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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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Pakistan Navy ship arrives in Colombo

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Pakistan Navy Ship (PNS) Taimur arrived, at the port of Colombo, on a formal visit, yesterday morning (12). The visiting ship was welcomed by the Sri Lanka Navy, in compliance with naval traditions.The 134m-long ship is commanded by Captain M. Yasir Tahir and it is manned by 169 as the ship’s complement.

The Commanding Officer of PNS Taimur is scheduled to call on Commander Western Naval Area, at the Western Naval Command Headquarters, today. The ship is expected to remain in the island, until 15th August, and the crew of the ship will take part in several programmes, organized by the Sri Lanka Navy, to promote cooperation and goodwill between the two navies.

PNS Taimur is also expected to conduct a naval exercise with the Sri Lanka Navy in western seas on its departure on 15th August.

Meanwhile, PNS Tughril, an identical warship belonging to the Pakistan Navy, arrived in Sri Lanka on an official visit on 13th December 2021 and conducted a successful naval exercise with SLNS Sindurala off the western coast on 16th December. Naval exercises of this nature with regional navies will enable each partner to overcome common maritime challenges in the future, through enhanced cooperation.

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Stalin reads riot act to govt. over proposal to allow schoolchildren to work part time

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Alliance of Trade Unions and Mass Organisations yesterday warned that the government’s decision to allow schoolchildren, between the ages of 16 and 20, to work part time, would have disastrous consequences.Addressing the media on 11 Aug., General Secretary of the Ceylon Teachers’ Union, Joseph Stalin, said that the government was planning to amend laws, allowing schoolchildren to work in the private sector for 20 hours a week.

“Now, this may look like a progressive idea. A lot of families are

struggling and if another family member can chip in, it would be a great help. I am sure a lot of children feel the same way. It is also true that there may be children who will find great jobs and horn their skills,” he said.However, these proposals have come at a time when education is in crisis and the schools are on the verge of collapse.

“During the last two and a half years, most children have learnt nothing. But children who go to elite schools are doing better. These schools have systems in place, but most others don’t. Children who do not go to tier one schools have suffered and most children who do not go to such elite schools will not find part time work that will prepare them for the jobs of the future,” he said. “It’s not easy to balance school work with vocation training, especially physically intensive work. Most people will drop out and social mobility will further stagnate. Fix the education system first and create a more level playing field,” Stalin said.

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Harsha: Will RW use Emergency to steamroller his economic reforms?

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By Saman Indrajith

SJB MP Harsha de Silva yesterday asked President Ranil Wickremesinghe whether the latter was planning to use Emergency powers to suppress the people who might oppose his economic reform agenda.

“It is being asked why the government wants to continue the State of Emergency. The anti-government protesters have gone home. There is no unrest. There are those who say that the President wants to keep the Emergency laws to carry out economic reforms. Does that mean the President will use these laws to scare people into submission if they do not accept his economic reforms? I don’t think people can be intimidated. I want the President to answer this question,” he said.

MP de Silva said that the government did not have public support and that it was obvious that the spectre of the Rajapaksas was haunting the government.

“I agree that Wickremesinghe was appointed constitutionally. We have to work within the Constitution. However, the 134 votes he received on 20 July were not realistic. They have managed to manipulate the Constitution, but the government doesn’t have the support of the people. The problem is can the government win the support of the people,” he said.The SJB lawmaker added that Sri Lanka needed to restructure its debt. However, the country had not even started the process.

“One of the consultants we hired, Lazard, says that we have to start with China because it is new to debt restructuring. But we have not done so. Not only that, we have in fact started a diplomatic issue with China. What’s the front page news today? Can this government solve this sensitive international issue? Can it carry out the necessary economic reforms?” he asked.

MP de Silva said that the government had to work with the people and that it had to be honest with them. The government needed to present a common programme on which an all party government could be established.

“In 2020, we said that the government was on the wrong path and that we needed to seek IMF assistance. The government didn’t listen. We need an all-party programme to go before the IMF and get a decent deal. Today, I present to Parliament an economic recovery plan we have prepared. When we decided to throw our weight behind SLPP MP Dullas Alahapperuma, I was entrusted with the task of making an economic plan. We have run it through experts too. I ask the MPs to look at this and suggest improvements.”

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