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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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Mohan Pieris to be appointed as Ambassador to the UN?

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Extensive orientation course for heads of mission deignate

Former Chief Justice, Mohan Pieris, is mentioned as likely to be appointed as Sri Lanka’s new Permanent Representative (PR) to the United Nations in New York, informed sources said.

Ms. Kshenuka Senewiratne, the serving PR, who has been recalled to Colombo is expected to be back by mid-October. A career Foreign Service office, she turned 60-years in June. The Foreign Ministry is retiring career diplomats at age sixty but political appointees beyond that age are being posted.

Eight others to be appointed heads of Sri Lanka diplomatic missions overseas have been summoned to be interviewed by the 18-member High Posts Commitee recently named by the Speaker. This committee is charged with the responsibility of screening uigh appointments including those of ambassador/high commissioner.

The former chief justice is not among them as his name, according to a ighly placed source, came up later.

Those summoned are: Admiral (Retd.) KKVP Harischandra (Afghanistan), Vishramal Sanjiv Gunasekera (Japan), Milinda Moragoda (India), Ravinatha Ariyasinha (USA), Prof. Kshanika Hirumburegama (France) and Palitha Kohona (China).

Meanwhile Foreign Secretary Jayanath Colambage has organized an intensive orientation program for the heads of mission (designate) to be held between Oct. 5 and 15 at the foreign ministry. The innaugural meeting will be addressed by Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardene and Foreign Secretary Colombage who will speak on “National interests and Sri Lanka’s foreign policy perspective.

The other resource persons include Foreign Service veterans holding senior positions in the ministry in Colombo who will speak on subjects ranging from the country’s multilateral relationship, human resource and mission management as well as overseas office management procedures relating to the appointments of heads of mission.

Ministers, senior officials including the Secretaries for the Treasury and Defence, heads of organizations like the Tea Board, the Tourist Board and Foreign Employment Bureau are among those who will address the ambassadors/high commissioner designate.

Media personalities including Mr. Amal Jayasinghe, head of the Agence France Presse Bureau here, Arjuna Ranawana, senior media practitioner and Shihar Aneez who was a Reuters correspondent will public diplomacy from the perspective of a foreign correspondent.

Retired Foreign Secretaries HMGS Palihakkra and Bernard Goonetillake are among the resource persons who will address the diplomats-designate. The group is due to call on the president and prime minister closer to their departure dates.

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Captain of stricken oil tanker MT New Diamond ordered to appear in court

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A Colombo Magistrate has issued notice on the Captain of the stricken oil tanker MT New Diamond to appear before him on September 28, Court reports said.

On Wednesday, Attorney General Dappula De Livera directed the Director of the CID to name the Captain of the Very Large Crude carrier as a suspect in the case filed over the matter.

State Counsel Nishara Jayaratne, the Coordinating Officer to the AG in an audio press release said the Attorney General is of the view the Captain of MT New Diamond had committed offences punishable under the provisions of the Marine Pollution Prevention Act, No. 35 OF 2008.

The CID was also directed to report facts against the Captain under the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure to the Magistrate’s Court.

MT New Diamond carrying a quarter of a million tonnes of crude oil caught fire on September 3 in Sri Lankan waters as the vessel was travelling from Kuwait to Piradip in India.

Sri Lankan Navy, Coastguard and Air Force, as well as the Indian coastguard, fought the fire over a number of days.

One crew member aboard is missing presumed dead and another injured sailor was brought to shore and is in a hospital in Eastern Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka is claiming Rs. 340 million as compensation from the owners of the tanker for expenses incurred by various government agencies engaged in fire-fighting and rescue operations.

(ECONOMYNEXT)

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Saaraketha modernizing Sri Lankan agriculture through Agri Tech

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When we think of greenhouses, we tend to think of the cold hills of Nuwara Eliya, old fashioned English homes and Victorian botanical gardens full of exotic plants. We don’t tend to think high-tech, modern or organic, and we certainly don’t think of Anuradhapura.

This is where Saaraketha, Sri Lanka’s only certified organic fresh fruit and vegetable retailer, has dreamt big and delivered better than anyone thought was possible. They have harnessed the future of agriculture and brought it to reality today, in the form of a greenhouse project that will see the face of Sri Lankan organic agriculture change overnight.

Not only a first for Sri Lanka, but a first for the entire region, the new Saaraketha Solar-powered Greenhouse project has a production capability of half a million square feet of controlled environment, entirely solar powered and completely carbon neutral. Projected to carry over 60 varieties of vegetables, greens and herbs, the Saaraketha Solar-powered Greenhouse Project will be able to deliver stable crops all year round, ensuring a consistent income for farmers and fixed prices for customers.

With global weather patterns constantly changing and becoming more and more unpredictable and unreliable, it is more important than ever to invest in Sri Lanka’s self-sufficiency and improve food security. And with increased understanding and awareness of the damage that pesticides do to both the environment and health, it is also the time to focus on crops and production that is genuinely good for us and planet earth, with no corners cut and with complete transparency.

Saaraketha has always led the way to ensuring traceability and transparency, launching their plant to plate tracing technology in 2019, and now they want to take it a step further.

With their founder Prasanna Hettiarachchi at the helm, they are taking on the impressive task of transforming Sri Lankan agriculture by exploring ways to harness the power of technology to ensure that farmers’ livelihoods are improved and their ability to feed the nation is stabilized.

From day one, Saaraketha has been committed to the farmers of Sri Lanka. It is their stories, their experiences and their ambitions that have inspired Saaraketha to create the platform that they have over the last nine years. And even now the Saaraketha Solar-powered Greenhouse Project is powered 80% by female farmers, all working with Saaraketha to bring excellence to our families while uplifting their own families’ futures.

To date organic in Sri Lanka was considered the privilege of the few, always the healthy but highly costly option. Normal families would prioritise their children and buy organic only for them, but that need not be the case anymore. With the Saaraketha Greenhouse Project, the prices of vegetables, greens and herbs are reducing by 50%.

Not as a one off, or a sale, but for good. From October onwards, internationally accredited, “Certified Organic” produce will be available online at www.saaraketha.com and all supermarket retailers.

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