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Two years after Easter Sunday carnage, country on powder keg – Church

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‘Some of those suicide bombers are still at large…’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Catholic Church yesterday (28) warned the government of dire consequences unless tangible measures were taken to neutralize the continuing threat posed by 2019 Easter Sunday mastermind Zahran Hashim’s followers.

Serious threats remained even two years after the 2019 Easter Sunday carnage, Rev Father Cyril Gamini Fernando, parish priest of St. Anne’s Church, Kurana, said in his Sunday sermon.

Reminding the congregation that the Katuwapitiya Church targeted by a Zahran follower was situated just a couple of miles away from St. Anne’s Church, Rev. Fernando said that in addition to those who had pledged to mount suicide attacks being still at large, there were religious extremists roaming the country and thousands of swords and draggers imported into the country in the run-up to the Easter carnage were still unaccounted for.

Rev. Fernando, a former spokesperson for the Church, said that places of religious worship as well as any other place frequented by the public could be targeted.

Referring to the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (P CoI) into the Easter bloodbath, Rev Father Fernando said that the Church was yet to be convinced that the government was on the right track to identify Easter Sunday architects.

The priest reiterated that the Catholic Church’s commitment to pursue the matter until the government apprehended all those allegedly involved in the conspiracy. Rev Fernando questioned the failure on the part of the government to take into custody Easter Sunday conspirators.

A dire warning as regards suicide bombers’ presence amidst the public was delivered close on the heels of the end of a three-day parliamentary debate on the Easter attacks with Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) urging the public not to target the entire community for heinous crime committed by a few.  SJB Colombo District lawmaker Mujibur Rahman appealed that the entire community shouldn’t be held accountable for the Easter Sunday carnage.

Rev Father Fernando said that special three hour prayer service would be conducted beginning 9 pm Sunday, March 28 in the churches in the Diocese of Colombo to underscore the need to take tangible measures against those responsible. Multiple blasts claimed the lives of 270 whereas 500 received injuries. A senior spokesperson for the Archbishop’s House told The Island that the Dioceses countrywide would back their initiative.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Sri Lanka recently demanded the release of the entire set of P CoI documents to Attorney General Dappula de Livera, PC, following a meeting Livera had with Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith where they discussed the government’s decision to hold back 22 volumes on the basis of threats to national security. In the wake of the Church protest, the President’s Office delivered the entire set to the AG.

Rev. Fernando said that the national security was at stake as long as the extremists retained an arsenal consisting of suicide cadres. The priest said that no one would be safe until they were apprehended.

Police investigations have revealed that those who took an oath before Zahran to mount suicide attacks in support of their macabre cause included some women.   

Lawmaker Rahman told The Island  that the government should make a genuine effort to solve the mysterious disappearance of Katuwapitiya suicide bomber Hasthun’s wife Sarah, who had been with Zahran group’s rump. “We are not satisfied with the government’s efforts to track down her against the backdrop of claims she fled to India with the help of those who conspired.”



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SL gets Rs 452 mn for saving ill-fated tanker: Rs. 3.4 bn asked for

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By Ifham Nizam and Rathindra Kuruwita

The Marine Enviro-nment Protection Authority (MEPA) yesterday received Rs. 452 million from London for having saved MT New Diamond, a super oil tanker that caught fire in the Sri Lanka’s territorial waters last year.

MEPA General Manager, Dr. P. B. Terney Pradeep Kumara told The Island that Rs. 442 million had come for the services rendered by the Sri Lanka Navy, MEPA and Rs. 10 million by way of a fine imposed on the Ship’s Captain.

However, Sri Lanka has to receive a much larger amount for the damage caused to the marine environment, Dr. Kumara said. Following the incident, Sri Lankan authorities filed charges against the Captain of the ill-fated vessel and made a claim for $2.4 million from the ship’s owners for the firefighting and pollution prevention efforts.

Twenty experts from the Universities of Moratuwa, Ruhuna and Sri Jayewardenepura submitted their recommendations as regards the damage to the environment, to the Attorney General. Based on the report, the Attorney General’s Department had asked for Rs. 3.4 billion (around USD 19 million) as compensation for environmental damage, the Coordinating Officer for the Attorney General, state counsel Nishara Jayaratne said.

Soon they would have discussions with the lawyers of the shipping agent concerned on compensation for environmental damage caused, she said.

Dr. Kumara, who is the former Head of the Department of Oceanography/Marine Geology of the Ruhuna University, said that the incident had caused deaths among marine species due to spillage of some toxic fuel from the vessel.

The MT New Diamond crude oil tanker was transporting 270,000 MT oil from the port of Meena Al Ahmadi in Kuwait to the Port of Paradip in India when a fire broke out in its engine room as the vessel was passing the eastern seas of Sri Lanka on September 3, 2020.

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PSC on gender equality meets for the first time

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State Minister, Fernandopulle flanked by two other PSC members

Special attention on microfinance

The Parliamentary Select Committee appointed to further gender equality, to investigate instances of discrimination against women and to present recommendations to Parliament, focused on microfinance loans that are currently affecting a large number of women in Sri Lanka, when they met for the first time in Parliament recently.

The meeting was chaired by the State Minister of Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID-19 Disease Control Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle.

It was also revealed that the Cabinet had approved the re-establishment of an institution to regulate Microfinance loans in Sri Lanka.

The MPs also discussed the role of the Select Committee. They decided that the primary role of the Committee should be to investigate women’s grievances and all forms of discrimination based on gender, including workplace violence.

Another task before this committee is to examine and review laws that can be used to enhance gender equality, encourage relevant ministries and authorities to formulate plans to further gender equality and to allocate financial resources.

The Committee will also try to encourage greater women’s representation in decision-making bodies at the national and provincial levels as well as in government, civil society and the private sector.

MPs Rohini Kaviratne, (Dr.) Harini Amarasuriya, M. Udayakumar, S. Sritharan, Rohana Bandara and the Secretary to the Committee, Deputy Secretary General and Chief of Staff of the Parliament Kushani Rohanadheera were also present at the meeting.

 

 

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A/L Examination from October 04 to 30

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The 2021 GCE Advanced Level examination would be held from October 4 to 30, Education Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris said yesterday addressing the media at his Ministry.

Minister Peiris said the examination was earlier scheduled to be held in August.

The Grade 5 scholarship examination would be held on October 03 and the 2021 GCE Ordinary Level (O/L) examination in the last week of January 2022, the Minister said.

“Usually, schools are open for academic activities for around 200 days a year. But in 2020, schools were open for about 150 days. It was around 130 days in the Western Province. We were not able to fill this gap with online classes due to lack of internet facilities in many parts of the country,” he said.

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