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Hizbullah’s Hira Foundation though not registered had a certificate of registration

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

Former Governor of the Eastern Province  M. L. A. M. Hizbullah’s Sri Lanka Hira Foundation (SLHF) was not registered with the Department of Social Services as a social service organization,  Dhammika Wasalabandara, a Social Service officer at the Social Services Department yesterday, told the Presidential Commission of Inquiry probing the Easter Sunday carnage.

Earlier, the State Counsel leading the evidence asked the witness whether the department had registration documents of the foundation and Wasalabandara replied that they did not have any.

However, the Commission drew the attention of the witness to a letter provided by the Social Services Department to the Hira Foundation on July 20, 2011, saying that the foundation had been registered.

Wasalabandara, after referring to the document said that while the letter said that the Foundation had been registered, the Department did not possess registration documents.

He said that Additional Director General Mohammed Sameel of the Department, who had issued this letter to the Hira Foundation, was not in the service when the document was issued.

“We don’t have these documents in our files,” he said.

Former Additional Director General of the Social Services Department Mohammed Hanifa Mohammed Sameel, who also testified after Wasalabandara admitted that it was wrong to issue the letter to the Hira Foundation.

Sameel said he had issued a letter stating that the Hira Foundation had been registered under the Social Services department following a request made by the Foundation.

Commissioners pointed out that according to a circular issued in 1999, the Social Services department no longer could register Non- Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and social services Organisations. That circular added that the registration of all social services organizations and NGOs registered under the Social Services Department up to 1999 had been cancelled.

A Commissioner asked the witness whether it had been legal to issue a letter in 2011 stating that the Hira Foundation was registered under the Social Services department.

Samil acknowledged that issuance of the letter was not appropriate. When asked whether the permission of the Director General of the Social Services department had been sought before issuing the relevant letter to the Hira Foundation, Samil said he had not done so and if approval had been sought, the Director General would not have given it.

Former Governor of the Eastern Province Hizbullah also appeared before the Commission yesterday.

Samil also told the PCoI that he had known Hizbullah for a while. “During my tenure as the Director of the Department of Muslim Religious and Cultural Affairs, he used to speak to me about matters such as registration of mosques, the importation of dates for the Ramadan season and the Mecca pilgrims quota.”

When Samil was at the Muslim Religious and Cultural Affairs Department, the institution came under the former Prime Minister D. M. Jayaratne. Chairman of the PCoI asked the witness why he had discussed those matters with Hizbullah.

The witness said almost all Muslim politicians had discussed issues related to Muslims with him on various occasions. However, he added that he had never violated the procedure.



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Economic crisis: 100,000 families already starving

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Govt. to provide monthly assistance package – official

By Ifham Nizam 

Plans are underway to assist an average needy family of  four with a monthly package of Rs. 15,000, a senior adviser to President Ranil Wickremesinghe said yesterday, adding that the move was expected to help ameliorate the plight of nearly 65,000 families.

Food Security Committee Chairman Dr. Suren Batagoda told The Island yesterday that at present some 100,000 families across the country were starving.

He said financial assistance would be provided to those families for three months. Within three months, the government would design a package in the form of food stamps, etc.

Dr. Batagoda said the World Food Programme, UNICEF, the World Bank, and state agencies would also team up to strengthen food security, focusing especially on needy pregnant mothers and pre-school children.

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GR govt. ignored Chinese lenders’ request for debt restructuring

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Gotabaya Rajapaksa government had ignored suggestions by Chinese lending institutions that Sri Lanka to restructure the debt in 2021, Prof. Samitha Hettige said yesterday.

“The Rajapaksa government started talking of debt restructuring earlier this year. The Opposition had been asking for this before,” he said.  By 2021, before the Gotabaya Rajapaksa administration decided on debt restructuring, the Chinese institutions that had given Sri Lanka loans suggested that a restructuring process should start since Sri Lanka would have trouble repaying the loans, the Strategic Studies scholar said.

However, the request had gone unheeded, and if the government had started discussions then, Sri Lanka would not have been in crisis, Prof. Hettige said.

The Sri Lankan foreign policy, in the last few years, had also been misguided, Prof. Hettige said. A number of Indian and Chinese companies faced unnecessary issues by the behaviour of the government, he said.

Prof. Hettige said that the government must focus on establishing free trade ports and reducing negative lists for investments.

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SJB dissociates itself from SF’s call for protest

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By Chaminda Silva

MP Sarath Fonseka’s call for people to join anti-government protests was not a decision taken by the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), party MP J.C Alawathuwala said.

The SJB believed that they had to help President Ranil Wickremesinghe stabilise the country, economically and politically, he said.

MP Alawathuwala said the President must be given some time to solve the problems faced by the people and that the SJB was holding discussions with the government to guide it on a people-friendly path.

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