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‘Funds poured into NTJ kitty from all over the world’

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Ex-Chairman of National Thowheed Jamaath tells PCoI

By Rathindra Kuruwita

Muslims from all over the world donated to the National Thowheed Jamaath (NTJ), a former chairman of the terrorist organisation, Mohamed Yusuf Mohamed Tawfiq Moulavi, who is currently in remand custody told the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) investigating the Easter Sunday attacks on Saturday.

“I don’t know much about the specifics. I don’t know who exactly donated to the NTJ account. But there is a ledger on the expenses. I maintained that with the NTJ Treasurer, a man named Mastakeen.”

However, Mohamed insisted that he was not an extremist and that if he had known that NTJ leader Zahran Hashim was an adherent of ISIS ideology, he would never have joined the NTJ.

The representative of the Attorney General’s Department (AGD), who led evidence, told the witness that he had shared some videos of Zahran on his social media platforms. Given that Zahran’s posts were sectarian and fundamentalist by nature how Mohamed could claim that he had not been aware of Zahran’s ideology, the counsel asked.

“I only shared Zahran’s speeches that I agreed with. I have not shared any speech that promotes extremism or ISIS,” the witness said.

Although Mohamed said that he was not aware of Zahran’s extremism, the AG’s Department representative said the NTJ’s media unit had boosted Zahran’s extremist speeches.

The counsel asked how come Mohamed, the Chairman of the NTJ, had missed those extremist speeches.

“I am human. I could not observe Zahran all the time. I have also not seen any of these videos that promote extremism,” the witness said.

Mohamed said there had been a clash in Kattankudy on 10 March 2017 between the NTJ and members of Sunnath Wal Jamath group and that Zharan had gone missing thereafter. Since then he had had no contacts with Zahran, the witness said, stressing that he served as the Chairman of the NTJ in 2016 and joined the organization upon a request by Zahran Hashim.

Members of the PCoI then asked the witness when he had found out that Zahran was involved in the Easter Sunday attacks.

Mohamed: “Two days after the attack, the CID and the TID came to my house and asked if I could identify Zahran’s head. I was the one who identified it.

A Commissioner: “How did NTJ devotees respond to Zahran’s involvement?

Mohamed: “They were angry with Zahran.”

A Commissioner: Was the NTJ registered with the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama (ACJU)?

MohamedNo.



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Domestic debt restructuring will cripple EPF, ETF – JVP

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By Sirimatha Rathnasekera

The Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) and Employees’ Trust Fund (ETF) will lose about 600 billion rupees during the proposed domestic debt structuring, Co-Convener of the JVP affiliated National Trade Union Centre (NTUC) Wasantha Samarasinghe claimed.

Samarasinghe is of the opinion that the government is planning not to pay 20 to 25 percent of the loans it has taken from domestic sources. Successive governments have borrowed significantly from the EPF and ETF, he said.

Samarasinghe said that due to the depreciation of the rupee, the real value of EPF and ETF funds had decreased by half. “In such a context, can these institutions take a 20 percent haircut? This might be a big problem to the workers,” he said.

The NTUC Co-Convener said that a number of domestic banks, too, had lent to the government and domestic debt restructuring might lead to a collapse in the banking system.

However, Central Bank Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe says that they are confident of reaching debt sustainability without re-structuring domestic debt, which would lead to problems in the banking sector.

“There have been concerns among domestic bond investors about rupee debt/internal debt to be restructured following comments made by President Ranil Wickremesinghe to the effect that financial advisors were looking at domestic debt. However, there has been no request to restructure domestic debt. We are confident that we can make debt sustainable without restructuring domestic debt,” Dr. Weerasinghe told the media at the CBSL’s 6th Review of the Monetary Policy stance for this year, at the CBSL head office auditorium, in Colombo, on Thursday.

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Powerful CEBEU says yes to restructuring but on its terms

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Sri Lanka will experience periodic power cuts until 2027 if the government did not take steps to increase electricity production, the Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers Union (CEBEU) said yesterday.Due to electricity shortages, the Norochcholai Power Plant had been operational non-stop, sometimes even without scheduled maintenance, CEBEU President, Saumya Kumarawadu said.

“A generator is down. We will get it back online within 14 days. We had started maintenance on another plant in June and it was to be back online in September. But it has been delayed till November,” he said.

Kumarawadu said there would be 10-hour power cuts without Norochcholai. However, the power cuts could be reduced in two weeks when the generator was restored, he said.

He added that while they support restructuring of the CEB, they oppose de-bundling and selling the CEB to various private actors.

“Power cuts might have to go on till 2026 or 2027 unless new plants come up. A proposal to build an LNG power plant is still languishing in the Cabinet,” he said.

The CEBEU President also said that the electricity tariff was last increased in 2012. In 2014, the tariff was reduced. Without increasing electricity tariffs, the CEB will have to get increasing amounts of money from the treasury.

“The government should have increased the tariff at regular intervals. We haven’t increased in a decade and suddenly we have increased by a large amount.That’s why it has come as a shock to people,” he said.

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SJB opposes blanket privatisations

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… questions logic of selling cash cows like Telecom and Insurance

The SJB was opposed to the privatisation of profit-making government entities, Chief Opposition Whip, MP Lakshman Kiriella, said yesterday, in Colombo.Kiriella said that President Ranil Wickremesinghe had told The Economist magazine that they are thinking of privatising Sri Lanka Telecom and Sri Lanka Insurance.

“These are two institutions that make a profit. What is the point in privatising these?” he asked.

MP Kiriella said that they are not opposed to privatizing SriLankan Airlines, which has been making losses for years.

“We can talk about these things in Parliament. Even when we privatize loss making entities we have to take a number of things into consideration. What will happen to the workers? How will we compensate them? How will we re-skill them? We have to talk about these things openly before doing anything,” he said.

The Chief Opposition Whip said that one of the main reasons why people oppose privatization is because everything is done in secrecy.

“People wonder why things are hidden from them. We need to be open and transparent when we restructure,” he said.

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