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SJB: PM, Keheliya have admitted state intelligence paid Zahran



Weerasekera flays Opposition for spreading canards

By Saman Indrajith

Chief Opposition Whip and SJB Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella told Parliament yesterday both Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella were on record admitting that Zahran Hashim who led the Easter Sunday attacks was in the payroll of intelligence agencies.

MP Kiriella said that Prime Minister Rajapaksa had admitted at the Rajopawanaramaya in Getabme that Zahran Hashim had been on the government’s payroll.

“Minister Rambukwella too made the same admission during a press conference. Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka told this House that Zahran’s services had not been obtained while he was the Commander of the Army. He made it clear that Zahran’s services had been obtained after 2010,” the Chief Opposition Whip said.

Kiriella said so after a ministerial statement by Public Security Minister Rear Admiral (retd) Sarath Weerasekera that Zahran’s wife Fathima Zaadiya had never stated that intelligence officers met with Zahran.

Minister Weerasekera, tabling a statement made by Zahran’s wife, Zaadaiya, to the police, said that there was no mention therein that Zahran had met any intelligence officers.

Minister Weerasekera said that SJB MP Harin Fernando’s statement that state intelligence officers had met Zahran was a blatant lie. He challenged MP Fernando to make the same statement outside the House accusing the latter of making false statements taking cover behind parliamentary privileges.

The CID officers had interrogated Zahran’s wife on a date prior to the Easter Sunday attacks, the minister said, adding that had Shani Abeysekera conducted the CID investigations in a proper manner the Easter Sunday disaster could have been averted.

Minister Weerasekera said that MP Fernando had once claimed a suspicious lorry had been turned back at the Gelanigama Entrance of the Southern Expressway. It was not a suspicious lorry but one that had been transporting ornamental fish imported from China to Horana, the minister said.

Minister Weerasekera, “We are passing a time when lies and unfounded allegations related to the Easter Sunday carnage are being circulated and some Opposition MPs are trying to be heroes in Parliament”.

He said that “dogs, asses and foxes” did not have the ability to love the country and requested all MPs not to undermine national security.

Weerasekera said some persons had made various unfounded allegations against Director State Intelligence Service Maj. Gen. Suresh Salley but Salley had made a name for himself as an exemplary officer who loved his motherland.

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Overtime gravy train for public sector back



Govt. MPs make contradictory statements on state of economy

By Shamindra Ferdinando

UNP National List MP Wajira Abeywardena on Sunday (26) disclosed the issuance of a circular by the Finance Ministry to restore overtime and other payments in the public sector.

The declaration was made in Galle soon after Transport and Media Minister Bandula Gunawardane lamented that the government was short of billions of rupees to pay public sector salaries, pensions, Samurdhi payments and meet recurrent expenditure.

Minister Gunawardena and UNP National List MP Abeywardena addressed the local media after the handing over of several buses to the Galle SLTB depot.

Cabinet Spokesman Gunawardena said that the government needed as much as Rs 196 bn before the Sinhala and Tamil New Year and its projected revenue was Rs 173 bn. In addition to that Rs 500 mn was required to settle what Minister Gunawardena called bilateral debt.

Minister Gunawardane said that a part of the first tranche of USD 333 mn from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) would be utilised to pay public sector salaries.

Of the USD 333 mn received so far, USD 121 had been used to pay the first installment of USD 1 bn credit line secured from India early last year, according to State Finance Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya.

Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera in the second week of August last year revealed as much as Rs 3 bn had been paid as overtime to Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) workers for several months. This disclosure was made in response to a query raised by Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella.

One of the major demands of the public sector trade unions on the warpath over the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government’s new tax formula is the restoration of overtime.

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Now, Opposition wants Finance Secy. hauled up before Privileges Committee



Prof G L Peris

Prof. G. L. Peiris yesterday (27) urged Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena to act speedily on the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) request to summon Finance Secretary Mahinda Siriwardena before the parliamentary Committee on Ethics and Privileges.

Addressing the media on behalf of the Freedom People’s Alliance, the former External Affairs Minister said that the Treasury Secretary had challenged the parliament by withholding funds allocated in the budget 2023 to the Election Commission thereby sabotaging the election.

Prof. Peiris said that there couldn’t be a far worse violation of parliamentary privileges than a government official undermining Parliament.

Instead of appreciating the intervention made by the Supreme Court to facilitate the delayed Local Government polls, the ruling party had sought to challenge the apex court, Prof. Peiris said, urging Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena to fulfill his obligations.

Prof. Pieris said that if the government lacked funds, just one percent of USS 333 mn received from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was sufficient to conduct the election.

The ex-minister said that the IMF wouldn’t oppose the utilisation of a fraction of the first tranche of USD 2.9 bn loan facility provided over a period of four years to guarantee the constitutional rights of the Sri Lankan electorate. (SF)

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Cabinet nod for fuel distribution by three foreign companies



By Rathindra Kuruwita

Minister of Power and Energy Kanchana Wijesekera announced yesterday that the Cabinet of Ministers has granted approval for allowing China’s Sinopec, Australia’s United Petroleum and RM Parks of the USA, in collaboration with multinational Oil and Gas Company – Shell plc, to enter the fuel retail market in Sri Lanka.

The minister said that each of the three companies would be given 150 dealer operated fuel stations, which are currently operated by Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC). A further 50 fuel stations at new locations will be established by each selected company, he said.

They will be granted licences to operate for 20 years to import, store, distribute and sell petroleum products in Sri Lanka, the minister tweeted.

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