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Thursday September 21st, 2023

IshiniGate: Instagram star breaks her silence says cyberattacks “are overwhelming”

Social Media Influencer Ishini Weerasinghe breaks her silence

ECONOMYNEXT-A Canadian Social Media influencer who raised tens of thousands of dollars for victims of the Easter Sunday attacks is saying she is working with to identify a fresh charity in Sri Lanka to assist those in need after the blasts.

Ishini Weerasinghe, 21, a model and Instagram star, started a page to collect money for the victims of the attacks on the day of the blast and raised CAD82, 882 (Approximately LKR11,520, 600) in a short time.

Weerasinghe, who has an Instagram following of 173,000 people at last count, came under attack on Social Media by some users who called her a fraud saying that none of the money she collected has reached the numerous victims and their families 17-months after the blasts.

The social media hashtag #IshiniGate has been trending on Social Media since then.

Her accusers speculated that she had spent the money on plastic surgery for breast enhancement and a new car.

In a statement released yesterday, Weerasinghe said that that she had had surgery to “correct a deformity” in 2018 and also purchased her vehicle the same year many months before her drive.

Among the accusations was that she had paid for a new house, a charge she denies as she lives with her parents in the house which they had built and have lived in for the past 11 years in South Edmonton, in Alberta.

In an interview with EconomyNext, Weerasinghe who is of Sri Lankan origin says she does not want to be “directly involved in the charity work but we are looking for someone competent to do so.” in a letter to Weerasinghe commiserated with her about the attacks on Social Media and gave her two options saying they could return the money to the donors but recommended that she work with the website to find a suitable charity in Sri Lanka to work with.

Of the total cash collected Weerasinghe chose to transfer a sum of CAD 20,000 in June 2019 to the Alpha Trust in Sri Lanka which organizes and conducts social work and projects around the country.

The remaining cash, amounting to CAD68, 882 she told EconomyNext, “is in a separate bank account in Canada.”

Alpha Trust is the charity arm of the Foursquare Gospel Church, at which her parents worship in Edmonton.

However, for various reasons Alpha Trust could not aid victims, Weerasinghe and the Trust said.

Alpha Trust in a statement released on Facebook said: “in order to adhere to the request of Ms Weerasinghe, members of the Alpha Trust team embarked on the mission of communicating with the church in Batticaloa and other people on the ground, to ascertain the needs of those directly affected by the bombing.”

“However, after extensive interviews and fact-finding, they reported back to Ms Weerasinghe that all victims who needed immediate, short term and long-term medical care were categorized and were being taken care of by Government organisations, relevant affected churches, International NGOs and Blue-chip companies who also came to the immediate assistance of the victim,” it said.

Hence, Alpha Trust requested to return the funds to her as per their policy of only utilizing funds strictly for the specific purpose it was sent for by the donor.

Subsequently, in November 2019 Weerasinghe had informed Alpha Trust of a planned visit by her and her family to Sri Lanka for a family wedding and instructed the Alpha Trust to return the funds directly to her as she had directly made contact with some victims who needed urgent medical assistance and would like to work directly with them.

“On arrival, Ms Weerasinghe requested Alpha Trust to return the funds within 36 hours and the Alpha Trust trustees agreed to relax their strict policy method and process of returning the funds and made it available to her at short notice,” the statement said.

So Alpha Trust has refunded an amount of Rs 2,585,091.43 after deducting the taxes and their travelling expenses the statement said.

EconomyNext has verified that Weerasinghe has provided assistance to three recipients in the Negombo area through a local church group. However getting the records of how around LKR1.5mn was spent has “been pushed back by Covid,” she says

“The receipts are there. The survivors know that they were told to keep their medical receipts from the moment we started working with them for documentation purposes. The earliest person we have employed said he can meet with them and gather all the receipts and deliver it to me is by the end of this month,” she said.

EconomyNext spoke to the person who is tracking down the recipients. He spoke on condition of anonymity and said that there are at least three people he has contacted who have received help for medical treatment and another to whom payments have been made for the construction of a house.

He said that one woman has been given LKR50,000 for surgery due to hearing loss, another family which lost their mother was given LKR50,000 for school supplies and money has been set aside for furniture.

Another girl who has a serious skin condition from shards of glass was given LKR100,000 for the course of injections and mother was given money for physiotherapy as she is unable to walk due to injuries.

An orphaned girl has been pledged LKR1,000,000 to finish building her family house.

“We will be continuing to help the victims on our own account and social welfare efforts further onwards. The cyberbullying, harassment and threats from the community recently from creating false accusations about the work that I have done with no proof, has become overwhelming for me and my family,” she said.


With additional reporting by Arjuna Ranawana

Comments (2)

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  1. anuradha ranasinghe says:

    i know this comment would not be published. But, it is nice to see how the scammer turns her self into the victims. All the posts online are only asking her for the receipts which she has been unable to give after 1 ½ years later. What else proof does anyone needs to prove that she’s a scammer?

  2. Guy Ramsoondar says:

    Does anyone actually believe this? She deserves to be arrested for this theft

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Comments (2)

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Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. anuradha ranasinghe says:

    i know this comment would not be published. But, it is nice to see how the scammer turns her self into the victims. All the posts online are only asking her for the receipts which she has been unable to give after 1 ½ years later. What else proof does anyone needs to prove that she’s a scammer?

  2. Guy Ramsoondar says:

    Does anyone actually believe this? She deserves to be arrested for this theft

Sri Lanka government to develop Arugam Bay tourism sector

ECONOMYNEXT – The Arugam Bay Tourism Development Plan, which focuses on challenges to infrastructure development in the area and obstacles hindering the growth of the tourism sector, was discussed by government officials and key stakeholders yesterday (20).

Participants from heads of relevant organizations, the Police and district officers met at the Presidential Secretariat to discuss how each institution could contribute to finding solutions to these challenges, the president’s media division said in a statement.

The main tourism plan for Arugam Bay, prepared by the Urban Development Authority (UDA) was presented by chief of presidential staff, Sagala Rathnayaka.

904,318 tourists visited Sri Lanka from January to August 2023, an increase from the 719,978 tourists that arrived in the country during the whole of 2022, statistics provided by the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority show.
“A tourist will spend an average of 185 -195 dollars a day,” Sri Lanka Tourism Development Chairman, Priyantha Fernando, told EconomyNext.

Sri Lanka’s government aims to attract five million tourists a year, and has mooted the establishment of an Investment Infrastructure Corporation, a decision-making council and regional committees under provincial tourism boards. (Colombo/Sep21/2023)

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Sri Lanka gets 19.23 mn US dollar grant from USA

ECONOMYNEXT – The United States yesterday (20) announced the commitment of more than 19 million US dollars in additional funds to further the development of Sri Lanka.

The 19.23 million US dollar (6.2 billion rupees) is obligated through the Development Objective Grant Agreement between the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Sri Lanka government.

“This development assistance will support economic growth and democratic governance activities and demonstrates the ongoing US commitment to its partnership with Sri Lanka and in building lasting people-to-people ties,” a statement by the Embassy of the United States of America read.

“This investment demonstrates the United States’ ongoing commitment to our partnership with Sri Lanka and our steadfast support to the people of this stunning, opportunity-filled country, as USAID Administrator Samantha Power and President Wickremesinghe discussed in New York,” said Gabriel Grau, USAID Sri Lanka and Maldives Mission Director.

“With these funds we’ll continue to work with the government of Sri Lanka to improve economic growth and democratic governance and advocate for vulnerable populations.”

USAID is an independent agency of the United States government responsible for administering civilian foreign aid and development assistance.

The United States has provided more than 2 billion US dollars (nearly 720 billion rupees) in assistance to Sri Lanka since 1956. (Colombo/Sep21/2023)

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ECONOMYNEXT – The 2022 annual average return on Sri Lanka’s largest contributory pension scheme, the Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF), has fallen to its lowest in nearly two decades, Central Bank data showed.

The annual average return in the last year fell to 9.52 percent from the previous year’s 11.40 percent, a central bank response to a Right to Information (RTI) request showed.

Returns on EPF has raised concerns among contributors after the government decided to include EPF investments in the government treasury bonds under the domestic debt optimization (DDO) process.

Last year’s lower return has been recorded despite market interest rates being more than 30 percent towards the end of the year. In contrast, the fund has given a double digit return in 2020 when the market interest rates hovered in single digits.

Analysts have predicted the returns to be further low with the central bank opting for the government’s DDO option.

A central bank analysis on DDO showed the return on EPF could fall to as low as 6.79 percent if the DDO option was not chosen within the next 12 years as against 8.02 percent if opted for DDO.

Trade unions and some politically motivated fractions opposed the government move to include the EPF investments under the DDO. However, parliament approved the move early this month.

According to the data made available from 2005, the central bank, which is the custodian of the EPF, has given the highest return of 16.03 percent in 2009.

The island nation’s largest pension fund has almost 21-million member accounts including 18.3 million non-contributing accounts due to some members having multiple number of accounts.

The 3.38 trillion-rupee ($10.6 billion) worth fund as of end 2022 is managed by the central bank, including its investment decisions.

As of end 2022, the central bank has invested 3.23 trillion rupees or 95.7 percent of the total EPF in government securities, while 84.1 billion rupees has been invested in listed companies in the Colombo Stock Exchange, the central bank said quoting the EPF audited financial statement. (Colombo/September 21/2023)

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