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Zahran had a free run in conducting terrorist training camps across country



By Rathindra Kuruwita

National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) leader Zahran Hashim and his associates had operated 10 training centres in 2018 in the Nuwara-Eliya, Hambantota and Mawanella areas, the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) investigating the Easter Sunday attacks was told yesterday.

Sub Inspector of Police (SI) Srimal Sanjeewa Sampath of the CID attached to the PCoI said that five camps had been located in Hambantota, three in Nuwara Eliya and one in Mawanella.

SI Sampath said he had conducted investigations into five camps conducted by Zahran and his associates at Sippikulam, Hambantota. A large house belonging to a person named Sayyadu Mohammad Fauzan Maulana had been acquired by Zahran and his group for a short term stay through the caretaker of the house, Sayyadu Masoor Maulana.

The first camp in Hambantota was held from 7 to 8 July, 2018, the second camp from 20 to 22 July, the third camp from 26 to 28 August, the fourth camp from 3 to 4 November and the fifth camp from 1 to 3 December, 2018, he said.

The witness said that between 20 and 40 individuals had undergone training at each of those camps and vans had been used to transport participants. He added that training on the use of T-56 assault rifles and pistols had been imparted by a person named Mohamed Ahmad Milhan.

SI Sampath said that Zahran had lectured on Islamist extremism and Zahran’s mentor, Mohammed Ibrahim Nawfar had lectured on the Islamic State (IS) organization at these camps.

He also said Zahran’s brother Rilwan Hashim and Atchchi Muhammadu Muhammadu Hastun too had trained participants on bomb making and use of explosives. The witness also said that they had preached about clashes between Muslims and Sinhalese that took place in Kandy, Digana and Beruwala areas.

Sampath added, “Zaharan’s elder brother, Mohamed Zeini alias Sinna Moulavi and Alawdeen Ahmed Muad, who carried out the suicide bombing at St. Anthony’s Church in Kochchikade attended the training camps. In addition, the main suspects in destroying several Buddha statues in the Mawanella in December 2018, had also participated in training sessions,”

Zahran and his team had also run two training camps at the “Blue Eye Lodge” in Blackpool, Nuwara-Eliya.

The two training camps had been run at the location from 6 to 7 September, and from 16 to 18 November 2018. Between 20 and 25 persons had participated in those camps.  Those who participated had been given lectures on IS, Islamist extremism, and weapons training. Another training programme was held at Thakshila Holiday Inn in Nuwara-Eliya in May 2018.

He also said that Sadiq had also preached extremism at a workshop for students who were scheduled to sit the Ordinary Level examination at a Thowheed mosque in the Delgahagoda area in Hingula from 14 to 18 December, 2018. About 30 students had attended the lecture. They were residents of Mawanella and Kadugannawa areas, the witness said.

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Govt. MP Wijeyadasa strikes discordant note on Port City Bill



… alleges bid to turn Port City into Chinese territory

Over 12 petitioners move SC against proposed law

By Shamindra Ferdinando

SLPP lawmaker Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe PC, yesterday (15) alleged that the proposed Bill, titled ‘Colombo Port City Economic Commission,’ would transform the reclaimed land, adjacent to the Galle Face Green into a Chinese territory.

Addressing the media at the Abhayarama temple, under the auspices of Ven Muruththettuwe Ananda Thera, the former President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL), Rajapakshe, warned of dire consequences if the government went ahead with what he termed the despicable project.

Sixteen parties had filed action against the Bill. Ven. Muruththettuwe Ananda thera was among the petitioners.

The ruling party had placed the Bill on the Order Paper on April 8, just 15 calendar days after the publication of the Bill in the Gazette. In terms of the Constitution a citizen intending to challenge the constitutionality of a Bill had to do so within one week from the Bill being placed in the Order Paper of Parliament, Dr. Rajapakse said.

Among those who moved the SC were the General-Secretary of the UNP and the Chairman of the UNP. The Attorney-General has been named a respondent in the petition. The BASL, too, moved SC against the Attorney General. Three civil society activists, Oshala Herath, Dr. Ajantha Perera and Jeran Jegatheesan also filed action.

Lawmaker Rajapakse explained how the proposed Bill, if enacted, could allow independent status to USD 1.4 bn Colombo Port City. Former Justice Minister alleged that the Colombo Port City project was far worse than the selling of the strategic Hambantota port to the Chinese by the previous administration.

The Colombo District MP said the Parliament wouldn’t have financial control over the Colombo Port City Project whereas its independent status would legally empower those managing the project to finalise agreements with external parties

Referring to the previous administration, the former UNPer alleged that China had bribed members of Parliament. MP Rajapakse questioned the rationale behind China providing computers to all members of Parliament and officials as well as jaunts to China.

Rajapakse said that Sri Lanka shouldn’t give in to Chinese strategies aimed at bringing Sri Lanka under its control. The former minister explained the threat posed by the growing Chinese presence including the Colombo Port City, a terminal in the Colombo harbour and at the Hambantota port.



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Sooka pushing UK for punitive action against Army Commander



An outfit, led by Yasmin Sooka, a member of the UNSG Panel of Experts’ (PoE), has urged the UK to take punitive measures against the Commander of the Army, General Shavendra Silva, who is also the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS).

The Army headquarters told The Island that the matter had been brought to the notice of the relevant authorities. It said that it was all part of the ongoing well-funded campaign against the Sri Lankan military.

Issuing a statement from Johannesburg, the International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) said it had compiled a 50-page dossier which it has submitted to the Sanctions Department of the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office on General Shavendra Silva. The Submission argues why Silva, who is Sri Lanka’s current Army Commander, should be designated under the United Kingdom’s Global Human Rights (GHR) Sanctions Regime established on 6 July 2020.

“We have an extensive archive of evidence on the final phase of the civil war in Sri Lanka, meticulously collected by international prosecutors and lawyers. The testimony of victims and witnesses – many now in the UK – was vital in informing this Submission, and making the linkages to Shavendra Silva and those under his command,” said the organisation’s executive director, Yasmin Sooka.

The ITJP Submission details Shavendra Silva’s role in the perpetration of alleged gross human rights violations including of the right to life when he was 58 Division Commander during the final phase of the civil war in 2009 in the north of Sri Lanka. It draws on searing eyewitness testimony from Tamils who survived the government shelling and bombing of hospitals and food queues in the so called No Fire Zones, many of whom now reside in the UK as refugees. The Submission also looks at Silva’s alleged involvement in torture and sexual violence, including rape, which is a priority area of the UK Government’s foreign policy.

“The US State Department designated Shavendra Silva in 2020 for his alleged role in the violations at the end of the war but the remit of the UK sanctions regime works is broader and includes his role in the shelling of hospitals and other protected civilian sites during the military offensive. This is important in terms of recognising the full extent of the violations, as well as supporting the US action,” commented Ms. Sooka. “UK designation would be another significant step forward in terms of accountability and would be in line with the recent UN Human Rights Council Resolution passed in Geneva for which Britain was the penholder,” she added.

Political will in applying the UK’s new sanctions regime to Sri Lanka was apparent in a recent parliamentary debate which saw 11 British parliamentarians ask why the UK government had not applied sanctions against Sri Lankan military figures, including Shavendra Silva, who was named six times in this context.”



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Ten lives snuffed out in road accidents during festive period



Road accidents had snuffed out 10 lives during the Sinhala and Tamil New year, police spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said yesterday, adding that 121 accidents had been reported on April 14 alone.

Twelve of the accidents took place on the Southern Expressway.

DIG Rohana also said that 758 drunk drivers had been arrested on April 14. He added that such drivers would not be released on police bail.

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