By Saman Indrajith
The SJB demanded in Parliament on Saturday (5) that the government shift its focus from those who had been under the command of Zahran Hashim the ringleader of those who carried out the Easter Sunday terror attacks to those who masterminded the attack.
SJB Galle District MP Manusha Nanayakkara accused the government of not doing enough to grant relief to those who had lost their loved ones.
Participating in the third reading stage debate on budget 2021, MP Nanayakkara said: Some 350 persons were killed and around 500 wounded. The family members of victims suffered losss. Who suffered the biggest political loss? It was the yahapalana government. It lost power. Therefore, it is obvious that the yahapalana government did not engineer the Easter Sunday attacks. Then who achieved the biggest political gain? It is the political camp now in the government. I do not say that they engineered the terror attacks either. After it was first revealed by Minister Wijayadasa Rajapakshe in this House that there were ISIS terrorists in the country, there were investigations under TID chief DIG Nalaka Silva. He investigated the matter and sought permission to arrest Zahran Hashim, who had been identified as a threat to national security. The request for the permission goes to the highest office. What happened then? A person named Namal Kumara claimed there was a conspiracy to assassinate the then President and DIG Nalaka Silva was involved in it. The person who sought permission to arrest Zahran was put behind bars and investigations into ISIS operations in Lanka came to an end. Then there was the 52-day government, which plunged the country into chaos; no UNP leader was allowed to attend the National Security Council. Only the likes of Thilanga Sumathipala, Dilan Perera and Dayasiri Jayasekera were invited to the NSC meetings. During those months prior to the Easter Sunday attacks, issues related to Zahran’s operations had been taken up several times at the NSC meetings. Today, these facts are revealed before the Easter Sunday Commission. Why the then President did not take action as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces is not a matter for me to discuss. There had been warnings of the impending attacks. Even on the day of the attacks, the President flew from Thirupathi to Singapore despite being informed of the incidents. It has now been revealed that many had received prior information about the terror attacks. It is said that MP Harin Fernando’s father had been aware of them. There were some others. Who instructed TNA MP M. A. Sumanthiran not to go to Church on that day? It was the then Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa who instructed MP Sumanthiran not to go to church on that day. Rajapaksa had come to know about the threat from his security detail. The Ministerial Security Division had been aware of the warning. Batticaloa District TNA MP Shanakiyan Rajaputhiran Rasamanickam: It should be corrected. MP Sumanthiran was in Batticaloa. I was there with him when the then Opposition Leader Rajapaksa called him. It was not to warn against going to church because the call came after the incident.
MP Nanayakkara: This information came to MSD on April 14. The MSD officers were told that there was a letter in Colombo and asked them to come and pick it up. It was many days later after the attack we saw the letter. There is a serious issue that has surfaced now before the Easter Sunday Commission. Senior DIG Ravi Seneviratne has told the Commission that Zahran’s group was linked to ISIS by a local agent of ISIS. Who is that local agent? He is the one who controlled Zahran. He is the one who paid salaries for weapons training? He was the one who paid the salaries to the family members of those who went abroad on their absence. Why has he not been arrested yet? Why Sarah Jasmine, the wife of Muhammadu Hastun, who detonated a suicide bomb at St. Sebastian’s Church in Katuwapitiya on Easter Sunday has not been arrested, yet. She was allowed to flee to India after she made vital revelations of the names of the persons who paid for Zahran and others. Zahran’s wife’s testimony was recorded in camera, not allowing the media to know what she said. She, too, has revealed some names. Thereafter, the sittings of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry were suspended stating that it was owing to COVID-19. Now, there is a serious threat to the lives of those who have given evidence.
Public Security Minister Dr Sarath Weerasekera: There are 271 persons in custody. There were eight incidents and all the evidence and documents are with the Attorney General, who is due to file cases before courts. It is the yahapalana regime that should take the responsibility for the security failure. It neglected national security. It was during your time that the intelligence operatives and war heroes were put behind bars. Those factors led to the security failure.
MP Nanayakkara: Those in custody had been arrested during the time of the previous government. Tell the House whether your government made any arrests. We must respect war heroes. There is no doubt about it, but should we respect those who make use of the very same uniform of the war heroes to kill innocents, abduct children, take ransom and harass the media? The government’s investigations are focussed on the aftermath of the incident. We are asking the government to pay attention to the events prior to the incident and arrest those who directed the terror attacks and those who had links to the terrorists.
SJB Gampaha District MP Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka: Those in custody are just those who did menial jobs. You should arrest the masterminds and those responsible for funding the Zahran group. Arrest those who had been above the rank of Zahran not those who were below him.
GL sounds far-reaching educational reforms
Education Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris yesterday (21) acknowledged that for want of tangible measures on the part of successive governments, there was a critical mismatch between the education provided and the availability of job opportunities.
The academic, in quarantine as a result being identified as potential Covid-19 contact, emphasised the need for far reaching changes to address the issue as part of their efforts to restructure the entire system.
Prof. Peiris said so in his short remarks at an event to mark the 100th anniversary of the University of Colombo.
The one-time External Affairs Minister said: “It is a great pleasure for me to felicitate the University of Colombo, my alma mater on this happy occasion. It is a significant milestone because we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the faculty of arts, faculty of science and the library of the University of Colombo. As we look back on that span of a full century, the characteristics of the University which comes to mind is its resilience. During that period the University has had to face and indeed overcome many challenges. The society of our country has undergone a fundamental transformation during that period.
The University had the strength to cope with rapidly changing circumstances. I would identify that as a principal accomplishment of the University of Colombo.
The University proved its capacity for development, change and refinement and adaptation in order to keep pace with dramatically changing circumstances. The University proud as its history is I am sure will have an even more magnificent future. It has an important role to play in the far reaching changes we are contemplating in the educational system of our country. It is our intention in the course of this year 2021 to restructure the entire system in order to address the fundamental problem of a rather critical mismatch between the education we provide in our Universities and other educational institutions on the one hand and the availability of employment, livelihoods on the other. There is regrettably gap in this regard and it should be our collective endeavor to address this problem. We are also revisiting the curricular. The substance of our curricular the methods of teaching in such a way as to serve better the public in a better way In all these efforts I have no doubt the expertise of the University of Colombo by any standards will be of enormous assistance to us in achieving goals we have set ourselves (SF)
China slaps sanctions on 28 Trump administration officials, including Pompeo
China has imposed sanctions on 28 former Trump administration officials, including outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, agency reports said yesterday.
In a statement released just minutes after President Biden took office, China’s foreign ministry said it had decided to sanction those “who have seriously violated China’s sovereignty and who have been mainly responsible for such U.S. moves on China-related issues.”
The list of names features former Health and Human Service Secretary Alex Azar; former White House trade adviser Peter Navarro; former national security adviser Robert O’Brien; Kelly Craft, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; and Matthew Pottinger, who recently resigned as deputy national security adviser. Former national security adviser John Bolton and former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon were also included.
The sanctions prohibit those individuals and their immediate family members from entering mainland China, Hong Kong and Macao. They are also restricted from doing business with China, as are any companies or institutions associated with them.
“Over the past few years, some anti-China politicians in the United States, out of their selfish political interests and prejudice and hatred against China and showing no regard for the interests of the Chinese and American people, have planned, promoted and executed a series of crazy moves which have gravely interfered in China’s internal affairs, undermined China’s interests, offended the Chinese people, and seriously disrupted China-U.S. relations,” the ministry said.
The move comes just one day after Pompeo issued a forceful statement accusing China of committing genocide against Muslim Uighurs and other minority groups in its Xinjiang region, for which the U.S. sanctioned several Chinese officials in July. That was one of numerous instances of sanctions, visa bans and trade restrictions imposed on Chinese politicians and Communist Party officials in the Trump administration’s final year.
Relations between the U.S. and China deteriorated considerably under the previous administration, which took an unusually confrontational approach. Pompeo and other officials referred to China as constituting America’s greatest threat, as NPR’s John Ruwitch has reported.
In fact, Bolton appeared to celebrate the sanction against him, calling it “great news” in a tweet posted Wednesday afternoon.
“I accept this prestigious recognition of my unrelenting efforts to defend American freedom,” he wrote.
It is unclear what changes Biden plans, but Ruwitch noted, “Even if the Biden team moves swiftly to put the U.S.-China relationship back on a less antagonistic track, Beijing will be wary after the dramatic changes of the past four years.”
Expert Committee appointed to report on gold, copper and iron ore deposits
By Ifham Nizam
Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweeera yesterday appointed an expert committee to conduct a scientific study on the Seruwawila gold, copper and iron ore deposits.
With iron ore prices skyrocketing worldwide and both neighbouring giant India and China having huge demands, Sri Lanka was keen on tapping natural resources, an official said.
The committee will be coordinated by an Additional Secretary to the Ministry and will be chaired by Prof. Athula Senaratne of the University of Peradeniya and its other members are H W. Navaratne, Dr. Stalin Fernando, Dr. Bernard Perera, Dr. C.H.K.R. Siriwardena and Dr. O.K. Dissanayake.
Amaraweera, addressing the media, at his Ministry yesterday said the mineral deposit had been explored in the 1970s with the help of technology available at that time, and it had been found that there was iron, copper as well as a certain amount of gold in the Seruwawila deposit.
As today’s excavation technology was very advanced, it was possible to dig up to 250-300 metres, the Minister said.
The Minister also said that all possible steps would be taken to increase the value of the mineral resources through value addition locally to ensure higher prices.
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