marauding their villages, the environmentalist said, adding that the residents of those villages would lose property and lives due to the hotels being constructed by obstructing the elephant corridors.

“Most of the forest areas surrounding the Sinharaja are to be annexed to the Forest Reserve because they are an important part of the forest network. These unscrupulous businessmen and politicians supporting them are attempting to carve out as much land as possible before these areas receive protected status. They are also doing their best to delay the declaration of these lands as protected areas.”

Chamikara said that the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) had the power to take action against those who carried out such illegal activities.

According to Section 23 (a.) (a.) of the National Environmental Act, when a project is carried out without environmental clearance, the CEA can produce such people before a magistrate’s court. If found guilty, a person can be fined up to Rs. 15,000 or imprisoned up to two years or subjected to both.

Chamikara said: “According to Article 27(14) of Chapter VI of the Sri Lankan constitution the state shall protect, preserve and improve the environment for the benefit of the community.” However, the CEA seems to have no interest in taking action against those who are building these hotels illegally. This is CEA’s attitude to almost all major environmental destruction that seems to be taking place these days.

“The government is silent when the Sinharaja forest is degraded and elephant corridors are closed by businessmen. The right to land seems to be a right reserved only for businessmen. We have the right to oppose these under article 28. (f) of the Constitution which states that we have a fundamental duty ‘to protect nature and conserve its riches.’ Article 28. (e) states that we also have a fundamental duty ‘to respect the rights and freedoms of others.’ Thus, we, the citizens have the right to oppose the illegal use of natural resources by powerful businessmen. If we do not oppose these moves as citizens, powerful businessmen will take over all our natural assets like they are doing at Sinharaja.”

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RDHS predicts Coronavirus spike in Jaffna over the weekend

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By Dinasena Ratugamage

There might be a spike in COVID-19 cases in Jaffna this weekend, A.

Kethiswaran, Regional Director Health Services told the media yesterday. Dr. Kethiswaran made the prediction after 26 new cases were detected in Jaffna.

A large number of COVID-19 cases had been reported from 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 locked down, he said.

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