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Pujith now says he should have done more

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

Former Commandant of the Police Special Task Force (STF), SDIG, M. R. Latheef was informed of the possibility of a terror attack, after he had received information from the SIS, both in writing and over the phone, former IGP Pujith Jayasundara, on Monday, told the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) investigating the Easter Sunday attacks.

Jayasundera said so when a Commissioner pointed out that SDIG Latheef had told the Commission that he had not been informed of a possible terrorist attack by the IGP over the phone.

“This is his opinion, but I informed him of it over the phone,” the witness said. Jayasundara added that Latheef was among the first officers he had conveyed the information about a possible terrorist attack to. Latheef had been informed because he as the STF Commandant was a capable officer with a wealth of experience, the former IGP said.

“I received the information from then SIS Director SDIG Nilantha Jayawardena on 9 April, 2019 and I forwarded it to four senior police officers on the same day. I, as the IGP, believed that they would take appropriate action,” the witness said.

Commissioners asked the witness why he had not given specific instructions to the Police officers. Jayasundara said those SDIGs had a lot of experience and expertise. Moreover, given the political climate at that time, there was nothing more he could do, the former IGP said.

However, given the turn of events, he now felt that he should have given specific instructions.

Jayasundara added that he had realised the seriousness of the information on a possible terrorist attack and conveyed it to officers under him on the same day he received it.

Officers had taken steps to inform security officers of VIPs and the Indian High Commission. Additional security officers had been detailed to protect the Indian High Commission since it had been mentioned as one of the targets of the bombers.

The Commissioners then asked the witness on why he had not informed the Senior DIG in charge of the Eastern Province of that information since Zahran Hashim, Rilwan Hashim, Army Mohideen and Milhan, whose names were mentioned in the intelligence information, were from the Eastern Province. Jayasundera said he had not done so.

“At that time it did not occur to me to inform SDIG – East of it. But now I think it would have been much better if he had been informed.”

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Majority of 300 luxury vehicles to be released

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… some shipped in without opening LCs, EU wants restrictions abolished

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The majority of the luxury vehicles imported by special permit holders in contravention of the import ban imposed by the government in view of precarious economic situation caused by corona first wave are likely to be released subject to penalties.

Well informed sources said that those vehicles shipped in without even opening LCs would be released. Among the violators were many government servants.

Sources said that vehicles brought in without opening LCs were likely to be confiscated.

“We have categorised over 300 vehicles, including BMWs, Mercedes-Benz and Audis into two groups. Customs are now in the process of evaluating individual cases,” a high ranking state official said.

The government announced a ban on vehicle imports to arrest the depletion of foreign reserves. Sources acknowledged that at the time the vehicles

arrived in Sri Lanka the second corona wave hadn’t erupted. The situation was far worse now and further deteriorating, they said, adding that the Customs were being inundated with requests for releasing vehicles on sympathetic grounds.

Controversy surrounds the failure on the part of the government to strictly implement the import ban in view of the sharp drop in state revenue due to the pandemic.

Recently, the EU demanded that Sri Lanka immediately lift import ban or face the consequences. The EU issued the warning in talks with government representatives. Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena explained the circumstances that compelled the government to impose import restrictions. The EU sought an explanation as to when the ban would be lifted. The Foreign Ministry quoted Foreign Minister Gunawardena as having explained to the EU the challenges Sri Lanka economy was facing amidst the dwindling foreign currency reserve situation due to the significant reduction in remittances and tourism revenue induced by the COVID-19 global pandemic. The minister said that the import restrictions were being reviewed.

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Nearly 74,000 persons under home quarantine

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Close to 74,000 people belonging to 27,974 families had been placed under home quarantine, Police Spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said on Wednesday (25).

He said that the number of cases from the Minuwangoda and Peliyagoda clusters had increased to 17,436 with 458 persons had tested positive for the virus on Tuesday.

Two wards of the Kethumathi Maternity Hospital, Panadura were temporarily closed on Wednesday after two pregnant women admitted there tested COVID-19 positive.

The two women are from Atalugama, which has been declared an isolated area. During the last few days close to half of the COVID-19 patients detected in Colombo District are from Atalugama.

The two women have been sent to Neville Fernando Hospital, Malabe. The patients and staff in Wards 3 and 4 at the Kethumathi Maternity Hospital are now under quarantine. Their family members too have been asked to undergone self-quarantine.

The Police had arrested 61 persons who had violated quarantine laws within the 24 hours that ended at 8 am yesterday, Police spokesman, DIG Ajith Rohana said, adding that they had been arrested for not wearing masks or for not maintaining physical distancing. With those altogether 688 persons had been arrested for violating quarantine laws from October 30, he said.

Commissioner General of Prisons Thushara Upuldeniya said that apart from Welikada, the spread of COVID-19 had been controlled at other prisons. COVID-19 cases had been reported from six prisons, he added.

“We are conducting PCR tests and hope that the situation in Welikada too would be brought under control. Twenty four new cases were detected from prisons on November 24 and from October 04, we have identified 708 cases within the prison system.”

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Severity of impact of second wave on economy could be far worse than anticipated – CBSL

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By Shyam Nuwan Ganewatte

The impact of the second wave of COVID-19 could be severer on the economic growth than previously anticipated, Director of Economic Research at the Central Bank Dr. Chandranath Amarasekara said yesterday (26).

Dr. Amarasekera said so responding to a query by The Island at a CBSL media briefing. The top official said that an assessment couldn’t be made yet as the second wave was continuing.

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