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PCoI report on Easter Sunday carnage: AG won’t be given ‘sensitive’ volumes

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GL admits flaws , appreciates recommendations

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Presidential Secretariat has declined to release 22 volumes (each containing about 600 pages) of proceedings to Attorney General Dappula de Livera, PC, on the advice of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) that probed the 2019 Easter Sunday carnage.

Authoritative sources told The Island that of the 87 volumes, the Presidential Secretariat yesterday (2) had sent only 65 to the AG. The Attorney General has been informed that the PCoI is of the opinion that 22 volumes shouldn’t be disclosed due to the sensitive nature of the information therein relating to national security.

The Attorney General received the final volume of the report from the PCoI last week.

There were shortcomings in the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) report on the Easter Sunday carnage in 2019, but it couldn’t be discarded, Education Minister and SLPP Chairman Prof. G.L. Peiris told the media on Monday (1).

 Fielding questions at the weekly media briefing at Battaramulla, Prof. Peiris acknowledged the flaws while emphasising the need to go ahead with the judicial proceedings.

 Prof. Peiris said that the PCoI made far reaching recommendations that had to be dealt by the Office of the President (executive), legislature and the judiciary. In addition to them, there were specific recommendations to the Attorney General’s Department and the CIABOC (Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption).

 The minister stressed that deficiencies in the P CoI report certainly made a valuable contribution towards helping the government to ascertain the gruesome truth.

Pressed by the media for an explanation regarding the appointment of a six-member ministerial committee to deal with the P CoI report, Prof. Peiris said that the government needed to be guided by some guidelines. “The P CoI report didn’t in any way reflect the government stand. It is an independent body. Therefore, the government needs to agree on a formula in this regard. The ministerial committee will make recommendations and advice the government how to proceed.”

 Prof. Peiris made reference to some ‘clouded’ recommendations among some far reaching ones.

 Prof. Peiris dismissed the notion that the P CoI had recommended specific actions against various persons and organizations named in the report. The P CoI lacked such power; Prof. Peiris explained that the Attorney General would move court on behalf of the government. The findings made by the P CoI would be used in the process, Prof. Peiris said. The minister assured the public the government wouldn’t interfere in the investigations.

  The SLPP Chairman rejected accusations that the government exploited the P CoI report to undermine coalition partner SLFP. Such criticism was unfair as the government had nothing to do with the setting up of the P CoI in the run-up to the Nov 2019 presidential election.

 The then President and SLFP leader Maithripla Sirisena formed the P CoI close on the heels of Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) that probed the Easter Sunday carnage handing over its report in the third week of Oct 2019.

 Prof. Peiris appreciated the recommendations made in respect of the education sector. The Minister said that the failure to ensure strict controls on madrasas could cause a catastrophe.

 One-time External Affairs Minister said that the government wanted to ensure no holds barred investigation into the worst atrocity since the conclusion of the war in May 2009. The ministerial committee would facilitate the government initiative, the minister said, urging the Opposition not to politicize the issue at hand.

 Responding to another query, Prof. Peiris said that the SLPP would make its position clear on the P CoI report after having studied it. The Minister criticized efforts made by some persons with vested interests to condemn the report. Those who had been affected by P CoI’s findings and recommendations were likely to attack it, the minister said. The public wouldn’t be deceived by such criticism, the minister said, underscoring the fact that Easter Sunday carnage could have been thwarted if the previous government responded sensibly to specific intelligence received from India. Unfortunately, they played ‘pandu’ with national security at the expense of the public.

 Nearly 270 persons perished in near simultaneous attacks. Approximately 500 others received injuries and quite a number of  them maimed for life.

 

 



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Domestic debt restructuring will cripple EPF, ETF – JVP

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By Sirimatha Rathnasekera

The Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) and Employees’ Trust Fund (ETF) will lose about 600 billion rupees during the proposed domestic debt structuring, Co-Convener of the JVP affiliated National Trade Union Centre (NTUC) Wasantha Samarasinghe claimed.

Samarasinghe is of the opinion that the government is planning not to pay 20 to 25 percent of the loans it has taken from domestic sources. Successive governments have borrowed significantly from the EPF and ETF, he said.

Samarasinghe said that due to the depreciation of the rupee, the real value of EPF and ETF funds had decreased by half. “In such a context, can these institutions take a 20 percent haircut? This might be a big problem to the workers,” he said.

The NTUC Co-Convener said that a number of domestic banks, too, had lent to the government and domestic debt restructuring might lead to a collapse in the banking system.

However, Central Bank Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe says that they are confident of reaching debt sustainability without re-structuring domestic debt, which would lead to problems in the banking sector.

“There have been concerns among domestic bond investors about rupee debt/internal debt to be restructured following comments made by President Ranil Wickremesinghe to the effect that financial advisors were looking at domestic debt. However, there has been no request to restructure domestic debt. We are confident that we can make debt sustainable without restructuring domestic debt,” Dr. Weerasinghe told the media at the CBSL’s 6th Review of the Monetary Policy stance for this year, at the CBSL head office auditorium, in Colombo, on Thursday.

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Powerful CEBEU says yes to restructuring but on its terms

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Sri Lanka will experience periodic power cuts until 2027 if the government did not take steps to increase electricity production, the Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers Union (CEBEU) said yesterday.Due to electricity shortages, the Norochcholai Power Plant had been operational non-stop, sometimes even without scheduled maintenance, CEBEU President, Saumya Kumarawadu said.

“A generator is down. We will get it back online within 14 days. We had started maintenance on another plant in June and it was to be back online in September. But it has been delayed till November,” he said.

Kumarawadu said there would be 10-hour power cuts without Norochcholai. However, the power cuts could be reduced in two weeks when the generator was restored, he said.

He added that while they support restructuring of the CEB, they oppose de-bundling and selling the CEB to various private actors.

“Power cuts might have to go on till 2026 or 2027 unless new plants come up. A proposal to build an LNG power plant is still languishing in the Cabinet,” he said.

The CEBEU President also said that the electricity tariff was last increased in 2012. In 2014, the tariff was reduced. Without increasing electricity tariffs, the CEB will have to get increasing amounts of money from the treasury.

“The government should have increased the tariff at regular intervals. We haven’t increased in a decade and suddenly we have increased by a large amount.That’s why it has come as a shock to people,” he said.

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SJB opposes blanket privatisations

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… questions logic of selling cash cows like Telecom and Insurance

The SJB was opposed to the privatisation of profit-making government entities, Chief Opposition Whip, MP Lakshman Kiriella, said yesterday, in Colombo.Kiriella said that President Ranil Wickremesinghe had told The Economist magazine that they are thinking of privatising Sri Lanka Telecom and Sri Lanka Insurance.

“These are two institutions that make a profit. What is the point in privatising these?” he asked.

MP Kiriella said that they are not opposed to privatizing SriLankan Airlines, which has been making losses for years.

“We can talk about these things in Parliament. Even when we privatize loss making entities we have to take a number of things into consideration. What will happen to the workers? How will we compensate them? How will we re-skill them? We have to talk about these things openly before doing anything,” he said.

The Chief Opposition Whip said that one of the main reasons why people oppose privatization is because everything is done in secrecy.

“People wonder why things are hidden from them. We need to be open and transparent when we restructure,” he said.

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