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Opposition, govt. exchange intense fire over Easter carnage probe

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*Cardinal not happy with the way investigation is progressing – Kiriella

*Govt. takes no action against suspects as they voted for 20A – Niroshan

*No one reponsible for the carnage will be spared – Namal

*I spoke my mind and met Cardinal; don’t drag me into this – Harin

*Govt. aware of well-known person with links to suspects – Minister SW

By Saman Indrajith

Chief Opposition Whip and Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella told Parliament, on Saturday, that many MPs had serious doubts and concerns about the direction in which the Easter Sunday carnage investigations were heading.

 “Colombo Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith has raised concerns about the lack of progress of investigations into the Easter Sunday bomb attacks. There are MPs on both sides of the House, who are not happy with the progress in the probe.

 MP Kiriella said: There is an Easter Sunday Commission. We share the concerns of the Cardinal who is asking the government when it will bring the perpetrators of terror to justice. The Commission has summoned the former President and the former Prime Minister. The former IGP and the former Defence Secretary have also been summoned. Are these the people who exploded the bombs? The government should arrest those who organised and carried out the attacks. We also have no faith in the investigation. We demand a debate on the matter.” 

Chief Government Whip Highways Minister Johnston Fernando:

We are ready for a debate, but things transpired at the Commission cannot be debated because it is still on. It is not a matter that you should use for political gains. You can wait till it’s over and if the report does not help get at the truth, then you can bring a no-confidence motion against us. If there is a debate on the matter, what are we going to talk about? Can we give out the names? It would be similar to one of your ministers taking Makandure Madush on the Expressway and helping him leave the country.  

 SJB MP Ranjith Madduma Bandara: He is accusing us of aiding Madush to flee the country. Entire nation knows who supported Madush.

 Minister Fernando:

Madush fled with the support of one of the ministers from your side.

 SJB Puttalam District MP Niroshan Perera:

Today, the Easter Sunday investigation has been swept under the carpet. The Cardinal says this government is not conducting the probe the way it said it would do, before coming to power. It seems that since you got the votes of those MPs for the 20th Amendment you cannot arrest some of those accused of this crime. The Cardinal has stated that the probe on Easter Sunday bomb attacks has been politicised.

Minister Fernando:

The government has no intention to gain political mileage out of the investigation. We do not interfere with it, at all. The previous government meddled with probes; its members gave calls to investigators, judges, police and the CID. We do not do such things. We say that those responsible for the crime should be punished. That is the position of our government, our President and Prime Minister. Your government ministers threw mud at the Cardinal. MP Harin Fernando made disparaging remarks about the Cardinal. Ranjan Ramanayake insulted the Cardinal. Your party men accused the Cardinal of doing politics. Today, too you are doing the same. Can you condemn Harin Fernando’s blasphemous act?

MP Niroshan Perera:

I condemned it then and I condemn it today too.

Minister Fernando:

We did not betray people’s trust to get votes for the 20th Amendment. We have not released Rishad Bathiudeen or his brother to get their votes.

 State Minister for Rural Roads and Residual Infrastructure Nimal Lanza: It’s a Parliamentary Select Committee appointed by your government that released Rishad. Now, do not accuse us of releasing Rishad and his brother.

 Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa:

The government will not protect anyone responsible for the Easter Sunday attacks. Authorities responsible will ensure legal action is taken against those responsible, even if they happen to be a part of the government or the Opposition. You appointed a National List MP, a person who insulted the Cardinal.

 SJB Gampaha District MP Dr Kavinda Jayawardana: The Cardinal expressed his displeasure when I met him yesterday. He is not happy with the way the investigations are progressing.

SJB MP Harin Fernando:

If I have done anything wrong I am ready to go anywhere. I am a good Catholic. I do not lie. I appeared before the Commission and told them everything I knew. I showed them phone records to prove that my father had come to know about the terror attack around 8 pm the previous day. I have no problem with the Cardinal. I once spoke my mind and thereafter I met him and told him the truth. Do not drag me into this.

 Puttalam District SJB MP Hector Appuhamy:

You are accusing the yahapalana government for everything. Have you been able to arrest anyone other than those we took into custody over the Easter Sunday attack?

Minister of Public Security Sarath Weerasekera:

Yes, there are 271 persons in custody. Their cases have been finalised by the Attorney General’s Department. I will go there on Monday to meet the AG to make a request to expedite the matter.

 SJB MP Harin Fernando:

We have information that the Easter Sunday attackers had links to ISIS and there is a well-known personality connected to them. Is it true?

 Minister Weerasekara:

I am aware of it, but I cannot reveal it here in view of the ongoing investigations. You can see when the cases are filed; some persons who are in this House will be among them. 



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Six nabbed with over 100 kg of ‘Ice’

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By Norman Palihawadane and Ifham Nizam

The Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) yesterday arrested six suspects in the Sapugaskanda Rathgahawatta area with more than 100 kilos of Crystal Methamphetamine also known as Ice.

Police Media Spokesman, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Ajith Rohana told the media that the PNB sleuths, acting on information elicited from a suspect in custody had found 91 packets of Ice.

A man in possession of 100 kilos of heroin was arrested in Modera during the weekend and revealed that a haul of Ice had been packed in plastic boxes.

The PNB seized more than 114 kilos of Ice from the possession of a single drug network.

According to the information elicited from the suspects, more than 100 kilos of Ice were found.

The PNB also arrested six persons including two women with 13 kilos of Ice, during an operation carried out in the Niwandama area in Ja-Ela on Sunday.

DIG Rohana said the ice had been packed in small plastic boxes and hidden in two school bags.

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PM intervenes to iron out differences among coalition partners

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By Norman Palihawadane

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday said that he was confident that differences among the constituents of the SLPP coalition as regards the May Day celebrations and the next Provincial Council elections could be ironed out soon.

Leaders of all SLPP allied parties have been invited to a special meeting to be held at Temple Trees with the PM presiding on April 19.

Prime Minister Rajapaksa said it was natural for members of a political alliance to have their own standpoints and views on matters of national importance. “This is due to the different political ideologies and identities. It is not something new when it comes to political alliances world over. In a way, it shows that there is internal democracy within our alliance.

The PM said: “As a result of that the allied parties may express their own views on issues, but that does not mean there is a threat to the unity of the alliance. An alliance is more vibrant and stronger not when all the parties think on the same lines but when the member parties have different ideologies.”

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Thilo Hoffman remembered

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A copy of the book “Politics of a Rainforest: Battles to save Sinharaja” was handed over to Dominik Furgler, the Swiss Ambassador in Sri Lanka by the author of the book, Dr. Prasanna Cooray at the Swiss Embassy in Colombo last Tuesday, to be sent to the family of the late Thilo Hoffman in Switzerland.

Hoffman, a Swiss national, who made Sri Lanka his second home for six decades, was a pioneering environmental activist who led the battles to save Sinharaja from the front in the early 1970s, abreast with the likes of Iranganie Serasinghe, Kamanie Vitharana, Lynn De Alwis and Nihal Fernando of the “Ruk Rekaganno” fame. That was the era when the trees of Sinharaja were felled for the production of plywood by the then government. Hoffman was also a livewire of the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS) for a long time. Hoffman died in 2014 at the age of 92.

The book includes a chapter on Thilo Hoffman.

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