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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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SL gets Rs 452 mn for saving ill-fated tanker: Rs. 3.4 bn asked for

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By Ifham Nizam and Rathindra Kuruwita

The Marine Enviro-nment Protection Authority (MEPA) yesterday received Rs. 452 million from London for having saved MT New Diamond, a super oil tanker that caught fire in the Sri Lanka’s territorial waters last year.

MEPA General Manager, Dr. P. B. Terney Pradeep Kumara told The Island that Rs. 442 million had come for the services rendered by the Sri Lanka Navy, MEPA and Rs. 10 million by way of a fine imposed on the Ship’s Captain.

However, Sri Lanka has to receive a much larger amount for the damage caused to the marine environment, Dr. Kumara said. Following the incident, Sri Lankan authorities filed charges against the Captain of the ill-fated vessel and made a claim for $2.4 million from the ship’s owners for the firefighting and pollution prevention efforts.

Twenty experts from the Universities of Moratuwa, Ruhuna and Sri Jayewardenepura submitted their recommendations as regards the damage to the environment, to the Attorney General. Based on the report, the Attorney General’s Department had asked for Rs. 3.4 billion (around USD 19 million) as compensation for environmental damage, the Coordinating Officer for the Attorney General, state counsel Nishara Jayaratne said.

Soon they would have discussions with the lawyers of the shipping agent concerned on compensation for environmental damage caused, she said.

Dr. Kumara, who is the former Head of the Department of Oceanography/Marine Geology of the Ruhuna University, said that the incident had caused deaths among marine species due to spillage of some toxic fuel from the vessel.

The MT New Diamond crude oil tanker was transporting 270,000 MT oil from the port of Meena Al Ahmadi in Kuwait to the Port of Paradip in India when a fire broke out in its engine room as the vessel was passing the eastern seas of Sri Lanka on September 3, 2020.

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PSC on gender equality meets for the first time

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State Minister, Fernandopulle flanked by two other PSC members

Special attention on microfinance

The Parliamentary Select Committee appointed to further gender equality, to investigate instances of discrimination against women and to present recommendations to Parliament, focused on microfinance loans that are currently affecting a large number of women in Sri Lanka, when they met for the first time in Parliament recently.

The meeting was chaired by the State Minister of Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID-19 Disease Control Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle.

It was also revealed that the Cabinet had approved the re-establishment of an institution to regulate Microfinance loans in Sri Lanka.

The MPs also discussed the role of the Select Committee. They decided that the primary role of the Committee should be to investigate women’s grievances and all forms of discrimination based on gender, including workplace violence.

Another task before this committee is to examine and review laws that can be used to enhance gender equality, encourage relevant ministries and authorities to formulate plans to further gender equality and to allocate financial resources.

The Committee will also try to encourage greater women’s representation in decision-making bodies at the national and provincial levels as well as in government, civil society and the private sector.

MPs Rohini Kaviratne, (Dr.) Harini Amarasuriya, M. Udayakumar, S. Sritharan, Rohana Bandara and the Secretary to the Committee, Deputy Secretary General and Chief of Staff of the Parliament Kushani Rohanadheera were also present at the meeting.

 

 

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A/L Examination from October 04 to 30

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The 2021 GCE Advanced Level examination would be held from October 4 to 30, Education Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris said yesterday addressing the media at his Ministry.

Minister Peiris said the examination was earlier scheduled to be held in August.

The Grade 5 scholarship examination would be held on October 03 and the 2021 GCE Ordinary Level (O/L) examination in the last week of January 2022, the Minister said.

“Usually, schools are open for academic activities for around 200 days a year. But in 2020, schools were open for about 150 days. It was around 130 days in the Western Province. We were not able to fill this gap with online classes due to lack of internet facilities in many parts of the country,” he said.

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