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PCoI orders ex-SIS chief’s phone to be taken into custody

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) investigating the Easter Sunday attacks ordered SDIG Mahesh Welikanna, attached to the PCoI Police unit, to take into custody a mobile phone used by former State Intelligence Service (SIS) Director SDIG Nilantha Jayawardena to record some of his conversations with senior security officials after the Easter Sunday attacks. 

Earlier Jayawardena presented the Commission with a recording of a conversation he had with former Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando in late April about the role played by various senior officials regarding the Easter Sunday attacks.

The conversation took place after both men had testified before the Malalgoda Committee, appointed by former President Maithripala Sirisena on April 21, 2019 to investigate the attacks and to make recommendations to prevent recurrence.

SDIG Jayawardena told the Commission that the recording had been transferred to a CD and then to his laptop.

When questioned why he had recorded this conversation, SDIG Jayawardena said that there were many attempts to tarnish the image of SIS after the attacks and he was also aware of those who were behind the slandering.

“I recorded this conversation to defend our reputation, as evidence,” he said.

The Chairman of the PCoI asked the witness if he had edited or altered the recording. SDIG Jayawardena said he had not.

Chairman then instructed the Secretary of the PCoI to hand over the recording to the Government Analyst’s Department and to obtain a report on it within one week.  The Government Analyst was instructed to identify whether the conversation was between Jayawardena and Fernando and whether the recording had been altered. Jayawardena and Fernando were asked to provide voice samples to the Government Analyst, if necessary.

The PCoI Chairman also observed that from the beginning Jayawardena had been using his laptop to present evidence and that on a previous occasion, Jayawardena had played a recording of a conversation with former CNI Sisira Mendis on his laptop.

“Under Article 7 (c) of the Presidential Commissions Act, I instruct you to hand over the laptop to the police unit attached to the PCoI. The Police unit will examine it to see if there are recordings that are important to this investigation, categorise and hand them over to AG’s Department officials. This should be done before Jayawardena and his lawyer. Then his laptop can be returned.”

Counsel Dilshan Jayasuriya and Anura Meddegoda, PC, who appeared for former Defence Secretary and former IGP Pujith Jayasundara, respectively, requested the Commission to send both the phone used by SDIG Jayawardena to record the conversation and his laptop to the Government Analyst. They also asked the PCoI to give a copy of the recording for their perusal.

The Chairman said that they couldn’t provide copies of the recording and lawyers could listen to it at the commission, if necessary.

The Attorney General’s Department official leading the evidence said that there was no need to send those devices to the Government Analyst. Such action could be taken if the Government Analyst said that those devices were needed for their investigation.

“The witness has a personal life,” she said.

In response, the two defence counsel said that there might be some vital documents which SDIG Jayawardena had not submitted to the Commission.

Counsel Jayasuriya said: “Throughout his evidence, the witness had been hinting that he had further information. In the recording played today there was insinuation that he was trying to save people. What if he has a recording with former President Maithripala Sirisena that is vital for this investigation. I believe this witness is providing information selectively.”

Considering all the arguments, the Commissioners directed the PCoI police unit to take into custody the phone used to record the conversation with Fernando. Jayawardena said that the conversation had been recorded on his private phone, one of his family member was now using.

Chairman instructed SDIG Mahesh Welikanna to send the Director of the police unit, SSP Liyanage to Jayawardena’s house and obtain the mobile phone.

Given below are selected excerpts of the conversation between Jayawardena and Fernando.

The recording starts with SDIG Jayawardena explaining to Fernando the kind of intelligence that the SIS would furnish a senior official like the Defence Secretary. The SIS would not provide him with all intelligence information that they would come across and only operational intelligence would be given to the Defence Secretary.

Jayawardena:

“You gave to the media after the attack where you say that you had received prior warnings of the attacks but that you didn’t take the matter seriously. This showed that the information had not been relayed to the superiors?’

Fernando:

“Yes, I didn’t tell my superiors. When they asked, I told them that I didn’t”.

Jayawardena:

“Don’t worry about it. People are attacking me and the SIS. They call me a henchman of President Maithripala Sirisena. They want to remove me but I have done what I could do as SIS head.”

Fernando:

I told Sisira (former CNI). He should have told IGP (Pujith Jayasundara).”

Jayawardena:

“When this matter was taken up on April 09, this wasn’t taken seriously. If they took it up seriously, this wouldn’t have happened. I informed everyone.

“When I sent the intelligence report to the CNI, I was expecting instructions and advice from him. I didn’t get any advice and I sent my officers and found out information. On April 09 all information I had was sent to the IGP.”

Fernando:

“You had sent? I didn’t know. I am not telling President Sirisena had become a problem. Pujith also said so.”

Jayawardena:

“People also ask me but it’s not up to me to tell the President. But there is no point telling the President or the Prime Minister. What can they do? They can’t put roadblocks. I have told people who can do things. On April 20 I said hotels were targeted and I told CNI to put some people and look at hotels. I can only advise but I can’t instruct.”

Fernando:

“Will it be a problem for me because I had not given him specific instructions?”

Jayawardena:

“What can you say? Do you know where to put road blocks? People with experience must do it. IGP knows what to do. So you have done your job. The rest is up to the IGP.”

Fernando:

“If you had given me instructions on what to tell the IGP, I could have given him more specific information.”

Jayawardena:

I don’t need to say. And neither do you. The IGP should know what to do.”



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Fuel crisis: Key CPC facility opened for VIPs, friends as public transport shrinks

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Samagi Jana Balavegaya trade unionist Ananda Palitha yesterday (01) alleged that members of Parliament, Chairmen of various government institutions, and other politically connected persons, continued to obtain unlimited petrol and diesel from the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) facility at Kolonnawa.

The former CPC employee declared that the powers that be had transformed the Kolonnawa depot into a special facility to cater to the needs of the politically influential.

Those who touted the ‘One Country, One Law’ concept had created a special category while almost the entire nation suffered due to the unprecedented disruption of fuel supplies, Palitha said.

Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera and CPC Chairman Sumith Wijesinha didn’t answer their phones.

Ananda Palitha said that none of those who had been given access to the Kolonnawa depot came under essential services. “Why should lawmakers, whatever their status in society, be given access to the special facility when they aren’t included among essential services,”

Ananda Palitha asked.The SJB activist said that the government was struggling to maintain public transport after having repeatedly promised to sustain.

The trade unionist alleged that though they brought the clandestine operation at Kolonnawa to the attention of the government, it continued unabated. Barrels full of fuel had been taken from Kolonnawa, he said, among the beneficiaries were owners of V8 and other super luxury vehicles.

Ananda Palitha said that the Opposition should have taken up this issue vigorously.

Responding to another query, Ananda Palitha said that according to information available to them, Ceypetco had approximately 3,000 mt of diesel, 2,500 mt of petrol 95,600-700 mt of petrol 92 and was not in a position at least to meet the requirement of the essential services.

“The government is yet to come up with a plan to obtain petrol and diesel,” Ananda Palitha said, urging the government to take the public into confidence.

Palitha pointed out that the police had carried out numerous raids, targeting those who hoarded diesel and petrol, whereas a primary fuel depot that was not supposed to pump fuel for outsiders, engaged in business. The government should be ashamed of this situation, the trade union leader said, pointing out the country was heading for chaos.

The Island yesterday afternoon brought Ananada Palitha’s allegations to the notice of Lalith Weeratunga, Senior Advisor to the President,Gotabaya Rajapaksa

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Energy cooperation sought from Saudi Arabia on urgent basis

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Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris has requested Charge d’ Affaires of the Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Abdulelah A. A. Orkobi, to facilitate Environment Minister Naseer Ahamed to visit Saudi Arabia from July 02-05 as Special Envoy of the President of Sri Lanka.The request was made when the envoy called on Prof Peiris at the Foreign Ministry on Thursday (30).

At the meeting, Foreign Minister Peiris briefed the Saudi envoy on the current economic situation, including fuel shortage and its negative impact on all sectors in Sri Lanka. Prof. Peiris sought avenues for energy cooperation with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as an utmost urgent matter.

Charge d’ Affaires of Saudi Embassy Orkobi, emphasized the importance attached to the Sri Lanka – Saudi bilateral relationship and assured all possible support to Sri Lanka, at this juncture.

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‘Halting assistance’: Japanese envoy reassures Prez

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Japanese Ambassador Hideaki Mizukoshi yesterday (01) met President Gotabaya Rajapaksa against the backdrop of reports that Japan wouldn’t provide financial assistance due to the possibility of such being mismanaged.A section of the media quoted the Japanese envoy having said so at a meeting with a group of Tamil National Alliance (TNA) members during a recent visit to the north.

Subsequent to the meeting at the President’s House, the President’s Office said that the Japanese envoy reassured the President of their support to the proposed IMF programme with Sri Lanka and bilateral development assistance.

However, the Japanese embassy didn’t issue a statement on the meeting though it regularly issued statements on a range of issues.

Recently Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Japan Sanjiv Gunasekera suddenly quit the top diplomatic posting. The government has nominated former Foreign Secretary Admiral Jayanath Colombage as Gunasekera’s successor.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister’s Office has sought a clarification from the Japanese embassy regarding the controversial declaration and received an assurance that the envoy didn’t say so at the meeting with the TNA (SF)

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