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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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LIOC seeks to expand operations

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by Ifham Nizam

Power and Energey Minister Kanchana Wijesekera yesterday revealed that Lanka Indian Oil Company (LIOC) had asked for permission to set up 50 new filling stations in the country and take over a certain number of petrol sheds currenlty under the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC). The government had asked the LIOC to increases the supply of fuel, in case Sri Lanka agreed to the Indian proposal,Wijesekera added.

Sri Lanka was facing daunting challenges as regards fuel distribution and it might not be able to get rid of fuel queues anytime soon, Minister Wijesekera said.Speaking to journalists yesterday, in Colombo, Wijesekera said that plans were underway to introduce a token system for fuel dispensation.He said the new scheme could come into effect from today (27) and the Police, and the armed forces will help implement it.

He also said that four separate groups from the Ministry were working on petrol, diesel, crude / furnace oil, and jet fuel imports. “We asked Lanka IOC to increase fuel supply and CEYPETCO to purchase diesel from them. But they asked for a price revision before that according to the pricing formula. That’s why we revised the price in a situation where there was no fuel in the country.”

The moves came as the government increased fuel prices with effect from the wee hours of Sunday wee hours. Petrol (Octane 92) now sells at Rs 470 per litre and Octane 95 at Rs. 550 per litre. Auto Diesel sells at Rs 460 per litre and Super Diesel at Rs 520 per litre.The Minister said they were working on 130-plus proposals for fuel delivery to Sri Lanka.

“USD 500 million is something that Sri Lanka cannot afford at this juncture. Therefore, consumption will have to be slashed, and fuel for public transport prioritized. Two ministers will fly to Russia today for discussions on fuel and related matters,” he said.The Minister said that bunker suppliers had been granted permission to deliver fuel for industries that deal in US currency.

He also said that overseas fuel companies based in countries that produce fuel, would be invited to set up business in Sri Lanka, as the CPC alone could not import fuel.

He said the CPC would become a more service-provider-based institution to facilitate fuel imports, and it had 9000 MT of diesel and the IOC 10,000 MT while the CPC had about 6000 MT of Petrol and the IOC about 8000 MT, of petrol.He said the IOC was issuing about 300 MT a day and their next shipment was due only after 10 July.

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Economic crisis: Govt. MPs slam Cabinet, Finance Ministry

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‘How come SLPA paid to Treasury just a faction of massive revenue earned in six years?’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

T wo SLPP MPs, Dr. Nalaka Godahewa and Madura Vithanage have, at different forums, lashed out at the government for the rapidly deteriorating status of the public sector finance. Godahewa has warned that economic recovery will not be possible unless the government restructured nearly 400 loss making public sector enterprises or at least take tangible measures to cut down on recurring losses.The former Media Minister, who represents the Gampaha District, said so addressing a group of Gampaha-based professionals and entrepreneurs recently.

Alleging that the failure, on the part of the government to establish an all-party government, contributed to the further deterioration of the situation, Dr. Godahewa emphasized the urgent need to curb, what he called, unbridled corruption as part of the efforts to revive the economy.The Gampaha District MP asked whether the current dispensation has addressed the issues at hand with a sense of responsibility.The MP questioned the composition of the Cabinet-of-Ministers, especially the appointment of UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe as the Premier, in spite of his party having just one seat in Parliament, against the backdrop of even the government parliamentary group not being properly represented.

Dr. Godahewa warned that SriLankan Airlines, the Ceylon Electricity Board, and the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) would deny the country an opportunity to recover as they remained a massive burden on taxpayers. The One-time top level private sector executive said that the Cabinet-of-Ministers lacked the strength to take crucial decisions. But, the situation would have been different if the Cabinet-of-Ministers included representatives of the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) and other political parties. Dr. Godahewa declared that the government couldn’t take decisions on sensitive matters as long as it didn’t command political power.

Meanwhile, Colombo District MP Vithanage has questioned the responsibility, on the part of the Finance Ministry, in the overall deterioration of public sector finance with the focus on the handling of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) at a recent meeting of the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE). The lawmaker alleged that the Finance Ministry had conveniently failed to make required intervention on behalf of the government, thereby deprived the opportunity to utilize SLPA profits.

Prof. Charitha Herath chaired the meeting. Auditor General W.P.C. Wickramaratne attended the meeting whereas Ports and Shipping Secretary K.D.S. Ruwanchandra led the SLPA team.Both MP Vithanage and Prof. Herath asserted that the Finance Ministry should have intervened on behalf of the people. The COPE examined how the SLPA continuously refrained from paying the Treasury at least the minimum amounts in spite of receiving massive profits over the years.  The Director General Public Enterprises, who has received that position recently, struggled to explain their failure to take up the non-transfer of SLPA profits to the Treasury. The COPE was told of Rs 69,686 mn revenue earned from 2016 to 2021, only 600 mn had been transferred to the Treasury.

Lawmaker Vithanage yesterday told The Island that the recent examinations of various enterprises and the Central Bank, by the COPE, as well as other watchdog committees, disclosed how the Finance Ministry, Central Bank and the Monetary Board contributed to the developing crisis. MP Vithanage pointed out even after the Covid-19 eruption devastated the economy, the SLPA had been able to withhold funds required by the Treasury for want of Finance Ministry intervention.Responding to queries, MP Vithanage said that the Parliament should act without further delay to ensure the Finance Ministry and the Monetary Board acted responsibly.

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Ceylon Chamber distributes dry rations

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The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce’s ‘Diwiyata Diriyak’ social initiative provided emergency relief, in the form of 10,000 essential dry ration packs, to vulnerable families in the Kegalle and Colombo districts.

A press release from the Chamber said: Mobilising the Chamber’s Membership to assist low-income families that are struggling to survive the current crisis, the initial distribution, which took place at the Kegalle District Secretariat, was the first phase of Diwiyata Diriyak, which aims to provide 5,000 relief packs.

Containing essential items such as rice, lentils, sugar, wheat flour, canned fish, etc., costing Rs. 5,000 each, vulnerable families, identified by the respective District Secretaries in the Warakapola, Galigamuwa, Mawanella and Rambukkana DS divisions, were among the initial beneficiaries.

CEO and Secretary General of the Ceylon Chamber Manjula de Silva said that the Chamber was committed to supporting the public during this immensely challenging time, and would always strive to ensure that the most vulnerable in our society are protected.

Home Garden Starter Packs, sponsored by the CIC Group, were also distributed among the families, in order to assist and encourage home garden cultivation as a viable option to address the rapidly rising costs and predicted shortage of food items, the release said.

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