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There was reason why Shangri-La was attacked twice during Easter Sunday carnage – Dayasiri

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

There was a reason why two suicide bombers had attacked the Shangri-La Hotel but the Taj Hotel had been spared, State Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera, on Tuesday night, told the PCoI investigating the Easter Sunday attacks.

External powers had played a role in electing Sri Lankan Presidents and governments since 2015, Jayasekera said. The witness said it must be found out who wanted to remove former President Maithripala Sirisena from power.

The State Minister had been summoned to the PCoI to give evidence about the anti-Muslim riots in Hettipola following the Easter Sunday Attacks. On May 13, 2019, there was unrest in Hettipola, after six youth, arrested over involvement in attacking Muslim-owned properties and mosques in Kiniyama, were brought to the Hettipola Police Station from Bingiriya. When a crowd surrounded the Hettipola Police Station, Jayasekera, who lived close by arrived at the scene and took the youth back to Bingiriya Police Station after the police, civil administrators and community leaders of the area agreed that releasing the six youth on police bail was the best course of action.

Jayasekera: “This incident happened on my public day. Some people came and told me that there was unrest in the town. So I went to the Hettipola Police Station by 12 noon. The OIC told me that there were six youth sent from the Bingiriya Police Station. The OIC also said that during a meeting, it had been agreed to release them. I was told that then State Minister Nalin Bandara too had agreed to the decision. He said that they had to take the youth back to Bingiriya but it was impossible to do so because of the crowd that had gathered outside. I also felt that we needed to get these suspects out of the town. So I spoke to people, got the six people in my vehicle and went to Bingiriya with police protection.”

Chairman of the PCoI: “You are also a lawyer. Should politicians influence how people are arrested or released?”

Jayasekera: “No! I had no involvement in securing their release.”

Chairman of the PCoI: “After the attacks, you said that Taj Hotel in Colombo had not been attacked because some people were staying there. Can you elaborate on that?”

Jayasekera: “Taj is owned by a businessman that belongs to a particular country. A suicide bomber came and left without blowing himself up. There is a reason why there were two attacks on Shangri La hotel and none on Taj. There were also reports that during the time of the attacks, some VIPs were at Taj. That’s why I said that.”

The Chairman of the PCoI then asked Jayasekera why he had said that NTJ leader Zahran Hashim had international links. The witness said that it was the first time that the ‘leader’ of a terrorist group had taken part in the first wave of attacks and died.

“Why would a leader die in the first wave unless there was some good reason? Because of the attacks, President Sirisena could not seek a second term. There may have been some issues concerning Sirisena’s presidency, but he was trying his best to eliminate the drug mafia. The terrorists attacks marked the end of the country’s war on drugs. Now, former IGP, Pujith Jayasundara says the warnings of the attack came from a foreign intelligence source. So, this external intelligence agency knew when the attacks would happen. To be honest Presidents and governments have been brought into power in Sri Lanka by external powers from 2015. In a way Zahran too was a victim, Maithripala and Ranil Wickremesinghe too are victims. Jayasundara and Former Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando too are victims,” Jayasekera said.

The PCoI Chairman asked Jayasekera whether the former government had remained on national security in a satisfactory manner. Jayasekera too was a Cabinet Minister in the yahapalana government between 2015 and 2018.

The witness said that there had been many disagreements within the government. Sirisena was not at all happy with cosponsoring a resolution in Geneva in 2015, he said.

“These disagreements affected national security. I wouldn’t say that national security was neglected but it surely was affected by the internal disagreements,” MP Jayasekera said.



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LIOC seeks to expand operations

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by Ifham Nizam

Power and Energey Minister Kanchana Wijesekera yesterday revealed that Lanka Indian Oil Company (LIOC) had asked for permission to set up 50 new filling stations in the country and take over a certain number of petrol sheds currenlty under the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC). The government had asked the LIOC to increases the supply of fuel, in case Sri Lanka agreed to the Indian proposal,Wijesekera added.

Sri Lanka was facing daunting challenges as regards fuel distribution and it might not be able to get rid of fuel queues anytime soon, Minister Wijesekera said.Speaking to journalists yesterday, in Colombo, Wijesekera said that plans were underway to introduce a token system for fuel dispensation.He said the new scheme could come into effect from today (27) and the Police, and the armed forces will help implement it.

He also said that four separate groups from the Ministry were working on petrol, diesel, crude / furnace oil, and jet fuel imports. “We asked Lanka IOC to increase fuel supply and CEYPETCO to purchase diesel from them. But they asked for a price revision before that according to the pricing formula. That’s why we revised the price in a situation where there was no fuel in the country.”

The moves came as the government increased fuel prices with effect from the wee hours of Sunday wee hours. Petrol (Octane 92) now sells at Rs 470 per litre and Octane 95 at Rs. 550 per litre. Auto Diesel sells at Rs 460 per litre and Super Diesel at Rs 520 per litre.The Minister said they were working on 130-plus proposals for fuel delivery to Sri Lanka.

“USD 500 million is something that Sri Lanka cannot afford at this juncture. Therefore, consumption will have to be slashed, and fuel for public transport prioritized. Two ministers will fly to Russia today for discussions on fuel and related matters,” he said.The Minister said that bunker suppliers had been granted permission to deliver fuel for industries that deal in US currency.

He also said that overseas fuel companies based in countries that produce fuel, would be invited to set up business in Sri Lanka, as the CPC alone could not import fuel.

He said the CPC would become a more service-provider-based institution to facilitate fuel imports, and it had 9000 MT of diesel and the IOC 10,000 MT while the CPC had about 6000 MT of Petrol and the IOC about 8000 MT, of petrol.He said the IOC was issuing about 300 MT a day and their next shipment was due only after 10 July.

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Economic crisis: Govt. MPs slam Cabinet, Finance Ministry

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‘How come SLPA paid to Treasury just a faction of massive revenue earned in six years?’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

T wo SLPP MPs, Dr. Nalaka Godahewa and Madura Vithanage have, at different forums, lashed out at the government for the rapidly deteriorating status of the public sector finance. Godahewa has warned that economic recovery will not be possible unless the government restructured nearly 400 loss making public sector enterprises or at least take tangible measures to cut down on recurring losses.The former Media Minister, who represents the Gampaha District, said so addressing a group of Gampaha-based professionals and entrepreneurs recently.

Alleging that the failure, on the part of the government to establish an all-party government, contributed to the further deterioration of the situation, Dr. Godahewa emphasized the urgent need to curb, what he called, unbridled corruption as part of the efforts to revive the economy.The Gampaha District MP asked whether the current dispensation has addressed the issues at hand with a sense of responsibility.The MP questioned the composition of the Cabinet-of-Ministers, especially the appointment of UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe as the Premier, in spite of his party having just one seat in Parliament, against the backdrop of even the government parliamentary group not being properly represented.

Dr. Godahewa warned that SriLankan Airlines, the Ceylon Electricity Board, and the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) would deny the country an opportunity to recover as they remained a massive burden on taxpayers. The One-time top level private sector executive said that the Cabinet-of-Ministers lacked the strength to take crucial decisions. But, the situation would have been different if the Cabinet-of-Ministers included representatives of the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) and other political parties. Dr. Godahewa declared that the government couldn’t take decisions on sensitive matters as long as it didn’t command political power.

Meanwhile, Colombo District MP Vithanage has questioned the responsibility, on the part of the Finance Ministry, in the overall deterioration of public sector finance with the focus on the handling of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) at a recent meeting of the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE). The lawmaker alleged that the Finance Ministry had conveniently failed to make required intervention on behalf of the government, thereby deprived the opportunity to utilize SLPA profits.

Prof. Charitha Herath chaired the meeting. Auditor General W.P.C. Wickramaratne attended the meeting whereas Ports and Shipping Secretary K.D.S. Ruwanchandra led the SLPA team.Both MP Vithanage and Prof. Herath asserted that the Finance Ministry should have intervened on behalf of the people. The COPE examined how the SLPA continuously refrained from paying the Treasury at least the minimum amounts in spite of receiving massive profits over the years.  The Director General Public Enterprises, who has received that position recently, struggled to explain their failure to take up the non-transfer of SLPA profits to the Treasury. The COPE was told of Rs 69,686 mn revenue earned from 2016 to 2021, only 600 mn had been transferred to the Treasury.

Lawmaker Vithanage yesterday told The Island that the recent examinations of various enterprises and the Central Bank, by the COPE, as well as other watchdog committees, disclosed how the Finance Ministry, Central Bank and the Monetary Board contributed to the developing crisis. MP Vithanage pointed out even after the Covid-19 eruption devastated the economy, the SLPA had been able to withhold funds required by the Treasury for want of Finance Ministry intervention.Responding to queries, MP Vithanage said that the Parliament should act without further delay to ensure the Finance Ministry and the Monetary Board acted responsibly.

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Ceylon Chamber distributes dry rations

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The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce’s ‘Diwiyata Diriyak’ social initiative provided emergency relief, in the form of 10,000 essential dry ration packs, to vulnerable families in the Kegalle and Colombo districts.

A press release from the Chamber said: Mobilising the Chamber’s Membership to assist low-income families that are struggling to survive the current crisis, the initial distribution, which took place at the Kegalle District Secretariat, was the first phase of Diwiyata Diriyak, which aims to provide 5,000 relief packs.

Containing essential items such as rice, lentils, sugar, wheat flour, canned fish, etc., costing Rs. 5,000 each, vulnerable families, identified by the respective District Secretaries in the Warakapola, Galigamuwa, Mawanella and Rambukkana DS divisions, were among the initial beneficiaries.

CEO and Secretary General of the Ceylon Chamber Manjula de Silva said that the Chamber was committed to supporting the public during this immensely challenging time, and would always strive to ensure that the most vulnerable in our society are protected.

Home Garden Starter Packs, sponsored by the CIC Group, were also distributed among the families, in order to assist and encourage home garden cultivation as a viable option to address the rapidly rising costs and predicted shortage of food items, the release said.

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