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Friday December 9th, 2022

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 bond yields end higher, kerb dollar Rs370/371

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka bonds yields ended up and the T-bills eased on active trade on Friday, dealers said.

The US dollar was 370/371 rupees in the kerb.

“The bond rates went up, however more interest was seen in the short term bills by the investors” dealers said.

A bond maturing on 01.05.2024 closed at 31.90/32.20 percent on Friday, up from 31.25/70 percent at Thursday’s close.

A bond maturing on 15.05.2026 closed at 30.30/31.30 percent steady from 30.30/31.00 percent.

The three-month T-bills closed at 30.75/31.30 percent, down from 32.00/32.25 percent.

The Central Bank’s guidance peg for interbank transactions was at 363.18 rupees against the US dollar unchanged.

Commercial banks offered dollars for telegraphic transfers between 371.78 and 372.00 for small transactions, data showed.

Buying rates are between 361.78 – 362.00 rupees. (Colombo/Dec 09/2022)

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Foreign minister, US ambassador discuss future assistance to crisis-hit Sri Lanka

ECONOMYNEXT — In a meeting in Colombo, Sri Lanka Foreign Minister Ali Sabry and US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung discussed ways in which the United States can continue to support Sri Lanka going forward, the Ambassador said.

Chung tweeted Friday December 09 afternoon that the two officials had reflected on the “twists and turns” of 2022, at the meeting.

Minister Sabry was recently in Washington D.C. where he US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

A foreign ministry statement said the two officials held productive discussions at the Department of State on December 02 on further elevating bilateral relations in diverse spheres, including the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations which will be marked in 2023.

Incidentally, Sri Lanka also celebrates the 75th anniversary of its independence from the British in 2023, and President Ranil Wickremesinghe has given himself and all parties that represent parliament a deadline to find a permanent solution to Sri Lanka’s decades-long ethnic issue.

The US has been vocal about Sri Lanka addressing concerns about its human rights record since the end of the civil war in 2009 and was a sponsor of the latest resolution on Sri Lanka passed by the United Nations Human Rights Council. Unlike previous resolutions, this year’s iteration makes specific reference to the country’s prevailing currency crisis and calls for investigations on corruption allegations.

In the lead up to the UNHRC sessions in Geneva, Minister Sabry Sri Lanka’s government under then new president Wickremesinghe does not want any confrontation with any international partner but will oppose any anti-constitutional move forced upon the country.

On the eve of the sessions on October 06, Sabry said countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom, who led the UNHRC core group on Sri Lanka, are greatly influenced by domestic-level lobbying by pressure groups from the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora.

These pronouncements notwithstanding, the Wickremesnghe government has been making inroads to the West as well as India and Japan, eager to obtain their assistance in seeing Sri Lanka through the ongoing crisis.

The island nation has entered into a preliminary agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for an extended fund facility of 2.9 billion dollars to be disbursed over a period of four years, subject to a successful debt restructure programme and structural reforms.

Much depends on whether or not China agrees to restructure Sri Lanka’s 7.4 billion dollar outstanding debt to the emerging superpower. Beijing’s apparent hesitance to go for a swift restructure prompted Tamil National Alliance MP Shanakiyan Rasamanickam to warn of possible “go home, China” protests in Colombo, similar to the wave of protests that forced the exit of former pro-China President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

The TNA will be a key player in upcoming talks with the Wickremesinghe government on a solution to Sri Lanka’s ethnic issue. (Colombo/Dec09/2022)

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India smogs out Sri Lanka’s China tower observers


ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Chinese-built Lotus Tower has halved visitors to its observation deck an official said as dirty air flowing from India triggered air quality warnings and schools in the capital closed.

“Masks are mandatory at the observation deck and roughly around 50 to 60 can go up to the observation deck at a time, time limits have not been altered and still persists at 20 minutes for observation,” the official told EconomyNext.

Prior to the smog, 120 observers were permitted at once to the deck.

However, even after limitations the Lotus Tower has continued to draw visitors, and revenues are coming in, the official said.

The tower built with a Chinese loan by the cash rich Telecom Regulatory Commission has been described by critics as a white elephant that eats the money earned from telecom operators mainly as spectrum fees.

Sri Lanka’s National Building Research Organization (NBRO) said India air heavily polluted with particulate matter was flowing across the island into a depression in the South West Bengal Bay. (Colombo/Dec09/2022)



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