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‘Reconciliation took precedence over national security under yahapalana govt.’

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

Reconciliation had figured above national security on the Defence Ministry’s list of priorities under the yahapalana government and it was a mistake, former Chief of National Intelligence Sisira Mendis yesterday told the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) investigating the Easter Sunday attacks.

The witness said so in answer to a question from one of the Commissioners.

“Yes, reconciliation came first. The previous government was trying to improve the country’s image because Sri Lanka was facing many issues internationally. A lot of foreigners came in to talk about reconciliation and the Defence Secretaries had to sit down with them and have long discussions.”

The witness added that there had been times when he wondered if they were talking about intelligence gathered during weekly intelligence review meetings.

“The government also wanted to release lands in the North that were held by the security forces. This is not an easy thing to do. Releasing land took so much of our time. There were no barriers on the roads and no search operations. People forgot about security. I knew the importance of national security but there wasn’t anything we could do.”

Although representatives of intelligence agencies were to meet on Tuesday every month, those meetings were never held as scheduled between July 2015 and April 2019, he said.

The weekly intelligence review meetings were to be chaired by either the State Minister of Defence or the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, he said.

“Four meetings should be held each month but the representatives never met four times a month between July 2015 and April 2019,” Mendis said.

During some months only one meeting had been held, he said.

“Although the State Minister chaired some of them initially, he did not attend any meeting in 2019,” he added.



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Six nabbed with over 100 kg of ‘Ice’

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By Norman Palihawadane and Ifham Nizam

The Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) yesterday arrested six suspects in the Sapugaskanda Rathgahawatta area with more than 100 kilos of Crystal Methamphetamine also known as Ice.

Police Media Spokesman, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Ajith Rohana told the media that the PNB sleuths, acting on information elicited from a suspect in custody had found 91 packets of Ice.

A man in possession of 100 kilos of heroin was arrested in Modera during the weekend and revealed that a haul of Ice had been packed in plastic boxes.

The PNB seized more than 114 kilos of Ice from the possession of a single drug network.

According to the information elicited from the suspects, more than 100 kilos of Ice were found.

The PNB also arrested six persons including two women with 13 kilos of Ice, during an operation carried out in the Niwandama area in Ja-Ela on Sunday.

DIG Rohana said the ice had been packed in small plastic boxes and hidden in two school bags.

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PM intervenes to iron out differences among coalition partners

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By Norman Palihawadane

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday said that he was confident that differences among the constituents of the SLPP coalition as regards the May Day celebrations and the next Provincial Council elections could be ironed out soon.

Leaders of all SLPP allied parties have been invited to a special meeting to be held at Temple Trees with the PM presiding on April 19.

Prime Minister Rajapaksa said it was natural for members of a political alliance to have their own standpoints and views on matters of national importance. “This is due to the different political ideologies and identities. It is not something new when it comes to political alliances world over. In a way, it shows that there is internal democracy within our alliance.

The PM said: “As a result of that the allied parties may express their own views on issues, but that does not mean there is a threat to the unity of the alliance. An alliance is more vibrant and stronger not when all the parties think on the same lines but when the member parties have different ideologies.”

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Thilo Hoffman remembered

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A copy of the book “Politics of a Rainforest: Battles to save Sinharaja” was handed over to Dominik Furgler, the Swiss Ambassador in Sri Lanka by the author of the book, Dr. Prasanna Cooray at the Swiss Embassy in Colombo last Tuesday, to be sent to the family of the late Thilo Hoffman in Switzerland.

Hoffman, a Swiss national, who made Sri Lanka his second home for six decades, was a pioneering environmental activist who led the battles to save Sinharaja from the front in the early 1970s, abreast with the likes of Iranganie Serasinghe, Kamanie Vitharana, Lynn De Alwis and Nihal Fernando of the “Ruk Rekaganno” fame. That was the era when the trees of Sinharaja were felled for the production of plywood by the then government. Hoffman was also a livewire of the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS) for a long time. Hoffman died in 2014 at the age of 92.

The book includes a chapter on Thilo Hoffman.

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