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Sirisena says officials who did not take action to prevent Easter attacks responsible for carnage

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

Easter Sunday attacks could have been prevented if necessary action had been taken, and officials who did not do so should be held responsible for the carnage, former President Maithripala Sirisena said on Wednesday night, testifying before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) investigating the Easter Sunday attacks.  

The commissioners asked the former President about the release of two of the four suspects, arrested during the CID raid on Wanathawilluwa Jihadist training camp on 16 January, 2019.

Sirisena said that the person who recommended the release of the suspects should be held responsible. The Commissioners informed him that the documents releasing them had been signed by him.

Sirisena said that he would sign a large number of documents brought to him by the CID and the Ministry of Defence and that it was not possible to check each one individually.

The Attorney General’s Department representative who led the evidence asked the witness whether it was not the responsibility of the Head of State to ensure the safety of the citizens. The former President said terrorist attacks took place in many countries of the world and that the incumbent was not held responsible for failure to prevent all of them.

The Commissioners then asked the witness about a report submitted by the State Intelligence Service (SIS) on 23 October, 2018 about 120 persons who propagated Islamic State (IS) ideology.

Sirisena said the relevant document had been discussed at the National Security Council (NSC) meetings and necessary instructions given. The Minister of Law and Order had attended the NSC meetings and they should have acted on the instructions given, the witness said.

The Attorney General’s Department representative then asked the witness whether he should not take responsibility for failure to prevent incidents such as damaging of the Buddha statues in Mawanella, in December 2018, attack on the Coordinating Secretary of former Minister Kabir Hashim and the explosion of a motorcycle bomb in the Kattankudy area on 16 April, 2019, as he was the minister of law and order at that time.

Sirisena said such incidents should have been investigated by the local Police and other relevant investigating agencies. It was not necessary to seek the advice of the President or the NSC to deal with such matters, he added.

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Special COVID-19 probe crippled by infections among CCD sleuths: AG calls for new police team

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Brandix Apparel Limited yesterday (29) said that the company would fully cooperate with relevant authorities in the investigation ordered by the Attorney General (AG). A spokesperson for the company said so when The Island sought a clarification with regard to AG Dappula de Livera, PC, directing the police to launch a criminal investigation into the alleged lapses on the part of the company as well as those officials leading to the devastating COVID-19 outbreak.

The Minuwangoda eruption, which happened in the first week of October is widely believed to be the cause of the fast expanding Peliyagoda cluster.

Asked whether the police had contacted the Brandix management as regards the investigation and sought access to Brandix management and workers at its Minuwangoda apparel manufacturing facility as well as records at the Minuwangoda facility, the spokesperson said: “We will work with the relevant authorities in this regard”.

The Colombo Crime Division (CCD) tasked with the probe has suffered a serious setback due to a section of its officers being tested positive for COVID-19. Authoritative sources said that the CCD lacked sufficient strength to carry out the investigation.

AG de Livera early this week told DIG Ajith Rohana that a progress report should be submitted to him by or before Nov. 13.

Sources said that the badly depleted CCD was not in a position to conduct the high-profile investigation, in addition to other ongoing inquiries. The AG has directed the Acting IGP to constitute a special team of law enforcement officers to conduct the investigation. Sources acknowledged the urgent need for a thorough inquiry into the far worse second corona wave. Sources said that the AG issued fresh instructions in that regard after the crisis in the CCD was brought to his notice.

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Most garment workers under self-quarantine left to fend for themselves

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

A large number of garment workers who were undergoing self-quarantine in Minuwangoda did not receive any assistance, Chamila Thushari of the Dabindu Collective, a labour organisation that works with garment workers, told The Island yesterday.

She said that those who were under self-quarantine did not have money to purchase food and even those who were willing to help could not reach them.

“Some of them have received food parcels from their work places but that is not adequate. Most others have not received any assistance. Matters will only get worse after curfew is imposed throughout the Western Province,” Thushari said.

Most of these workers are undergoing self-quarantine at their boarding places, which also house individuals who still work in garment factories. “Although there is a curfew, they can go to work. These are perfect incubators for the virus,” she said.

Thushari said that every day between 20-30 workers under self-quarantine, tested positive for COVID-19.

There were no public health inspectors to monitor the boarding houses of garment workers to ensure that COVID-19 prevention measures were being followed, she said.

“Not even Grama Niladaris visit them,” Chamila said.

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SJB requests separate seats for its dissidents

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Chief Opposition Whip and Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella has written to Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena requesting him to make arrangements to provide separate seats to the nine MPs who had voted with the government for the 20th Amendment to the Constitution recently.

The letter dated yesterday said that the SJB parliamentary group had decided to expel MPs Diana Gamage, A. Aravind Kumar, Ishak Rahuman, Faisal Cassim, H. M. M. Haris, M.S. Thowfeeq, Nazeer Ahmed, A.A.S.M. Raheem and S.M.M. Musharaf and it requests the Speaker to make separate seating arrangements for these MPs in the Chamber.

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