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SLPP furious over alleged Rishad links, claims Wimal stabbed govt. in the back

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

The government had been stabbed in the back by National Freedom Front (NFF) leader and Industries Minister Wimal Weerawansa, SLPP parliamentary group sources said yesterday (11).

Referring to Minister Weerawansa’s accusations regarding clandestine links between a section of the government and All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) leader Rishad Bathiudeen, allegedly involved with those responsible for 2019 Easter Sunday carnage, sources pointed out that the NFF leader’s move was intended to undermine the SLPP.

Delivering a public lecture at Sambuddhathva Jayanthi Mandiraya, on Tuesday (9), lawmaker Weerawansa alleged a group of decadent ruling party politicians who realised entering into political marriage with what the minister called Islamic extremism in the future had prevented the exposure of the likes of Rishad Bathiudeen.

Weerawansa holds Small and Medium Business and Enterprise Development, Industries and Supply chain Management portfolios. The NFF parliamentary group consists of six members, including one National List MP.

SLPP sources said that Minister Weerawansa’s outburst had caused irreparable damage to the government at a time it was under heavy pressure over the alleged shortcomings in the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) report and the controversial recommendation that 22 volumes of it shouldn’t be handed over to the Attorney General on the basis of them being sensitive.

Responding to a query, sources said that Minister Weerawansa had attacked the government the day before the commencement of three-day debate on the PCoI report and the issue at hand had been brought to the notice of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Minister Weerawansa alleged that the likes of Rishad Bathiudeen and former Eastern Province Governor M. L.A, M, Hizbullah had been taking overland in the Mannar region and the Eastern Province, respectively in line with strategy promoted by Yusuf al-Qaradawi, an Egyptian Islamic scholar based in Doha, Qatar.

The National Freedom Front Leader alleged that Rishad Bathiudeen during his tenure as the Industries and Commerce Minister of the UPFA (2010-2015) and yahapalana (2015-2019) administrations had deliberately undermined some businesspersons on racial grounds. Minister Weerawansa, who, too, had been a minister in the same Cabinet with Rishad Bathiudeen, explained how the ACMC leader bad exploited his ministerial portfolio for the benefit of a particular community.

Minister Weerawansa questioned the rationale behind the PCoI conveniently not recommending specific measures in respect of President of the Muslim Council M. N. Ameen, who included extremist teachings of Yusuf al-Qaradawi in Muslim teachers’ guide.

Weerawansa alleged that Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s teachings had been severely inimical to the country and promoted violence. Minister Weerawansa also said that the PCoI owed an explanation why specific recommendations weren’t made in respect of Hizbullah in spite of him being identified as a person who propagated extremism in the Kattankudy area.

The NFF leader also questioned the circumstances under which Rishad Bathiudeen’s brother, Riyaj arrested in connection with his alleged involvement with the Easter Sunday carnage under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) in April 2020 had been released. Minister Weerawansa said the police, after accusing Riyaj of being in touch with one of the Easter Sunday bombers, had quietly released him.

Commenting on one-time Western Province Governor Azath Salley’s conduct, Minister Weerawansa asked why the PCoI refrained from recommending action against the NUA (National Unity Alliance) leader Salley. Alleging that the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, in spite of being responsible for disrupting intelligence services thereby creating an environment conducive for Thowheed terrorists was conveniently let off the hook, Minister Weerawansa questioned the conduct of the P CoI on many points.

Minister Weerawansa tore into the PCoI questioning the motives of its members who cleared Wickremesinghe although he was responsible for the breakdown of the national security apparatus. He said there was no point in going after the then Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando, IGP Pujith Jayasundera, Chief of National Intelligence retired DIG Sisira Mendis and Chief of State Intelligence Services (SIS) DIG Nilantha Jayawardana when the very person who created a situation conducive for Thowheed terrorists escaped the attention of the PCoI.

Lambasting the PCoI for omissions, Minister Weerawansa asked whether Easter Sunday bomber Zahran Hashim’s ghosts had been active in the PCoI, and how the PCoI had recommended specific action against Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) General Secretary Ven. Galagodaatte Gnanasara over alleged extremist activity and left out those who connived, aided and abetted Easter Sunday conspirators.

The then President Maithripala Sirisena appointed the PCoI whereas his successor Gotabaya Rajapaksa extended its term.



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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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