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PCoI members visit Katuwapitiya Church, one of the prime targets of Easter terrorists

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By Rathindra Kuruwita 

Members of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) investigating the Easter Sunday attacks visited St. Sebastian’s Church, Katuwapitiya on Saturday (15).

St. Sebastian’s Church was one of the targets of National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) terrorists on 21 April, 2019. The suicide bomb attack was carried out by Atchchi Muhammadu Muhammadu Hasthun.

One hundred and fifteen Easter worshipers at Katuwapitiya were killed during the attack. Among the 115 dead in Katuwapitiya, 32 were children (9 boys and 23 girls.) Ten children were killed in the Kochchikade Church blast (6 boys and 4 girls.) More than 253 persons injured at Katuwapitiya. About 37 Easter worshippers are still in critical condition (17 from Katuwapitiya and 20 from Kochchikade.)

Father Nishantha Lawrance Ramanayake, Director of Seth Sarana, earlier told the PCoI that the Catholic Church had opened six bank accounts after the Easter Sunday attacks and by 31 March 2020 and the members of the public had donated Rs. 518 million, the witness said. The funds had been used to assist the victims and their families.

Two hundred and eighty one families were affected by the bomb blast at the St. Sebastian Church in Katuwapitiya, 114 affected families by the blast at St. Anthony’s Church, Kochchikade and those affected at the Zion church, Batticaloa were given Rs. 147.4 million in assistance so far, Father Ramanayake said, adding that the Church continued to support those who were injured in the attacks.

“281 families affected by the blast at St. Sebastian Church in Katuwapitiya were given RS. 95.579 million; 114 families affected at St. Anthony’s Church, Kochchikade were given 41.9 million and Rs. 10 million was given to those affected at the Zion Church/”

 



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Wijeyadasa, under heavy flak over opposition to China project, says ready to face consequences

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by Shamindra Ferdinando

SLPP lawmaker Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, PC, yesterday (18) told The Island that he stood by the accusations he made in respect of the proposed Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill.

The former Justice Minister emphasised that he had expressed concerns publicly regarding the planned project after carefully examining the proposed Bill.

“In spite of a spate of statements issued by various government spokespersons, I’m confident of the legal process scheduled to begin today (19). The entire country should be concerned over the government move made at the behest of China.”

Responding to another query, the Colombo district MP urged political parties represented in Parliament to study the Bill with an open mind. The proposed law should be examined taking into consideration the previous UNP-led government transferring control of the strategic Hambantota port to China on a 99-year-lease and China is also in control of a terminal in the Colombo port for 35 years.

The MP said that he was ready to face the consequences of his decision to take a contrary view as regards the Chinese project. Those who had been benefited by the mega China funded project would shamelessly back it, lawmaker Dr. Rajapakse maintained, recollecting how members of parliament backed the 2002 Ceasefire Agreement brokered by Norway, shielded Treasury bond thieves et al.

Those who moved the Supreme Court against the proposed Bill included the Bar Association of Sri Lanka, MP Rajapakse said. The former Minister claimed that unprecedented tax exemptions provided to the businesses coming up in the newly reclaimed land adjacent to the Galle Face Green would pose a severe threat to the national economy.

The MP said that he didn’t personally have anything against China or any other country, but strongly believed in political and economic independence of the country. Therefore, the right-thinking lawmakers couldn’t under any circumstances vote for the proposed Bill as it was, the former Minister said.

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Hiding in obscure corner of India, Myanmar’s ousted lawmakers plotting to dethrone military junta

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BY S VENKAT NARAYAN

Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI:

Roughly a dozen ousted Myanmar lawmakers, who fled to India after the February 1 military coup, are now busy plotting to dethrone the generals.

In a spartan hillside room in India furnished only with a thin sleeping mat, one of the Myanmar Members of Parliament (MPs) spends much of his days attentively listening to Zoom conference calls and tapping away messages on his smartphone.

The short, soft-spoken man is among the handful of ousted Myanmar MPs who have fled across the border to India’s remote north-eastern region after the military coup and the lethal crackdown on dissent.

Two of the lawmakers and a Myanmar politician spoke to a Reuters reporter. They are involved with the Committee Representing the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw or CRPH, a body of ousted lawmakers that is attempting to re-establish the civilian government and displace the military.

The three said the group is supporting demonstrations, helping distribute funds to supporters and holding negotiations with multiple entities to quickly form a civilian administration nationwide. They asked not to be named for fear of reprisals against their families back home.

Most of the ousted lawmakers are from deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) that overwhelmingly won a November 2020 election, which the military has annulled.

The coup has been met with a fierce pro-democracy movement and tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets across the country, despite the crackdown.

Security forces have killed over 700 people, and more than 3,000 have been detained, including more than 150 lawmakers and members of the former government. Mobile and wireless internet services have been shut down.

The fear of detention and inability to rebuild a civilian government without internet connectivity has driven some Myanmar lawmakers involved in the resistance to work from India, the two MPs elected to Myanmar’s Parliament said.

“There is no time,” one of them, who is from the country’s western Chin state, told Reuters. “People are dying in our country.”

A spokesman for Myanmar’s military did not answer calls seeking comment. The junta has accused the CRPH of treason. The group is working to set up a national unity government to challenge the military’s authority.

Since fleeing to India around two weeks ago, the lawmaker said he had been holding regular discussions with colleagues to set up a parallel administration in Chin state, under directions from the CRPH.

The process is complex, involving building consensus between elected representatives, political parties, ethnic armed groups, civil society bodies and civil disobedience movement leaders, the two lawmakers and the politician said.

The CRPH is also keen on opening communications with India, where at least 1,800 people from Myanmar are already sheltering. It will seek New Delhi’s blessings for the parallel government it is attempting to form, the politician said.

“We can’t rely on China, Thailand and other neighbouring countries,” he said. “The only country where refugees are being welcomed is India”.

India’s External Affairs Ministry did not immediately respond to questions from Reuters.

This week, NLD lawmakers from Myanmar’s northern Sagaing region held an online conference call, but only 26 out of 49 representatives dialled in, according to the second MP who attended the meeting from India.

“We don’t know where the rest are,” the federal lawmaker said. Two party officials were now trying to track down their missing colleagues.

Some of the fiercest resistance to the junta has come from Sagaing. In the last two months, around 2,000 families involved in the civil disobedience movement in one part of the region have been given financial assistance of around 17 million Kyat ($12,143), the lawmaker from Sagaing said.

The presence and activities of escapee Myanmar lawmakers could pose a diplomatic quandary to India, particularly given New Delhi’s close ties with the Myanmar military rulers.

But India’s position on the Myanmar crisis itself appears to have somewhat shifted in recent weeks. This has also been acknowledged by some CRPH representatives.

At an United Nations Security Council (UNSC) meeting on April 10, Indian diplomat K. Nagaraj Naidu said New Delhi is pushing for a return to democracy in Myanmar. “The first, and most immediate step, in this regard is the release of detained leaders,” Naidu said.

However, India is concerned around internal divisions within the CRPH that could hobble its functioning, a source with knowledge of New Delhi’s thinking said.

The politician involved with the CRPH said he is hopeful that India will engage with the group.

“If democracy wins in Myanmar, it is also a win for India,” he said.

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JVP lawyers oppose Colombo Port City Bill

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By Saman Indrajith

Sri Lanka will become a victim of the ongoing power struggle between China and the US and India for supremacy in the Indian ocean region if the proposed Colombo Port City went ahead as planned, says the JVP’s lawyers wing.

Addressing the media at the Centre for Society and Religion in Colombo, Attorney-at-Law Sunil Watagala said that the proposed Port City was a threat to national security as it would certainly raise security concerns for India, too. “What will happen to this country when such an extent of land is given to China?” Watagala queried.

Watagala alleged that the provisions envisaged by the Draft Bill were inconsistent with the provisions of Articles 1, 2,3,4, 12,75 and 76 of the Constitution. “The Port City will not come under the administrative purview of any local government body, any provincial council or Parliament of this country,” he said.

Attorney-at-Law Harshana Nanayakkara said that the Colombo Port City Special Economic Commission Bill had no provisions for safeguarding the interests of the middle and low-level members of the local business community. They would not stand a chance before the foreign businessmen in the Port City, he said. “The government says that it brought the new Bill to provide tax exemptions for the foreign investors to incentivise them. That could have been easily done through the Board of Investment Act and the Strategic Development Act. No new laws are required for that purpose.”

Attorney-at-Law Charith Galhena said that people should oppose the Bill.

Attorneys-at-Law Upul Kumarapperuma, Nirmala Siriwardena, Thushara Ranatunga and Rexy Piyadasa also addressed the press.

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