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Nuwara-Eliya Jihadist Training Camp: Police tried to silence informant

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Nuwara-Eliya Police, on two separate occasions, had attempted to silence a person who had given them a tip-off about a Jihadist training camp conducted by the National Thawheed Jamaat (NTJ) in May 2018, it was yesterday revealed at the PCoI investigating the Easter Sunday attacks.

NTJ leader Zahran Hashim and founder of NTJ Nawfer Moulavi had been present at the camp, the PCoI was told.

D. T. Illesinghe, a resident of Shanthipura, Nuwara-Eliya told the PCoI that a group of people had arrived at Thakhila Holiday Inn, adjacent to his house, on May 05, 2018, in four white vans. Unlike other tourists the group had never left the place and even at night they had kept the lights off, save one.

“I felt suspicious. The hotel is owned by a businessman who operates shops in the Manning Market. The keeper is a guy named Ranga. I spoke to Ranga’s wife and she too said that the group was suspicious. Since I speak Tamil she asked me to check up on them. I entered the Inn at around 6.30 am under the pretext of collecting flowers. When I was going around the house, I overheard a conversation. One person said “It’s not safe to keep the money and weapons here. We should take them back to Kattankudy.” In response a guy named Abdullah said it was not safe to transport weapons.”

Illesinghe said that upon overhearing the conversation, he had called 119 but there had been no answer. Then he called Sergeant Sunil attached to the Nuwara-Eliya Police Station. Since he too didn’t pick up, he called the OIC of the station.

Illesinghe said: “He too didn’t pick up. It was around 8 am. I then decided to call then IGP Pujith Jayasundara. I took down IGP’s contact number shown during a television programme telecast earlier. The IGP picked up and when I told him that there were suspicious people, he gave me SP Mahinda Dissanayake’s number. I called the SP and he said he would inform Nuwara Eliya Police.”

The witness said that the Nuwara Eliya police had called him 30 minutes later and claimed they would come soon. But since the police didn’t turn up by 12.30 pm, Illesinghe called Dissanayake again. “He told me that Nuwara Eliya police would come soon. Then at around 4.30 pm a single police car came. A few minutes before that three vans left the holiday inn. I saw one policeman getting out and going in. I was doing some work and I went to meet the police. But they were leaving by the time I reached my gate. The police were there for only about 15 minutes.”

However after the Easter Sunday attacks, the Nuwara Eliya policemen had come to see him, Illesinghe said. A few days after the attacks, SI Indrajith and two others, carrying weapons, had come to see him. Indrajith had told Illesinghe that his tip-off was right and that the police was too slow.

Illesinghe said: “SI Indrajith said when he went into the Inn, there was Rs million rupees on the floor and a parcel of ganja. I asked him why he had not arrest them for having ganja. SI Indrajith said I shouldn’t bring the matter up because ISIS would come and kill me. I said ISIS won’t, but the Police might.”

The witness said that investigators from various agencies had visited him. Later, he was called for a meeting with various police officers. During the meeting Sergeant Sunil attached to the Nuwara Eliya Police Station asked Illesinghe to be careful and that he should not talk about this to others.

Earlier an Officer attached to PCoI police unit, SI Sanjeewa Sampath of CID told the PCoI that NTJ members, including its leader Zahran Hashim, who had taken part in a Jihadist training camp in Nuwara Eliya, on May 8, 2018, had escaped due to the inaction of the Nuwara Eliya Police.

SI Sampath also said that during their inquiry they had found that Zahran had conducted preaching related to Islamic extremism and his associates had trained the cadres to handle weapons and manufacture bombs.



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SJB: Excise, FM officials all out to pocket Rs 1 bn

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By Saman Indrajith

Matara District SJB MP Buddhika Pathirana yesterday told Parliament that the Finance Ministry and Excise Department officials had misled Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and State Minister Ajith Nivard Cabraal in order to obtain billion rupees, fraudulently.

The officials had got a contract for printing stickers or barcodes to be displayed on bottles of liquor awarded to an Indian company.

“The project would result in one-billion-rupee loss to the government coffers annually,” the MP said, adding that the money being taken from the public purse would end up in the pockets of corrupt officials.

Pathirana said that the Excise Department had commenced a project to paste stickers on bottles of liquor to differentiate them from the fake and counterfeit bottles in the market.

“As per this project’s requirements, 32 million stickers would be needed per month. The stickers are to be purchased from Madras Security Printers company of India. This method was proposed in 2016 but it failed and the officials thereafter decided to introduce a barcode system.

“The cost of a sticker at 25 cents and the new barcode system will cost of two rupees a piece. This is a dubious deal. It seems that the Finance Ministry officials and the Excise Department heads have ganged up to give the contract to the Indian company and get commissions. There are many unanswered questions. First, the contract of printing the barcode too has been given to the MSP company, which could not secure the first contract. I want to know whether the proper procurement process has been followed. The second question is whether the barcodes would be up to the standards listed in the tender. Third question is who had selected the MSP company which is black-listed in India after being found guilty of frauds with Indian liquor companies in providing stickers to them. MSP has been blacklisted in many other countries. The company has been banned in Sudan and Liberia for supplying the stickers to private companies. The last question is whether this fraud is being committed with the knowledge of ministers of this government.”

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Reserves fall to lowest since 2009, rupee strengthening to be short-lived: report

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by Sanath Nanayakkare

Sri Lanka’s Foreign reserves had dropped to USD 4.1bn in March 2021, the lowest since August 2009, on the back of over US$ 4bn outstanding debt payment during April-December 2021 period, a report issued by First Capital Research yesterday said.

According to the report, rupee appreciation is likely to be short-lived considering Sri Lanka’s depleting foreign reserve position, high foreign currency debt repayment requirement and limited funding sources available in the market are expected to further increase depreciation pressure on the currency during 2Q and 3Q.

“We maintain our exchange rate target for 1H2021 at Rs. 196-202 with 2021 year-end target at Rs. 205-215 as mentioned in our ‘Investment Strategy 2021 – January 2021,” the report recalls.

“Sri Lankan rupee appreciated 5% against the US dollar over the last 2 market days reversing the continuous accelerated depreciation witnessed in January-April 2021. On 12th April, Sri Lankan rupee recorded a historical low of Rs. 201:1 US$. Ministry of Finance (MoF) reported on the same day that the government of Sri Lanka entered into a loan agreement with the China Development Bank (CDB) for US$ 500mn and MoF expected the funds to be disbursed during the same week. Following the announcement, the market registered a steep appreciation with mid-rate recording at Rs. 190.9 on April 19,” it says.

The total foreign debt repayment (capital and interest) for 2021 is US$ 6 bn, according to the report.

Meanwhile FC Research believes that the temporary appreciation in USD-LKR, may adversely impact earnings of export companies such as Hayleys, Haycarb, Dipped Products, MGT Knitting Mills, Teejay Lanka, Expolanka Holdings etc. in the short term.

“However, considering the potential future currency pressure, we expect an overall depreciation of approximately 12% for the rupee providing a significant gain for companies with foreign currency revenue”, FC research predicts.

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Govt. asks Opposition not to propagate lies

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By Saman Indrajith

Chief Government Whip and Highways Minister Johnston Fernando yesterday accused the Opposition MPs of abusing parliamentary privileges to mislead the public by propagating lies about the Easter Sunday terror attacks. 

Addressing Parliament, Minister Fernando said: “The Opposition MPs level wild allegations in the House knowing that they have the cover of parliamentary privilege. If they have anything substantial or any knowledge of the perpetrators of the Easter attacks still not in custody they can go to the CID and lodge complaints so that such complaints could be investigated.”  

Fernando said so after SJB Galle District MP Manusha Nanayakkara had told the House that he possessed evidence of those who carried out the Easter Sunday terror attacks.

Nanayakkara also said that the facts that he had were not in the report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Easter Sunday carnage.

“You are making various statements regarding the Easter Sunday terror attacks in the Chamber without any proof because you know that you have Parliamentary privilege. You even quoted some statements which are not included in the PCoI report. How did you obtain such information? Why didn’t you complain about this to the CID in the first place? Your action is aimed at misleading the public,” the Minister said. 

Minister Fernando said that the Opposition should stop insulting Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith by misinterpreting the latter’s statements. 

“When you are in the Government you never said that this is a Buddhist country. Now you are insulting the Cardinal too. You should not do that,” the Minister said. 

“The former Government should be responsible for the terror attack. Now we are trying to punish those who are responsible for it. We will take action against everyone who is responsible. You should support us, not try to obstruct the on-going investigations,” Minister Fernando said.

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