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Opposition, govt. exchange intense fire over Easter carnage probe



*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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SJB MP slams police double standards



“Why one law for Ponnambalam and another for Gamage?”

The police have failed to display the same efficiency they displayed in arresting Jaffna District MP Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam with regard to arresting State Minister Diana Gamage, who should have been spending her time at the Mirihana Immigration Detention Centre, Kurunegala District SJB MP Nalin Bandara Jayamaha told Parliament on Friday.

“If the police had displayed the same efficacy, Diana Gamage should have been at the Mirihana Detention Centre at this time. Instead she comes to parliament and issues threats to other MPs. The courts have clearly stated that the CID could take her into custody because she had been using two passports.

“The Immigration Controller himself has reported to the courts that she had been a UK citizen since 2004 and using a UK passport since then. She has not revoked her UK citizenship. In addition she has obtained anther passport through the Secretary General of Parliament. The Speaker too should have a responsibility to prevent a foreign citizen sitting unlawfully in the House,” he said.

Jayamaha said that Gamage had no right to sit in parliament. “The case against her regarding her having forged passports is postponed again and again. The law is not implemented. My colleague Mujibur Rahuman tabled a document in this House that the Defence Secretary had been informed of the illegality of Gamage’s presence in Parliament. I tabled the same again today.

“She recently told a TV talk-show that she had applied for the revocation of her UK citizenship. We do not know whether she has two tongues,” the MP said.

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Sarath Weerasekera opposes SLT share sale on security grounds



Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT), which owns a fixed and mobile telecom group, which is partly foreign owned and listed should not be privatized, the head of a parliamentary committee on national security has said.

Government MP, Retd. Admiral Sarath Weerasekara who chairs the Sectoral Oversight Committee on National Security told parliament Friday that divestment of the 49.5 percent stake in SLT held by the government could “expose the country’s strategic communication infrastructure and sensitive information to private companies that are motivated by profit, which could pose a threat to national security”.

Weerasekara also said that any individual or organization proscribed or otherwise that “aided terrorists or extremists” must not be allowed to purchase shares or control Sri Lanka’s national assets.

The claim comes despite satellite links and international cables connecting the country being built and managed by foreign conglomerates in which many connected countries are also shareholders. SLT is also a shareholder in some global cable companies.

Weerasekara suggested that the government retain the right to repurchase shares held by the majority shareholder of SLT.SLT’s second biggest shareholder, behind the Sri Lanka government, is Malaysia-based Usaha Tegas Sdn Bhd with a 44.9 percents take in the company.

Most Sri Lanka’s mobile firms were also built and owned not just by private firm but foreign ones. SLT’s own mobile network, Mobitel was a build operate transfer project by Australia’s Telstra.

Sri Lanka’s cabinet of ministers in March 2023 listed Sri Lanka Telecom among several state companies to be re-structured.SLT currently enjoys market leadership in fixed-line services and is the second-largest operator in mobile. It also owns an extensive optical fibre network.The company was placed on watch for a possible rating upgrade by Fitch Ratings in March 2023 after the government announced the restructuring. (EconomyNext)

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Cardinal hits out at government demanding local elections



By Norman Palihawadane

Colombo Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith has urged the government to hold local elections to secure the democratic rights of the people.

“Voting is a right of the people that we must all enjoy. It is a right that every person over 18 -years of age is entitled to to determine the future of the country,” he said on Thursday.

“Today justice as been turned into injustice, governance to dictatorship and law into lawlessness,” the 75-year-old cardinal told a gathering of hundreds of people at a function at St. Anthony’s College in Kochchikade.

Local polls to elect 340 councils were slated for April 25 but the election commission postponed it, citing a lack of funds.

“The government said earlier that it doesn’t have money to hold an election, now it’s saying that it has money. If the government has the money, please give an opportunity to the people to vote and let the people express their wishes. How much of what came from the IMF was used for agriculture? How much for the fishing industry? And what about education?” the cardinal queried.

Rather than improving the lives of people, “politicians import goods, and bring in what we need and what we don’t need, destroying our economic independence, leading us to depend on foreign countries,” he said.

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