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Friday January 27th, 2023

Appeal court slams Sri Lanka police for framing top detective

ECONOMYNEXT – The Court of Appeal Wednesday slammed police for using “concocted stories” to incarcerate their own top detective Shani Abeysekara whose detention sparked a censure motion against Sri Lanka at the European parliament.

The two-judge bench in their 14-page judgement granting bail to Abeysekara noted a blatant attempt by the Colombo Crime Division (CCD) of the police to frame the former director of the CID.

Abeysekara was arrested on July 31, 2020 by the CCD which accused him of introducing weapons to implicate former Deputy Inspector-General Vass Gunawardena, the main suspect in the 2013 murder of businessman Mohamed Siyam.

The court found that the weapons Abeysekara had discovered during his investigation into the Siyam murder were indeed traced to Vass Gunawardena who in fact had admitted to some of it in his dock statement.

The CCD had relied on the statements of Gunawardena’s co-conspirators in the 2013 murder of Siyam, but their testimony could not be trusted, the court of appeal said.

“The allegations against the suspect Shani Abeysekara are a result of falsification and embellishment and a creature of after-thought,” justice Bandula Karunathna said with justice R. Gurusinghe agreeing.

They also noted that the witnesses against Abeysekara had waited six years to make the allegation against him.

“On account of the said unusual and extraordinary delay, the complaint has not only lost the benefit of the advantage of spontaneity, but also smacks of the introduction of a fabricated, false version and an exaggerated account or concocted story involving a set of collaborators or conspirators, to unduly cause prejudice and harm to the suspect Shani Abeysekara, for collateral purposes.

“Not only that the said delay has not been satisfactorily or credibly explained. It is crystal clear that the statements given by the said witnesses in 2020 are contradictory to statements given by them in 2014.”

-No semblance of a case-

The Court of Appeal pulverised the case against Abeysekara and the judgement could form the basis of an internal investigation into the conduct of the CCD, according to rights activists.

The Court of Appeal judgement also indirectly criticised lower courts.

The judgement noted that “no credible evidence had been brought to the attention of Court to substantiate this position (against Abeysekara) or credibly establish a semblance of a prima facie case against” him.

The European parliament last week passed a censure motion against Sri Lanka and singled out the cases of Abeysekara and two others – human rights lawyer Hejaaz Hizbullah and poet Ahnaf Jazeem – who were being held for long periods without trail.

The EU resolution urged the “government of Sri Lanka to immediately give those detained a fair trial on valid charges and, if there are no charges, to release them unconditionally.”

Abeysekara has been the top detective in many successful prosecutions and was also the top investigator of members of the Rajapaksa family.

-Prolonged incarceration due to fault of lower courts-

The Court of Appeal judgement also made scathing remarks about lower courts for not granting bail and forcing suspects to languish in jail for long periods without trial.

The judges noted that the power to grant bail was exercised sparingly by lower courts and poorer people suffered.

“Sometimes courts even routinely reject bail for minor offences.

“It is pertinent to note that a majority of those belong to marginalised communities. Without grant of bail by the lower courts, the accused persons are required to approach the High Court, Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court. Consequently, most accused persons remain incarcerated as under-trials for extended periods of time.”

The two judges said there was no valid reason to keep Abeysekara in custody for any longer and granted him bail. He had languished in remand custody for 10 months during which he contracted Covid-19 and suffered a heart attack and was forced to undergo surgery.

(COLOMBO, June 16, 2021)

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Sri Lanka’s Dialog Axiata hopes to hold prices despite rising costs

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Dialog Axiata hopes to hold prices despite higher taxes, rising costs like energy, officials said as the country goes through the worst currency crisis in the history of its intermediate regime central bank.

High inflation following a collapse of the currency has reduced real incomes of customers.

“There are many factors to consider, especially with the last price increase we did in last year did not resulted in a significant increase in revenue” Pradeep De Almeida · Group Chief Technology Officer at Dialog Axiata said at the launch of its Future zone at Lotus tower.

In September,2022 following an electricity tarrif hike dialog increased its tariffs on Mobile, Fixed Telephone, Broadband Plans and Value Added Services (Prepaid and Postpaid) by 20 percent while tariffs on all Pay Television Services were raised 25 percent.

Value Added Tax (VAT) was also raised by the government from 12 percent to 15 percent on all Telecommunications and Pay TV services.

“Even though we increase the prices we only saw around 8-9 percent increase in revenue,” Almeida said.

“That is because many users cut off their usage to limit the spending”.

Over the 24 months to December 2022, the central bank has generated inflation of 76 percent, based on the Colombo Consumer Price Index official data shows.

Dialog will increase efficiencies and manage costs in an attempt to avoid prices increases for customs, he said.

“We are trying to mainly bear the cost from our side. We are getting a massive support from our parent company Telekom Malaysia International,” Navin Peiris, Group Chief Enterprise Officer at Dialog told EconomyNext.

“Therefore as of now, there is no plan to increase prices”. (Colombo/Jan 26/2023)

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Sri Lanka shares fall at market close on profit taking

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka shares fell on Thursday as profit taking entered the market mainly on financial and diversified sectors, brokers said.

The main All Share Price Index (ASPI) fell 0.13 percent or 11.50 points to close at 8,926.56.

“The market was trading on dull trade mainly due to profit taking,” an analyst said.

“Also we saw investors taking a sideline as quarterly reports started to come”.

The earnings in the first quarter of 2023 are expected to be negative with revised up taxes and an imminent electricity tariff hike.

Earnings in the second quarter are expected to be more positive with the anticipation of IMF loan and possible reduction in the market interest rates as the tax revenue has started to generate funds.

The central bank’s policy decision was expected and investors have been eying on IMF deal with hopes of rapid economic recovery from the current unprecedented economic crisis, however since the market gained in the last sessions profit taking has come about, analysts said.

The market has been on a rising trend on the hopes of a faster IMF deal. However, the central bank government said the IMF deal is likely in the quarter or in the first month of the second quarter.

The most liquid index S&P SL20 fell  0.33 percent or 9.21 points to 2,798.

LOLC had seen some attention by investors as the firm disposed 90,256,750 shares held with Agstar PLC at 15-17.50 rupees a share.

The market witnessed a turnover of 1.2 billion rupees, lower than the month’s daily average of 1.9 billion rupees.

Expolanka dragging the market down closed 2.36 percent down at 186.7 rupees a share. Sampath bank fell 1.41 percent to close at 42 rupees a share while Royal Ceramic Lanka closed 2.59 percent dwn at 30.1 rupees a share.

(Colombo/Jan26/2023)

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Sri Lanka bonds yields steady at close

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka bond yields were steady at close on Thursday, dealers said, while a guidance peg for interbank transactions by the Central Bank remained steady.

A bond maturing on 01.05.2024 closed at 31.00/20 percent unchanged from the last close.

A bond maturing on 15.05.2026 closed at 26.60/90 percent, up from 28.50/70 percent on Wednesday.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2027 closed at 28.60/85 percent, up from 28.50/60 percent at the last close.

The three months bill closed at 29.75/30.25 percent unchanged from the last close.

The Central Bank’s guidance peg for interbank US dollar transactions appreciated by another 2 cents to 362.14 rupees against the US dollar.

Commercial banks offered dollars for telegraphic transfers at 360.49 rupees on Thursday, data showed.  (Colombo/Jan 26/2022)

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