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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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SJB: Excise, FM officials all out to pocket Rs 1 bn

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By Saman Indrajith

Matara District SJB MP Buddhika Pathirana yesterday told Parliament that the Finance Ministry and Excise Department officials had misled Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and State Minister Ajith Nivard Cabraal in order to obtain billion rupees, fraudulently.

The officials had got a contract for printing stickers or barcodes to be displayed on bottles of liquor awarded to an Indian company.

“The project would result in one-billion-rupee loss to the government coffers annually,” the MP said, adding that the money being taken from the public purse would end up in the pockets of corrupt officials.

Pathirana said that the Excise Department had commenced a project to paste stickers on bottles of liquor to differentiate them from the fake and counterfeit bottles in the market.

“As per this project’s requirements, 32 million stickers would be needed per month. The stickers are to be purchased from Madras Security Printers company of India. This method was proposed in 2016 but it failed and the officials thereafter decided to introduce a barcode system.

“The cost of a sticker at 25 cents and the new barcode system will cost of two rupees a piece. This is a dubious deal. It seems that the Finance Ministry officials and the Excise Department heads have ganged up to give the contract to the Indian company and get commissions. There are many unanswered questions. First, the contract of printing the barcode too has been given to the MSP company, which could not secure the first contract. I want to know whether the proper procurement process has been followed. The second question is whether the barcodes would be up to the standards listed in the tender. Third question is who had selected the MSP company which is black-listed in India after being found guilty of frauds with Indian liquor companies in providing stickers to them. MSP has been blacklisted in many other countries. The company has been banned in Sudan and Liberia for supplying the stickers to private companies. The last question is whether this fraud is being committed with the knowledge of ministers of this government.”

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Reserves fall to lowest since 2009, rupee strengthening to be short-lived: report

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by Sanath Nanayakkare

Sri Lanka’s Foreign reserves had dropped to USD 4.1bn in March 2021, the lowest since August 2009, on the back of over US$ 4bn outstanding debt payment during April-December 2021 period, a report issued by First Capital Research yesterday said.

According to the report, rupee appreciation is likely to be short-lived considering Sri Lanka’s depleting foreign reserve position, high foreign currency debt repayment requirement and limited funding sources available in the market are expected to further increase depreciation pressure on the currency during 2Q and 3Q.

“We maintain our exchange rate target for 1H2021 at Rs. 196-202 with 2021 year-end target at Rs. 205-215 as mentioned in our ‘Investment Strategy 2021 – January 2021,” the report recalls.

“Sri Lankan rupee appreciated 5% against the US dollar over the last 2 market days reversing the continuous accelerated depreciation witnessed in January-April 2021. On 12th April, Sri Lankan rupee recorded a historical low of Rs. 201:1 US$. Ministry of Finance (MoF) reported on the same day that the government of Sri Lanka entered into a loan agreement with the China Development Bank (CDB) for US$ 500mn and MoF expected the funds to be disbursed during the same week. Following the announcement, the market registered a steep appreciation with mid-rate recording at Rs. 190.9 on April 19,” it says.

The total foreign debt repayment (capital and interest) for 2021 is US$ 6 bn, according to the report.

Meanwhile FC Research believes that the temporary appreciation in USD-LKR, may adversely impact earnings of export companies such as Hayleys, Haycarb, Dipped Products, MGT Knitting Mills, Teejay Lanka, Expolanka Holdings etc. in the short term.

“However, considering the potential future currency pressure, we expect an overall depreciation of approximately 12% for the rupee providing a significant gain for companies with foreign currency revenue”, FC research predicts.

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Govt. asks Opposition not to propagate lies

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By Saman Indrajith

Chief Government Whip and Highways Minister Johnston Fernando yesterday accused the Opposition MPs of abusing parliamentary privileges to mislead the public by propagating lies about the Easter Sunday terror attacks. 

Addressing Parliament, Minister Fernando said: “The Opposition MPs level wild allegations in the House knowing that they have the cover of parliamentary privilege. If they have anything substantial or any knowledge of the perpetrators of the Easter attacks still not in custody they can go to the CID and lodge complaints so that such complaints could be investigated.”  

Fernando said so after SJB Galle District MP Manusha Nanayakkara had told the House that he possessed evidence of those who carried out the Easter Sunday terror attacks.

Nanayakkara also said that the facts that he had were not in the report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Easter Sunday carnage.

“You are making various statements regarding the Easter Sunday terror attacks in the Chamber without any proof because you know that you have Parliamentary privilege. You even quoted some statements which are not included in the PCoI report. How did you obtain such information? Why didn’t you complain about this to the CID in the first place? Your action is aimed at misleading the public,” the Minister said. 

Minister Fernando said that the Opposition should stop insulting Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith by misinterpreting the latter’s statements. 

“When you are in the Government you never said that this is a Buddhist country. Now you are insulting the Cardinal too. You should not do that,” the Minister said. 

“The former Government should be responsible for the terror attack. Now we are trying to punish those who are responsible for it. We will take action against everyone who is responsible. You should support us, not try to obstruct the on-going investigations,” Minister Fernando said.

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