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Tuesday May 30th, 2023

Government MPs want Riyaj Bathiudeen re-arrested over Easter Bombings

WARM WELCOME – Irrigation Minister Chamal Rajapaksa welcomes Rishard Bathiudeen to event in Vavuniya/Facebook – File photo

ECONOMYNEXT – More than two-thirds of the country’s governing party Parliamentary Group has signed a letter addressed to the President and the Prime Minister demanding an inquiry into how Riyaj Bathiudeen, a suspect in the Easter bombings, was released from police custody.

A media release issued by the office of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa said that the letter was handed over to the PM at Temple Trees last night.

The letter, which has been circulated to media organisations, pointed out that the Police Media spokesman had said that Riyaj Bathiudeen had had “direct contacts with” the Easter bombers and had been spotted having a meeting with one of them at a hotel in Colombo.

It also quoted former Army Commander Gen Mahesh Senanayake as telling the Presidential Commission investigating the attacks that he had received an intelligence report that Bathiudeen had helped the leader of the group that carried out the attacks, Zahran Hashim, escape to India by providing him with a boat.

Senanayake was Army Chief during the period of the attacks and previously head of Military Intelligence.

After his release, the police said that he was “cleared of all charges.”

Riyaj Bathiudeen is the younger brother of Opposition MP and former Minister Rishad Bathiudeen who was vilified by supporters of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) during the last government and in the run-up to the recent elections as a supporter of Islamic terrorism.

However, amid rumours that he would cross over to the government benches to support the controversial 20th Amendment to the Constitution, MP Bathiudeen was seen hobnobbing with Chamal Rajapaksa who is the Irrigation Minister and elder brother of the Prime Minister and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at a recent event.

Coincidentally, the MPs brother was released by the Criminal Investigation Department, which the government MPs pointed out was done without him being produced in court.

The event attracted a chorus of criticism from the SLPP’s Right-Wing support base as well as bemused comments from the Opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) which officially has said that none of their members would support the 20A.

Well-known Nationalist Monk Pahiyangala Ananda Sagara Thero criticized the release saying that it was a political move.

The SJB’s Tissa Attanayake said that the current government has the responsibility of punishing those behind the Easter attacks. “But we are surprised that people who are arrested in this investigation are released. It is becoming increasingly clear that all this is to ensure a majority to pass the 20th Amendment,” he told reporters last week.

Bathiudeen’s group called the All Ceylon Makkal Congress, consists of three MPs, two of whom were elected on the SJB ticket and the other independently elected.

He supported the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa in the 2010 elections and was a Cabinet Minister in that government. His party left the government in 2014 and in 2015 joined the Good Governance government and was appointed to the Cabinet again.

Bathiudeen draws much of his support from Muslims who were expelled from the North by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and are resettled in the Mannar and Puttalam areas. (Colombo October 10, 2020)

Reported by Arjuna Ranawana

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Sri Lanka cabinet approves President’s proposal to resume Japanese LRT after soared ties 

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Cabinet of Ministers approved a proposal by President Ranil Wickremesinghe to resume the unilaterally cancelled Japan funded Light Rail Transit (LRT), cabinet spokesman said, as the island nation is in the process of mending ties with Tokyo.

However, any such deals are likely to take place after the debt restructuring and Sri Lanka starts to repay its foreign loans to come out of default, analysts say.

Former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa unilaterally cancelled the 1.5 billion US dollar LRT and East Container Terminal (ECT) projects in 2021. Japan agreed to fund the LRT project while it was one of the tripartite members of the ECT project along with India and Sri Lanka.

The abrupt cancellation hit the diplomatic ties between the two countries and Sri Lankan government officials have said Japan had given the project to Sri Lanka at a very lower financing cost.

President Wickremesinghe returned from Japan late last week after having met top officials of the Japanese government including its prime minister.

“In recent history, due to the stopping of several agreements and proposals suddenly, President Wickremesinghe went to Japan after creating the background to clear some of the worries we have,” Cabinet Spokesman Bandula Gunawardena told the weekly media briefing.

“Before he went, he got the approval from the cabinet to resume the discussion on the light railway project. He got the approval from the cabinet to get parliament approval for bilateral agreements signed or any other investments project. Any change or cancellation of a project could be done only with the approval of the parliament.”

Japan has backed Sri Lanka under Wickremesinghe’s presidency after the island nation declared sovereign debt default. (Colombo/May 30/2023)

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Sri Lanka to tighten grip on television with broadcast law

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has formulated a broadcast authority law to regulate electronic media which will be made public soon, Cabinet spokesman Minister Bandula Gunawardana said.

“The draft prepared by a cabinet subcommittee under Justice Minister Wijedasa Rajapaksa has discussed with various parties will be given to all media institutions and broadcast media,” Gunawardana said.

“We do not have to hide or force anyone. A legal framework that can be acceptable to all for all sectors.”

“In a week or two Minister Wijedasa will discuss with state and private stakeholders.”

At the moment Sri Lanka has issued frequencies without conforming to an “international procedures”, he said.

In Sri Lanka television frequencies are issued under a state television act.

Successive administrations in Sri Lanka has since around 1980 mis-used state television duopoly which including for conducting elections according to critics.

Private television as well a raio emerged around the 1990s and has since over shadowed state media.

There have been calls by ruling party politicians from time to time to control private media. There is now calls to control social media.

At a Committee on Public Accounts meeting of the Department of Government Information, ruling coalition legislators called for regulation of television content. (Colombo/May30/2023)

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Sri Lanka rupee at 296.75/297.25 to dollar at open, bond yields steady

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s rupee opened at 297 /297.50 against the US dollar in the spot market on Monday, while bond yields were steady, dealers said.

The rupee closed at 296.75 /297.25 to the US dollar on Monday after opening around 296.50 /297.50 rupees.

A bond maturing on 01.09.2027 was quoted at 26.50/75 percent steady from Friday’s close at 26.50/65 percent.

Sri Lanka’s rupee is appreciating amid negative private credit which has reduced outflows after the central bank hiked rates and stopped printing money. (Colombo/ May 29/2023)

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