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Zahran et al exploited yahapalana chaos to advance sinister political strategy – SLPP MP

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‘Those who practised Wahhabism almost succeeded in achieving their dreadful objectives’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

SLPP National List lawmaker Gevindu Cumaratunga says if the then President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe parted ways in the wake of the heavy defeat suffered by the yahapalana partners, the SLFP and the UNP, at the Feb 10, 2018 Local Government election, Easter Sunday carnage could have been avoided.

Continuation of the sharply divided political marriage, regardless of the consequences, created an environment conducive for those who followed Wahhabism to plan terror attacks as part of their overall strategy, MP Cumaratunga said in response to a query by The Island. The lawmaker, who also heads the Yuthukama civil society organization, said that he discussed the issue at hand during the recent debate on the report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (P CoI) on the 2019 Easter Sunday terror attacks.

Nearly 270 people perished in suicide attacks whereas 500 received injuries. Lawmaker Cumaratunga explained that the PCoI dealt quite comprehensively with the deterioration of national security in the wake of the 2015 change of government. The PCoI highlighted how alarming and rapid the spread of Wahhabism coincided with unprecedented irresponsible conduct on the part of the political leadership as well as the security apparatus. The country couldn’t bear such treacherous behaviour, the MP stressed, pointing out how even two years after the heinous crime the public struggled to cope up with the situation.

Yuthukama is represented in Parliament by two members, with Anupa Pasquel, who successfully contested the Kalutara district at the August 2020 general election being the other member.

Lawmaker Cumaratunga asked whether those who had brought about the 2015 change of government that paved the way for the 19th Amendment to the Constitution facilitated the National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) terror project. Calling the 19th Amendment enacted in 2015 with the backing of over 200 members, a constitutional-religious bomb, the MP alleged that the much-touted political exercise was meant to weaken the Sri Lankan State. In the aftermath of the 2015 presidential election, the appointment of a minority UNP government that didn’t have at least 50 MPs in Parliament and the resultant 19th Amendment rapidly eroded political stability achieved at the previous general election, the MP said.

The Joint Opposition (now SLPP in power) too voted for the 19th Amendment with the blessings of the defeated presidential candidate Mahinda Rajapaksa. Only retired Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera, the current Public Security Minister, refused to back the 19th Amendment in spite of the then President and the SLFP leader Maithripala Sirisena pushing for the JO’s undivided support.

Cumaratunga said that Local Government polls in Feb 2018 signalled the failure of the yahapalana political arrangement. Therefore, the UNP and the SLFP should have parted ways to bring political deterioration to a halt and the restoration of political stability, expeditiously.

Responding to another query, he explained how the TNA and the JVP worked overtime to save UNP leader Wickremesinghe after President Sirisena sacked the Cabinet in the last week of Oct 2018. The civil society activist recalled the TNA and the JVP throwing their combined weight behind the UNP, in Parliament, and outside, and then successfully moving court to thwart President Sirisena’s move. Had President Sirisena succeeded, the NTJ terror project could have been averted, MP Cumaratunga said. However, those who had external backing prevailed over President Sirisena’s political project thereby ensuring the continuing deterioration of national security under the yahapalana leadership until it was too late. The Yuthukama Chief said that external forces revealed their hand by sending their diplomatic representatives for high profile visits to Parliament during the conflict in the run-up to a court verdict in favour of the UNP-led grouping. How could those who had unreservedly backed the restoration of the UNP administration at the expense of much needed political stability absolve themselves of the responsibility for subsequent developments, Cumaratunga asked. The UNP-led fight back compelled President Sirisena to roll back the move to conduct a general election on Jan 5, 2019.

MP Cumaratunga, during his brief address to Parliament, last week, rapped the TNA’s stand on the Easter Sunday carnage. Having contributed to the deterioration of security, by way of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, that allowed the NTJ followers to cause mayhem, TNA MP M.A. Sumanthiran, PC recently called Sri Lanka a failed state on the basis of its alleged failure to protect its own citizens, the MP pointed out.

 The TNA spokesperson had conveniently forgotten how he justified the the Easter Sunday massacre at an event organized at the BMICH within a week after the carnage, MP Cumaratunga said. The TNA had no qualms in speaking on behalf of Easter Sunday attackers in the presence of the then HRCSL Chairperson Dr. Deepika Udagama and among the audience were Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and Elections Commission Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya.

Acknowledging the parliamentary Opposition, namely the SJB, TNA and JVP, hadn’t been happy with the PCoI report, lawmaker Cumaratunga decried alleged attempts to propagate the new lie that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had a possible hand in the Easter Sunday carnage. Alleging that politics had deteriorated to a new low, MP Cumaratunga questioned the rationale in them rejecting the PCoI on the basis it failed to expose the Easter Sunday mastermind. Lawmaker Cumaratunga pointed out the UNP appointed Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC), that probed the Easter Sunday attacks, failed badly in its endeavor. The MP said that those who represented the PSC and now in Parliament Dr. Rajitha Senaratne, Sarath Fonseka, M.A. Sumanthiran and Rauff Hakeem and defeated JVP candidate Dr. Nalinda Jayatissa, owed an explanation without further delay. The Yuthukama Chief emphasized that the PCoI had achieved its objectives whereas the PSC engaged in a futile exercise to whitewash certain people.

Appreciating the services rendered by the PCoI, MP Cumaratunga said that the report encompassed the alleged Easter Sunday attacker Zahran Hashim views on the terror project (page 528) and the recommendation of further investigations against the backdrop of its failure to secure credible evidence as regards a foreign hand. Referring to the PCoI comment on one-time National Security Minister Lalith Athulathmdali’s assassination in 1993, MP Cumaratunga discussed in Parliament during the adjournment debate the circumstances leading to Ranil Wickremesinghe receiving the leadership of the UNP. Faulting those who had examined Athulathmudali’s assassination through a political lens though he was assassinated by the LTTE, MP Cumaratunga questioned the way some reacted to the LTTE killing State Defence Minister Ranjan Wijeratne, Gamini Dissanayake and Ranasinghe Premadasa.

Cumaratunga asked what would have happened if the military and the police failed to thwart the second wave of NTJ suicide attacks and also defuse vehicle bombs, including one in close proximity to St. Anthony’s Church, Kochchikade. The SLPP MP recollected how a driver of a vehicle used by Zahran’s gang to move a large consignment of explosives to the East helped thwart the second wave by alerting the police. Unfortunately, those who played with national security pursued an entirely different agenda, the MP alleged. Had Zahran’s followers succeeded, the presidential poll, too, could have been off indefinitely, lawmaker Cumaratunga said, underscoring the need for the thorough examination of the political strategy adopted by those who spearheaded the yahapalana project.

MP Cumaratunga also made reference to a national referendum conducted in late Dec 1982 to put off a scheduled general election by six years and Digana violence soon after the Feb 2018 Local Government polls defeat suffered by those in power to highlight what he called despicable UNP strategies.

MP Cumaratunga said that the PCoI had made several extremely important recommendations, including the defense portfolio to be under the President (page 486). The 20th Amendment to the Constitution enacted in Oct 2020 addressed that particular issue, the MP said. The MP pointed out further a spate of recommendations made by the PCoI to strengthen the monitoring of funds received through the banking and various other proposals such as to do away with the Proportional Representation system (changes in the electoral system) to ensure political stability.



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Nightlife is essential without hindrance to other tourists, residents and businesses – Diana Gamage

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Minister of State for Tourism  Diana Gamage acknowledged that events that emanated noise should be conducted within a soundproof environment without causing any inconvenience or disturbance to other tourists who are here to relax, residents of the area and other businesses inasmuch its necessity to boost the economy by generating revenue.

She made this comment speaking at a press conference themed ‘Collective path to a stable country’ at the Presidential Media Centre today (22),

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As discussions on tourism regulations continue, stakeholders are encouraged to consider the perspectives of tourists and the potential economic benefits of promoting a vibrant nightlife scene. The Minister’s remarks underscore the importance of striking a balance between regulation and the provision of entertainment options to ensure a memorable and enjoyable experience for visitors to Sri Lanka.

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President Ranil Wickremesinghe during an observation tour at the Ratmalana Lalith Athulathmudali Vocational Training Centre, this morning (22) , outlined plans to consolidate all vocational training institutes in Sri Lanka into a single vocational college, offering contemporary subject-related courses.

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Opposition threatens to move no-faith motion against Speaker over OSB

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Speaker Abeywardena

By Saman Indrajith

Opposition and SJB leader Sajith Premnadasa told Parliament yesterday that the Online Safety Bill had been passed in violation of the law and unless remedial action was taken, a no-faith motion would be brought against Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena.

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Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe said that even if the Supreme Court determined that a section or clause of a draft Bill was inconsistent with the Constitution, a Bill could be passed by Parliament. It could be done with either a two-thirds majority or two-thirds majority plus people’s approval from a referendum. A case cannot be filed against the way the Speaker or an MP behaved in this House as they have immunity. Former Speaker Anura Bandaranaike, too, has given a ruling on this issue and we still consider it as a precedent to be upheld. With regard to the Online Safety Bill, the Attorney General has instructed Public Security Minister Tiran Alles to incorporate some amendments as per the Supreme Court determination and to bring other recommended amendments in the form of a separate Amendment Bill. I was not a party to that discussion. This Amendment Bill was presented to the Cabinet and approval was granted and now is at the Legal Draftsman’s Department. Thereafter, it would be referred to the Cabinet again and with that approval we can have it here in this House for consideration,” the Minister said.

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