By Saman Indrajith
SJB parliamentarian Harin Fernando says that he will reveal the names of those who masterminded and funded the Zahran Hashim’s outfit that carried out the terror attacks during the parliamentary debate on the Presidential Commission of Inquiry report on the Easter Sunday carnage, scheduled for Wednesday (10).
“Everybody knows those responsible for their failure to take action to prevent the terror attacks. What is missing in the report is who actually masterminded and orchestrated the carnage. We know who really is responsible and I am going to reveal the names”, he said in an interview with The Sunday Island.
Asked why he had so far refrained from naming those responsible, he replied: “I am in a situation where I would be hauled up and put behind bars even if I violate a simple traffic law. But I can reveal the names in Parliament. I would do so during the debate.
Q: Diverse views have been expressed on the report of the presidential commission on the 2019 April 21st attacks. What is the official position of your party?
A team of our party members including its General Secretary Ranjith Maddumabandara and Niroshan Perera have seriously studied the matter. We have not received the report in its entirety. We have been given only one volume of the report. The other volumes have not even been placed in the parliament library. If we are to form a conclusive opinion, we need the entire report. My name has also been connected to the incidents because my father had been informed of the attacks by one of his friends.
I was questioned for about five hours. The investigators had found out the details of my telephone conversations etc. Anyone reading the report in full including my testimony can understand what we actually knew at the time. The volume so far released contains observations, conclusions and summaries. Even Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith has stated that an incomplete report is not acceptable and our position is the same. There are stories of Zahran’s foreign visits. In 2018, Zahran had gone to another country. It seems that the full report could answer what the country was and how many visits he had made, whom he had met and the purpose of his visit. How could we form a correct opinion without knowing all these vital details which we believe are included in the volumes not released so far.
Even a child knows who shirked their duties to prevent the tragedy. We do not need a commission to find that. What the country wants to know is the man who organized and masterminded the attacks. This attack seems to be a contract taken by Zahran’s outfit. The country wants to know who gave the contract. Zahran is not the mastermind behind the attack because he was among those who exploded themselves.
Finally all I have to say about the report of the PCoI is that I am not satisfied because it is not complete and failed to name those responsible. We know that the man who orchestrated that attack is still around and living a comfortable life. This government came to power promising to punish the culprit of the Easter Sunday attacks irrespective of their position. That has not happened.
Q: A Black Sunday has been declared and the Cardinal has asked people to join demanding justice. Some people are going to put up black flags. Is your party too supporting it?
The Black Sunday commemoration is a decision made by the Roman Catholic Church. Catholics coming to the Church on Sunday have been asked to wear black. It is not a protest where you holding placards along the roads, as far as I know. Anyone who go to Church could wear any colours but on this particular day, they have been asked to wear in black. There would be prayer. In our religion it is considered that the prayer is more powerful when done together than separately. On Sunday, there would be such an event. The prayers are to seek God’s intervention for justice. The prayers are to be conducted on March 7 and I hope that by April 21 our prayers would be answered. Right from the beginning, I said that we cannot expect justice from anyone except from God. Now what I said has been proven true. We cannot expect justice from commissions or political leaders who are ‘double acting’.
COVID-19: Jaffna faces serious risk
Top medical man in North threatens lockdown
Five villages isolated in Ganewatta DS area
20% of IDH patients need oxygen
By Dinasena Ratugamage and Rathindra Kuruwita
Tough restrictions would have to be imposed in Jaffna if religious leaders did not help health authorities, Northern Province Director General of Health Services, Dr. A. Kethiswaran said yesterday. Jaffna was facing a serious risk of COVID-19, he said.
Dr. Kethiswaran said so during a meeting with religious leaders at his office. He said that a large number of devotees were seen at various places of religious worship during the festive period.
“None of these people follow health guidelines. It is impossible to control the virus because of this. At this rate we will have to impose travel restrictions in the Jaffna District. We need everyone’s support, if we are to avoid this fate.”
He then urged religious leaders to inform devotees of the dangers of the virus and not to gather at places of worship in large numbers.
Dr. Kethiswaran also said that a large number of policemen in Jaffna had contracted COVID-19. About 258 PCR tests had been carried out on Wednesday after it was found that 13 policemen attached to the Jaffna Police station were infected. Altogether 788 PCR tests were done in the Jaffna District on Wednesday, Dr. Kethiswaran said.
One hundred and forty eight new COVID-19 cases had been detected in several villages in the Ganewatta Divisional secretariat area, Divisional Secretary Niranjala Karunaratne said yesterday.
On Wednesday alone 733 PCR tests had been done there, she said, adding that about 175 individuals had tested positive for COVID-19 there.
Given these developments, Tittawelgala, Hunupola, Siradunna, Aluthgama and Hettigama Grama Niladari divisions at Ganewatta Divisional secretariat area have been isolated.
Travel restrictions were imposed on Kuliyapitiya Town, Thunmodara, Dhandagamuwa – West, Kanadulla and Pahala Weerambuwa as COVID-19 cases were increasing there.
PHI in charge of Divulapitiya said that 84 new COVID-19 cases had been reported from the area during the last 48 hours. However, no decision had been taken to impose travel restrictions in the area, PHI, S.A.U.T Kularatne said.
“Twenty-eight of these patients were among people who attended a sports event organised for the New Year in Aswennawatta Grama Niladari area. Forty-four people who went on a trip at Mellawagedara have also tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. If people are not careful, things might rapidly deteriorate,” he warned.
Deputy Director of IDH said that over 130 COVID-19 patients were undergoing treatment there although the hospital could accommodate only 120 patients.
All eight ICU beds at the IDH are occupied and 20% of the patients there need oxygen. The number of people admitted to hospital had increased after the Sinhala and Hindu New year, health ministry sources said.
Director General of Health Services – Western Province Dr. Dhammika Jayalath urged people to refrain from travelling to Colombo unless it was very urgent.
Director General of Health Services, Dr. Asela Gunawardane said that the coming three weeks would crucial.
Covid figures: Govt. accused of misleading the country
By Rathindra Kuruwita
The College of Medical Laboratory Science (CMLS) yesterday claimed that State Minister of Production, Supply and Regulation of Pharmaceuticals, Prof. Channa Jayasumana was making statements on new strains of SARS-CoV-2 without any scientific proof.
Speaking to the media on Wednesday, Prof. Jayasumana said that there had been an increase in the spread of Covid virus in the country, especially among the young people and that was due to a new strain of the virus.
President of the CMLS, Ravi Kumudesh said: “The Minister claimed they were doing a research on this. As far as we know, neither the Ministry nor the University of Sri Jayewardenepura has done any research to identify this new strain. The Ministry of Health stopped identifying new variants a long time ago.”
The Ministry of Health could neither plan for new variants of COVID-19 nor determine what vaccine was effective as it simply didn’t have the equipment to identify new strains, Kumudesh said, adding that identifying COVID-19 variants across the country had been outsourced to the University of Sri Jayawardenepura.
“I have repeatedly said that the Health Ministry officials can’t make science and evidence-based decisions or statements on new strains. Institutions under the Health Ministry do not have the ability to identify new strains of the coronavirus; only the University of Sri Jayewardenepura has a gene sequencing machine. We said this was having a disastrous impact on the country’s pandemic response and here we are,.”
Kumudesh said that identifying various strains of COVID-19 was essential to respond to the pandemic as everything from PCR testing to selecting a vaccine, depended on that.
“There are a number of strains of the virus in the world now and we now know that the new variant that led to a lockdown in the UK is here. We have to be ready to identify what strains are coming.”
Kumudesh said that since the country had opened its airports people from various countries would arrive, carrying new strains. He added that there might also be a new strain that originated here without “our knowledge because we don’t do adequate gene sequencing.
“To identify new variants, we must sequence the genes of viruses detected through PCR testing. We need many gene sequencing machines because one cannot identify new strains through a PCR test. However, the Ministry of Health has not provided a single gene sequencing machine to labs under its purview.”
CEA accused of turning blind eye to cardamom cultivators raping Knuckles Forest
By Rathindra Kuruwita
A government decision to allow cardamom plantations inside the Knuckles Forest Reserve, which came under the Forest Conservation Department,it was already having a negative impact on the ecosystem, Sajeewa Chamikara of the Movement for Land and Agriculture Reform (MONLAR) said.
Chamikara said that Knuckles Forest Reserve was not only a unique ecosystem but also an important catchment area for rivers such as Mahaweli and Kalu.
“Illegal Cardamom planters had been operating in the forest area for many decades and there had been many attempts to get rid of them,” Chamikara said
About six years ago, there was an attempt to remove illegal Cardamom planters from the Knuckles Forest Reserve. When the Forest Conservation Department tried to remove these encroachers, based on a court order, several politicians and officials intervened on their behalf, the environmentalist said. Due to those interventions, illegal Cardamom planters could not be removed from the Knuckles Forest Reserve, he added.
“In many areas of the Dumbara mountain range, forest undergrowth has been cleared to make way for cardamom plantations. This has drastically increased soil erosion and the soil that is swept away by rains have been deposited in many reservoirs after being taken downstream to the Mahaweli Ganga. Moreover, many trees have been cut to use as firewood to dry cardamom. There are many structures used to dry the cardamom dotting the Knuckles mountain range and these activities cause significant damages to the ecosystem.”
Chamikara said it was illegal to cut trees, cultivate and clear land in a Conservation Forest. The offences carried jail terms or fines or both. Moreover, the court could estimate the damage done to the forest and make the guilty pay that amount. Under the law, even people who encouraged such violations could be prosecuted.
“The CEA has the power to act against those who carry out such illegal activities. According to Section 23 (a.) (a.) of the National Environmental Act, when a project is carried out without obtaining approval, the CEA can present 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. Unfortunately the authorities concerned are turning a blind eye.”
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