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FBI confirmed Maulavi Naufar masterminded Sri Lanka Easter attacks: Minister

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by Imesh Ranasinghe

ECONOMYNEXT – The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has confirmed that Maulavi (Islamic preacher) Mohamad Ibrahim Mohamad Naufer masterminded Sri Lanka’s 2019 Easter Sunday bombings, Minister of Public Security Sarath Weerasekara told parliament on Wednesday`.

The minister was responding to a May 18 statement by Attorney General Dappula De Livera that there was a grand conspiracy behind the attacks that killed 269 people and injured over 500.

De Livera in a letter written to the Inspector General of Police (IGP) C. D. Wickramaratne and a subsequent statement to the public said that he has been unable to press charges or file indictments against the conspirators and abettors of the Easter Sunday attack due to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) investigations being incomplete.

Minister Weerasekara said in parliament that the investigation into the Easter Sunday attacks was an international investigation as many foreign nationals lost their lives in the attack. The CID conducted investigations along with international investigative teams such as the FBI and the Australian Federal Police.

It takes a long time complete international investigations, the minister said defending the delay.

Usually, it takes a long time to complete international investigations,” he said.

“Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was considered the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks is still in detention. It took years to file a lawsuit against the terrorist who assassinated former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. It took three years to file charges against the assassins of former Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar,” he said.

Similarly, said Weerasekara, it takes years to file charges in the case of an attack such as the Easter bombings as investigations must be thorough in order to gather all evidence so that suspects cannot escape through a loophole in the law.

The minister said AG has already filed indictments against 16 suspects in the Kegalle High Court for damaging a Buddha Statue in Mawanella and six suspects in the Puttalam High Court for storing explosives in Wanathawilluwa. Three more were indicted in the Kegalle High Court for the attempted murder of Mohammad Taslim, a key witness whose body is partially paralysed as a result of a gunshot to the head. Police believe Taslim was shot on the orders of Zaharan Hashim, the ringleader of the suicide bombers that blew themselves up on April 21 2019.

Mohammed Naufer Mohammed Yusri and Hejaaz Hizbullah and another were indicted for aiding and abetting terrorist activities in Gampaha and Puttalam High Courts.

Weerasekara said in November 2020, eight documents with charges were presented to the AG regarding the eight attacks that happen on Easter Sunday 2019.

“After that, I met the Attorney General personally on a few occasions. I understood that he was working on this with great dedication and enthusiasm. He said to wait till the report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCOl) is released to see whether there is a contradiction between the evidence and what the report revealed,” Weerasekara said.

The PCol that probed the attack presented its findings to the AG in February this year. According to the minister, from March 12 to April 24, a team of 54 police investigators together with state counsels from the Attorney General’s Department worked in a team led by a Senior Assistant Solicitor General to thoroughly analyse the evidence and facts under the personal supervision of the AG.

Shortcomings in the investigation was reported to the police on April 24. The AG had then resubmitted the report to the IGP on May 12, by which time police had addressed most of the shortcomings and reported back to the AG’s Department, Weerasekara said.

He said this could be the reason for the AG’s statement on May 15.

“We hope to attend to the rest of the shortcomings in the near future, after which the Attorney General can file indictments against suspects,” he added.

Authorities have apprehended 704 individuals suspected of being connected to the bombings, according to Weerasekara.

“We appreciate the assistance and the professional commitment the AG has demonstrated in this regard,” he said.



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Debt-ridden CEB goes ahead with shocking pay hike amidst pandemic

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Workers offered 25% increase this year…12% annually over three-year period
 

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Two days after the Presidential Secretariat stated that the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) owed two state banks––Bank of Ceylon and the People’s Bank, a staggering Rs 85 bn, the cash-strapped enterprise announced an annual 12 percent salary increase to its employees.

Vijitha Herath, Chairman, of the CEB, yesterday (15) said that the salary increase in terms of the collective agreement for 2021-2023 period would enable the workers to receive 25 per cent in the first year whereas annually it would be 12 percent over a period of three years.

The ministry said that in spite of severe difficulties caused by the rampaging Covid-19 pandemic, the salary increment was granted in response to workers’ request.

Declaring that the Cabinet and the Board of Directors of the CEB had approved the salary increase, the ministry has sought cooperation of the CEB trade unions to finalise the collective agreement.

The ministry claimed that CEB workers had been granted a spate of privileges not given to other state sector employees hence consensus on collective agreement was expected soon.

The Presidential Secretariat on Sunday explained that one reason for the banking sector crisis was the failure on the part of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and the CEB to settle Rs 562 bn and Rs 85 bn, respectively.

The Presidential Secretariat issued the statement in the wake of SLPP General Secretary Sagara Kariyawasam, MP, triggering a political storm by demanding Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila’s immediate resignation over recent increase in fuel prices.

The CEB Chairman also claimed that they had been able to bring down the accumulated losses to Rs 56 bn last year from Rs 97 bn in the previous year.

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Indian fishers riled by SL moves to create new fish breeding grounds

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By Dinasena Ratugamage

 

Fishermen from Rameswaran will hold a protest today (16) against Sri Lanka’s decision to submerge 20 old buses in the seas off Jaffna to create breeding grounds for fish.

Members of 17 fisheries associations in Tamil Nadu and Rameswaran claim that this will affect their yield as more fish will be attracted to the breeding grounds created by submerged buses.

The Ministry said that sinking those buses was nothing new and that such buses provided a hard surface for invertebrates to live on, some of which could not live on the sand bottom that is naturally there.

“Some fish are not fast swimmers, so they need a structure to provide both food and shelter; they wouldn’t, for example, be able to outswim a shark, but they could duck into the shelter instead,” a Sri Lankan fisheries association representative said.

However N. Devadas, the head of the Indian fishermen’s association in Rameswaram, said that they would also hand over a petition against that decision to the Sri Lankan government. Sri Lanka has been submerging old SLTB buses in the deep sea for many years as a part of the Deep Sea Fish Development Project.

 

 

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Three more weeks needed to see drop in COVID deaths – Dr. Fernandopulle

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It would take at least three more weeks to see a drop in COVID-19 related deaths in the country, Minister of COVID Disease Control, Dr. Sudharshini Fernandopulle said yesterday.

There had been a drop in the number of cases reported already, she said.

“The number of patients is coming down but there has been an increase in deaths. However, this too will come down.

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