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Previous regime ignored 97 early warnings on Easter carnage – Defence Secy



The previous government had ignored 97 early warnings about the impending Easter Sunday attacks, Defence Secretary Maj. Gen. (Retd) Kamal Gunaratne said, addressing a gathering of professionals at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute recently.

The event organised by the “Harimaga organization” was themed “Post COVID-19 Renaissance – Present and future development of Sri Lanka.”

Gunaratne said national security and defence were essential for the country’s development.

 “These two are also crucial in attracting much-needed direct foreign investment to the country,” he said, alluding to the President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s election manifesto – Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour.

“Although separatism was militarily defeated in May 2009, we need to eliminate the separatist ideology. Some individuals of the Tamil diaspora are constantly promoting this ideology,.”.

Following the war 12,242 ex-LTTE cadres had been rehabilitated and reintegrated into the society. However, some remnants of front organisations of the LTTE were still attempting to indoctrinate and recruit the rehabilitated cadres, he said.

Referring to the Easter Sunday suicide attacks in 2019, the Defence Secretary said that if those responsible had listened to the intelligence agencies the attacks could have been prevented. “Our military intelligence operatives were imprisoned and harassed. This caused gaps in our intelligence information. This allowed extremists to operate scot-free and under the radar” he said.

In contrast the current administration took intelligence information seriously and because of that a number of detections had already been made, Gunaratne said. The security forces had found over 1.5 kilos of high explosives and over 90 detonators from Mannar.

“In addition, the military has also taken a few remote control devices into custody. If we also overlooked these incidents, none of these would have been recovered. We will never leave room for separatism from the North to rise or extremism from the East to spread fear and destruction in this country ever.”

 The Defence Secretary also mentioned the steps taken to eliminate drug syndicates that had been operating from prison cells. “To deal with this, we appointed capable officers in charge of the Prisons Department and the Police Special Task Force,” he said.

Speaking about the initiatives taken to change the existing system in prisons, Gunaratne said a maximum security prison was already under construction to detain serious criminals and drug smugglers. Meanwhile mobile phone jammers had already been installed at the Boossa and the Angunakolapelessa prisons.

He also revealed plans to enhance the welfare of prisoners and to reduce overcrowding in prisons.

“We have taken steps to increase facilities to rehabilitate drug addicts. A special Centre, with state-of- the-art facilities, to accommodate over 1,000 inmates is now under construction at Nittambuwa. Another facility will be constructed at Weerawila to accommodate 2,000 inmates”, he added.

The Defence Secretary highlighted the plans to curb illegal sand mining and prevent illegal encroachments especially in the Western Province. A special unit had been established at the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) to investigate public complaints, he said.

Commandant of the Police Special Task Force (STF) DIG Waruna Jayasundara, Commissioner General of Prisons Thushara Upuldeniya and Chairperson Harimaga organization Kanishka de Silva were also present.


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Bid to use private member’s motion to put off LG polls alleged



By Shamindra Ferdinando

Former Foreign Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris has questioned the rationale behind President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s warning that the military will be deployed to curb protest vis-a-vis a Foreign Ministry undertaking to boost foreign trade and investment.

Addressing the Parliament, during the Budget committee stage debate, on 28 Nov., Prof. Peiris said the Foreign Ministry couldn’t expect to succeed in economic diplomacy while the government was resorting to repressive measures.

Prof. Peiris asked who would want to invest in a country where the people were warned of dire consequences if they held protests, and elections were arbitrarily postponed.

Referring to the long overdue Provincial Council polls, Prof. Peiris discussed how postponement of scheduled Local Government polls could further jeopardise Sri Lanka’s standing among the international community.

Prof. Peiris alleged that the government was planning to use private members’ motion submitted by Attorney-at-Law Premanath C. Dolawatta (SLPP, Colombo District) to put off scheduled Local Government polls further. The ex-Minister claimed that the motion meant to enhance youth representation in governance would be utilised to delay the polls indefinitely. He recalled how the Yahapalana government had postponed the Provincial Council elections indefinitely.

The rebel SLPP Chairman pointed out that the government had chosen MP Dolawatta’s motion, handed over recently, though SJB’s Imthiaz Bakeer Markar submitted a private member’s motion on the same lines much earlier.

MP Dolawatta handed over a copy of his motion to President Ranil Wickremesinghe on Oct 31. Prof. Peiris said that they wouldn’t find fault with the lawmaker for making proposals which the academic said were timely.

Prof. Peiris warned Foreign Minister Ali Sabry, PC, that Sri Lanka wouldn’t be an appealing destination for investments unless the government adopted tangible measures to curb corruption. Shocking disclosures at parliamentary watchdog committees underscored that corruption was at unprecedented level and needed immediate attention.

Speaking on behalf of the breakaway SLPP faction, Nidahasa Jathika Sabhawa aka Freedom People’s Congress Prof. Peiris said that the recent declaration by the World Bank that it would audit the procurement and distribution of fertiliser here meant that the world had no faith in our system.

Commenting on assurances given by the government that a new Anti-Corruption Bill would be introduced soon, Prof. Peiris said that existing laws were quite sufficient. The issue at hand is absence of political will to battle corruption, the former Minister said, meant flight of professionals and intolerable increase in taxes on business wouldn’t encourage Foreign Ministry’s drive.

At the onset of his speech, lawmaker Peiris asked whether the government was genuine about the recent declaration that the national issue could be resolved by the enactment of a new Constitution by the next Independence Day. Who would take such a promise seriously against the backdrop of all previous attempts undertaken by far more stable governments failing to achieve the desired results? the former law professor asked. The former minister also questioned the feasibility of forming an apparatus on the lines of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa. Prof. Peiris asked whether those now at the helm really had the wherewithal to meet the South African standards.

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State FM assures there won’t be shortage of milk powder



State Finance Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya told Parliament yesterday (29) that there would be no shortage of milk powder in the coming days due to the Customs holding a consignment of six containers of milk powder, imported into the country, for violating regulations.

Minister Siyambalapitiya said the six containers had 105,375 kilos of full cream milk powder, imported from New Zealand, via Malaysia. It reached the Colombo port on 20 Oct. It was only after the consignment had arrived in the Port that the importers submitted the letters to get the consignment released from the Controller Imports and Exports. Arrangements would be made to release the stock from the harbour on the recommendation of the Secretary to the Ministry of Trade and Food Security.

As such, there is no need for permission from the Controller Import and Export to release the stock, the minister said, adding that there were no limitations imposed on importing milk powder and there would be no cause for panic buying in fear of a shortage of milk powder in the coming days.

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Dolawatta responds to GL




SLPP MP Premanath C. Dolawatta said his private member’s motion wouldn’t lead to the postponement of local government polls. He said he felt the need to restore the 25% quota for youth, even before he entered Parliament, consequent to the August 2020 general election. The government and the Opposition could quickly reach a consensus on the proposals, and avoid unnecessary complications. MP Dolawatta said so when The Island sought his response to accusations made by Prof. Peiris, who said that time was rapidly running out for Local Government polls. As the nomination process needed to be commenced soon to ensure that 341 Local Government bodies could be constituted by 20 March 2023.

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