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Sirisena, who claimed he was very sick on day of attack managed to return home same night

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

Former Director of the State Intelligence Service (SIS) SDIG Nilantha Jayawardena had contacted the Personal Security Officer (PSO) of former President Maithripala Sirisena three times on the day of the Easter Sunday attacks, it was revealed, on Thursday night, at the PCoI probing Easter Sunday attacks.

A Warrant Officer of the Sri Lanka Air Force, Anura Nishantha, who had manned the phone exchange at Sirisena’s official residence at Paget Road on April 21, 2019 revealed this at the PCoI.

Responding to the question raised by the Commissioners, Nishantha said that Sirisena and Jayawardena had regular telephone conversations. The witness added that the former President had never used an official personal mobile phone and if someone wanted to contact him they had to contact Sirisena’s PSO.

Sirisena had two PSOs and when he traveled overseas one of the PSOs would always accompanied him, Nishantha said. The witness said that PSOs had roaming facility on their mobile phones and those at the exchange unit at the Paget Road residence would contact the PSO with Sirisena.

Earlier it was revealed that a 159 second telephone conversation took place between Jayawardena and Sirisena or Sirisena’s PSO at 7.59 a.m. It was also revealed that around 20 telephone conversations took place between Sirisena and Jayawardena from April 4 to 21, 2019. April 04, 2019 was when Jayawardena had received a warning, from a foreign counterpart, of a possible terror attack. It was also revealed that a total of 221 telephone calls had taken place between Sirisena and Jayawardena from January to April 2019. Sirisena told the PCoI that he probably had not received all those phone calls.

The details of the calls were revealed when the former President was cross examined by President’s Counsel Shamil Perera, appearing for the Archbishop of Colombo, Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith.

Perera asked Sirisena whether Jayewardena had given him a call at around 6.16 p.m. on 20 April. Sirisena said he was receiving treatment in a Singaporean hospital at that time and not even his personal security officers were able to approach him that day.

Perera then said that the telephone records clearly state that Sirisena had called the former SIS Director at around 7.59 am on April 21, 2019. This was before the Easter Sunday attacks. Sirisena said that he had first contacted Jayewardena only after the bombings.

The President’s Counsel told the Commission that despite Sirisena’s statement the phone records showed that Sirisena had made a large number of telephone calls on April 21 morning.

“I don’t know what is mentioned in this report but I was in the hospital on April 21morning. It was not possible for me to make phone calls while undergoing treatment. I came back to the hotel and then heard about the attacks,” Sirisena said.

Perera also said about seven telephone calls were exchanged between Sirisena and the SIS Director after the bombings. The attorney said that a 133 second telephone call had taken place between the former President and Jayawardena on 21 April at 8.58 am, a 184- second telephone call at 9.13 am, and a 688 second telephone call at 1.10 pm.

Perera also asked Sirisena how he made these calls if he was feeling extremely sick.

“I was still weak but this was a serious development. I made a series of calls and advised all, including the Prime Minister, the Inspector General of Police and the Tri- forces Commanders to take necessary action,” Sirisena said.

Perera also questioned how Sirisena returned to Sri Lanka on the same night if his medical condition was so grave. In response, the former President said that the relevant medical reports could be submitted to the Commission in secret.



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BASL urges President to de-escalate tensions in different parts of country

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The Bar Association of Sri Lanka has called upon President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to instruct the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of tensions in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by the public.”

 “Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint”, the BASL has said in a media statement.

 “We also call upon you to ensure that steps are taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.”

The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police.

 The armed forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.

Full text of the BASL letter to the President:

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) expresses its gravest concerns at the current situation at fuel stations throughout the country and the reports of several incidents of conflicts between civilians and members of the police force and the armed forces at fuel stations. There has been video footage of civilians being assaulted by personnel of the armed forces and the police, the latest being of a civilian being kicked by an Army officer at a fuel station. There have also been situations of the police and Army opening fire into the air to contain the crowd.

Your Excellency is no doubt aware that thousands of desperate civilians are waiting in queues at hundreds of fuel stations in the country. The queues are kilometres long. The tension at the fuel stations have arisen from this desperation for which there is no immediate solution in sight.

The BASL wishes to warn Your Excellency of the imminent dangers this situation could give rise to. The present unrest could result in a conflagration between civilians and members of the armed forces or the police. Some years ago, confrontations between members of the public and the armed forces resulted in the deaths of civilians. Such incidents between the members of the armed forces or the police and the civilians will discredit Sri Lanka’s armed forces and the police.

We call upon Your Excellency to take all necessary steps to give instructions to the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of the situation in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by public. Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint. We also call upon you to ensure that steps be taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.

The Sri Lanka Army and other service personnel must be deployed only in very limited circumstances as contemplated in the Criminal Procedure Code. The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police. The Armed Forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.

We trust that this will receive the immediate attention of the Government as to do otherwise may otherwise result in unprecedented turmoil and harm.

The BASL believes that the ultimate solution to the situation at fuel stations is to be transparent with the public and to ensure an equitable and effective system of fuel distribution throughout the country.

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SC orders AG to submit report on fuel purchases and distribution

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By A.J.A. Abeynayake

A three-member Supreme Court bench consisting of Justices Vijith Malalgoda, Mahinda Samayawardena and Arjuna Obeysekera yesterday ordered the Attorney General to submit a report on fuel purchases, the distribution thereof and the sectors to be provided with fuel on a priority basis.

The Supreme Court made the order after considering two fundamental rights petitions presented by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka.

The BASL has requested the Supreme Court to direct the Cabinet of Ministers to consult all stakeholders and independent experts to formulate and implement the necessary policies, and to provide concessions in relation to the prices of essential goods and services to the people including LP gas, fuel, electricity, milk powder, medicines and food.

The petitions were filed by the President of the BASL Saliya Pieris PC, Deputy President Anura Meddegoda PC, former Secretary Rajeev Amarasuriya, Treasurer Rajindh Perera and the Assistant Secretary Pasindu Silva.

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A/L may be delayed by one month

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Education Minister Sushil Premajayantha told Parliament yesterday that although it had been scheduled to hold the G.C.E. A/L Examination 2022 in November this year, it could be further delayed by another month.

Responding to a question by MP Shantha Bandara, the Minister said: “The examination should be held at least after three months of releasing the results of the previous A/L exam because the students who need to sit it again should have enough time to prepare,” the Minister said.

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