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Top Army intelligence officer explains sorry state of handling national security during previous regime



By Rathindra Kuruwita

Little attention had been paid to extremism by those in charge of security prior to the Easter Sunday attacks, a senior Army intelligence officer, on Saturday night, told the PCoI investigating the 21 April 2019 terrorist attacks. The officer wished to remain anonymous.

The officer said that security, too, had been neglected during the previous administration.

The officer, previously attached to the office of Chief of National Security (CNI,) had been summoned to give evidence about his tenure there.

The Attorney General’s Department representative leading evidence brought to the witness’ attention a document sent by the State Intelligence Service (SIS) on 22 July 2017 to the then Defence Secretary.

The document consisted of 94 names of those involved in extremism. The then Defence Secretary had sent that document to then CNI Sisira Mendis.

The witness said the persons named in the document such as Mohommad Caseem Mohommad Zahran, Mohommad Caseem Mohommad Rilwan, Mohommad Caseem Mohommad Zainee and Abdul Latheef Jameel Mohommad had been involved in the Easter Sunday attacks and the subsequent incident at Sainthamaruthu on 26 April 2019.

“I can’t say if CNI Mendis paid attention to this. If he had issued an instruction about the document, it should be on top of the document as a note. I can’t see such a note here.’

The Attorney General’s Department representative: “Former CNI Mendis told the PCoI that a lot of similar documents had come to him and that there were officials at the CNI office who knew what to do. He said that’s the reason he had not given any specific instructions.”

The witness smiled but didn’t comment.

The AG’s Department representative also showed the officer another document.

She said: “This document mentions an organisation and that the son of a former deputy minister was involved in the organisation. Phone records of this person show that he was in contact with MPs, senior policemen and various individuals in the UAE. What did the CNI do about this?”

Army intelligence officer: “I will reveal that in camera.”

Chairman of the PCoI: “Did the Easter Sunday attacks happen because the previous government paid attention to other matters, ignoring national security?”

Army intelligence officer: “I can say that little attention was paid to extremism. Then CNI hardly spoke to the then Defence Secretary about this. I personally feel that not enough attention was paid to national security.”

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Covid-19 vaccination programme: MPs not in priority group; President, armed forces chiefs in ‘third category’ 



By Shamindra Ferdinando

State Minister for Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID Disease Control, Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle yesterday (25) said that members of Parliament were not among those categorised as priority groups expected to be vaccinated against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr. Fernandopulle said so in response to The Island query whether parliamentarians would receive the vaccine scheduled to be delivered by India this week. Asked to explain, Dr. Fernandopulle said that health workers, armed forces and law enforcement personnel engaged in Covid-19 prevention operations would be given priority.

“Lawmakers haven’t been listed under priority groups. However, some members may get the vaccine if they are accommodated in the over 60 years category and those suffering from diabetes, heart disease, cancer et al,” the State minister said.

In addition to State Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera, several lawmakers, representing both the government and the Opposition had been afflicted over the past several weeks. SLPP lawmaker Wasantha Yapa Bandara (Kandy district) is the latest victim. Health minister Pavitradevi Wanniarachchi was among over half a dozen lawmakers tested positive.

Army Commander General Shavendra Silva told Derana yesterday morning Sri Lanka would receive approximately 500,000 to 600,000 doses from India. Responding to a spate of questions from Derana anchor Sanka Amarjith, Gen. Silva explained the measures taken by the government to ensure a smooth vaccination programme. The Army Chief who also functions as the Chief of Defence Staff revealed India had paid for the consignment obtained from the UK.

Later in the day, The Island sought an explanation from the Army Chief regarding the President, Service Commanders, Secretary Defence given the vaccination along with frontline health workers et al, the celebrated battlefield commander said: “Will be in third priority group.”

Asked whether the student population would be accommodated at an early stage of the vaccination programme, Dr. Fernandopulle said that those under 18 years of age, pregnant and lactating mothers wouldn’t be included at all as such groups hadn’t been subjected to trials. Education Secretary Prof. Kapila Perera wasn’t available for comment.

Dr. Fernandopulle emphasized the pivotal importance of following health guidelines strictly in spite of the launch of the vaccination programme. “We shouldn’t lower our guard under any circumstances,” Dr. Fernandopulle said, urging the population to be mindful of those unable to receive the vaccination due to no fault of theirs. As those under 18 years of age had been left out of the vaccination programme, a substantial section of the population would be denied the protection, the State Minister said.

Sri Lanka is also expected to procure vaccines from China and Russia in addition to the doses from India. Health Secretary Maj. Gen. Sanjeewa Munasinghe wasn’t available for comment.

Sri Lanka launches the vaccination programme with the total number of positive cases nearing 60,000 with nearly 50,000 recoveries. The government recently re-opened the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) following a pilot programme that brought over 1,200 Ukrainians in dozen flights through the Mattala International Airport.

Dr. Fernandopulle said that the government was ready to launch the vaccination programme as soon as the first consignment arrived from India.

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Tennis balls filled with drugs thrown into Kandakadu Covid-19 treatment centre



By Norman Palihawadane

Two tennis balls filled with drugs had been thrown into the Covid-19 treatment centre at Kandakadu, Police Spokesperson DIG Ajith Rohana said.

The contraband was found on Saturday by the Army officers attached to the facility.

DIG Rohana said the two tennis balls containing cannabis, heroin and tobacco, had been handed over to the Welikanda Police.

A special investigation has been launched into the incident, the Police Spokesperson said. Such incidents had been previously reported from Welikada, Negombo and other prisons, but it was the first time contraband containing narcotics had been thrown into a Covid-19 treatment centre, he added.

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All cargo clearances at Colombo port now through electronic payments




The Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) has introduced a system where payment for imports could be made via the Internet. This allows port users to make payments from their homes or offices to clear goods from the Port of Colombo.

The SLPA has said in a media statement that the new special facility will enable port users to make their port payments easily without hassle.

At present, all terminals of the Port of Colombo are run according to a strategic crisis management plan.


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