Connect with us


STF kept in the dark about foreign intelligence warning, threat posed by Zahran, NTJ, etc., – Ex-SDIG Latheef



Easter Sunday carnage probe:

By Rathindra Kuruwita

Former Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando, former Inspector General of Police (IGP) Pujith Jayasundara or former Director of the State Intelligence Service (SIS), Senior DIG Nilantha Jayawardena had not properly conveyed the reliable intelligence information about the possible terrorist attacks to the Special Task Force (STF), retired Commandant of the STF, Senior DIG M.R. Latheef, on Saturday, told the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) investigating the Easter Sunday attacks.

Latheef said the STF had the experience and the capability of neutralizing threats posed by terrorists. If he had been informed of the reliable intelligence information that the SIS had received on April 20, 2019,. the STF would have been able to lock down the Colombo City, arrest the terrorists and neutralise the threat.

Latheef said that on April 09, 2019, the former IGP had sent a letter informing the STF Headquarter of the foreign information of a possible terror attack and it had been received at 6.45 pm, Latheef said, adding that he had returned to the country, following a training programme in France on April 10. After his return, he had called the IGP before going to office and asked if there were any important developments, SDIG Latheef said. However, Jayasundara had told him that there wasn’t anything special.

However, when he arrived at the office, he had seen the letter sent by the IGP and informed STF officers deployed with VIP security squads including those of the President and the Prime Minister and STF officers in charge of various divisions of the letter.

The Attorney General’s representative leading the evidence asked the witness whether the foreign warning of the possible terror attack, received on April 04, 2019 by the SIS, had been discussed or mentioned when Latheef met the Defence Secretary or the IGP, between April 10 and 20.

Latheef checked his service record book and said that he had met Fernando and Jayasundara on April 11. However, neither of them had spoken to him about the information of the possible terrorist attacks. He also said that certain individuals had told the Parliament Select Committee on the Easter Attacks that they had discussed the developments at issue on April 18, 2019. However, since he was out of the country between April 15 and 18, for a conference on drug eradication, such a meeting could not have happened, the witness said.

SDIG Latheef said that on April 19, SDIG Jayawardena had spoken to him about an incident in Kattankudy, on April 16, where a motorcycle bomb had detonated. “I told him that I had just got back and that I would deploy officers and file a report on this. On April 20, I called Nilantha. I told him that it was a test run and that such an explosion could lead to the loss of many lives. I said an explosives laden bike could be brought to populous areas.”

However, it was only after the April 21 attacks that information on Islamic extremists had been shared with the STF in a systematic and meaningful way, the witness said. If the IGP had reposed any trust in him and the STF, this information could have been shared earlier.

“Others had been told of Zahran Hashim. I only got to know about Zahran and the National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) only after we were summoned to the National Security Council (NSC) after the attack. I was only given the first report by a foreign intelligence source and it contained limited information. But much more in-depth information was shared between SIS Director and the IGP. Apparently, the names, their connections and their whereabouts had all been shared between senior officers.”

Latheef said that he had asked former ministers Sagala Ratnayake and Ranjith Maddumabandara to invite them to the NSC meetings. At that time, the STF was at the forefront of drug eradication, but it had not been even invited to the Intelligence Coordination Meeting. “If the STF had been properly briefed on April 09, 2019, we would have had almost two weeks to neutralise the threat,” the witness said.

“I called the SIS Director on April 20 to inform him of the bicycle bomb. He didn’t tell me that he had reliable information that a terrorist attack was expected to take place on April 21. If I had been informed of the imminent attack, I would have sealed off Colombo and the Western Province. We could have placed road blocks and implemented contingency plans; we would have been able to arrest one or two and neutralise the threat. I am still perplexed why I wasn’t informed of the warning at least on April 20.”


Majority of 300 luxury vehicles to be released



… some shipped in without opening LCs, EU wants restrictions abolished

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The majority of the luxury vehicles imported by special permit holders in contravention of the import ban imposed by the government in view of precarious economic situation caused by corona first wave are likely to be released subject to penalties.

Well informed sources said that those vehicles shipped in without even opening LCs would be released. Among the violators were many government servants.

Sources said that vehicles brought in without opening LCs were likely to be confiscated.

“We have categorised over 300 vehicles, including BMWs, Mercedes-Benz and Audis into two groups. Customs are now in the process of evaluating individual cases,” a high ranking state official said.

The government announced a ban on vehicle imports to arrest the depletion of foreign reserves. Sources acknowledged that at the time the vehicles

arrived in Sri Lanka the second corona wave hadn’t erupted. The situation was far worse now and further deteriorating, they said, adding that the Customs were being inundated with requests for releasing vehicles on sympathetic grounds.

Controversy surrounds the failure on the part of the government to strictly implement the import ban in view of the sharp drop in state revenue due to the pandemic.

Recently, the EU demanded that Sri Lanka immediately lift import ban or face the consequences. The EU issued the warning in talks with government representatives. Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena explained the circumstances that compelled the government to impose import restrictions. The EU sought an explanation as to when the ban would be lifted. The Foreign Ministry quoted Foreign Minister Gunawardena as having explained to the EU the challenges Sri Lanka economy was facing amidst the dwindling foreign currency reserve situation due to the significant reduction in remittances and tourism revenue induced by the COVID-19 global pandemic. The minister said that the import restrictions were being reviewed.

Continue Reading


Nearly 74,000 persons under home quarantine



Close to 74,000 people belonging to 27,974 families had been placed under home quarantine, Police Spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said on Wednesday (25).

He said that the number of cases from the Minuwangoda and Peliyagoda clusters had increased to 17,436 with 458 persons had tested positive for the virus on Tuesday.

Two wards of the Kethumathi Maternity Hospital, Panadura were temporarily closed on Wednesday after two pregnant women admitted there tested COVID-19 positive.

The two women are from Atalugama, which has been declared an isolated area. During the last few days close to half of the COVID-19 patients detected in Colombo District are from Atalugama.

The two women have been sent to Neville Fernando Hospital, Malabe. The patients and staff in Wards 3 and 4 at the Kethumathi Maternity Hospital are now under quarantine. Their family members too have been asked to undergone self-quarantine.

The Police had arrested 61 persons who had violated quarantine laws within the 24 hours that ended at 8 am yesterday, Police spokesman, DIG Ajith Rohana said, adding that they had been arrested for not wearing masks or for not maintaining physical distancing. With those altogether 688 persons had been arrested for violating quarantine laws from October 30, he said.

Commissioner General of Prisons Thushara Upuldeniya said that apart from Welikada, the spread of COVID-19 had been controlled at other prisons. COVID-19 cases had been reported from six prisons, he added.

“We are conducting PCR tests and hope that the situation in Welikada too would be brought under control. Twenty four new cases were detected from prisons on November 24 and from October 04, we have identified 708 cases within the prison system.”

Continue Reading


Severity of impact of second wave on economy could be far worse than anticipated – CBSL



By Shyam Nuwan Ganewatte

The impact of the second wave of COVID-19 could be severer on the economic growth than previously anticipated, Director of Economic Research at the Central Bank Dr. Chandranath Amarasekara said yesterday (26).

Dr. Amarasekera said so responding to a query by The Island at a CBSL media briefing. The top official said that an assessment couldn’t be made yet as the second wave was continuing.

Continue Reading