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Thursday February 22nd, 2024

Sri Lanka Easter attack probe: Cardinal sceptical of politically compromised law enforcement

Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Catholic church is sceptical of a politically compromised law enforcement’s ability to probe the “grand conspiracy” behind the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings, Colombo Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith said.

There can be doubts about finding out what really happened with a “police that acts according to the wishes of the current political leadership, a criminal investigation department (CID) that follows the political leadership’s agenda, and a legal system and law enforcement personnel that political leaders are trying to control,” Ranjith said.

The cardinal was speaking at a press conference Tuesday (13) morning to announce the submission of an interim report compiled by seven bishops of the church on purported shortcomings of a report by the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) that investigated the series of bombings.

“We urge the government not to brush [the investigation] under the carpet by taking a few people to court and acting as if it’s done and dusted,” he said, adding that there are “hidden mysteries” behind the attack that need to come to light.

Related: Cardinal does 180, claims he never said Easter bombings were politically motivated

Further investigations should be based on some of the contents in the PCoI report as well as certain revelations made by MPs in parliament, the cardinal said.

“The former Attorney General had said unequivocally that there was a grand conspiracy behind the attack. We have a right to know what that conspiracy was. Did he make his statement based on the contents of the commission report, or the contents of the 22 volumes that were hidden and submitted later because apparently they could not be released, we do not know,” he said.

Days before his retirement, outgoing Attorney General Dappula de Livera said on Ma 18 this year that there was clear evidence of a grand conspiracy linked to the April 21 2019 bombings that killed 269 people and injured over 500.

Related: Sri Lanka Attorney General claims “grand conspiracy” behind Easter attack

Twenty-two volumes of the PCoI report, purportedly containing sensitive information, were submitted to the Attorney General on March 12, this year, over a month after the ‘final’ PCoI report was handed over to the president.

The PCoI recommended that criminal proceedings be instituted against former President Maithripala Sirisena and others over the incident.

Related: Sri Lanka Easter attacks commission recommends criminal proceedings against President Sirisena

The government has been claiming for some months now that Maulavi (Islamic preacher) Mohamed Ibrahim Mohamed Naufer and one Rasheed Hajjul Akbar, both of whom are in custody, had been identified as the only confirmed masterminds of the attack. Public Security Minister Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekara told reporters in May that no other suspect had been identified as having masterminded the attacks and stressed that the government has no intention to hide its findings.

Related: FBI confirmed Maulavi Naufar masterminded Sri Lanka Easter attacks: Minister

The official account has been contested by opposition lawmakers and others. Main opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) MP Harin Fernando in a controversial statement made in parliament on April 20 claimed that the Islamic preacher was never brought before a presidential commission of inquiry that probed the Easter bombings.

Fernando also claimed that an intelligence officer who had been arrested in connection with the bombings was transferred to the custody of military intelligence before a statement could be recorded. Investigations by former Criminal Investigation Department (CID) Director Shani Abeysekara had revealed that the suspect had had discussions with the perpetrators of the attack, Fernando said.

“If the government or any institute thinks that our people will be satisfied by having 20, 30 cases in court instead of [an adequate investigation], they’re just fooling themselves,” said Ranjith.

“We will not end our struggle here, just because some cases have been filed. We will continue,” he added. (Colombo/July13/2021)

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Sri Lanka’s CEB to submit significant power tariff reduction proposal to regulator

ECONOMYNEXT — Sri Lanka’s state-run Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) is expected to submit to the country’s public utilities regulator on Thursday February 22 a proposal to slash a power tariff hike made in October 2023.

Power & Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekara said on Wednesday February 22 that the CEB expects to reduce rates by at least the same rates and percentages it was increased in October 2023: by 18 percent for the domestic and religious sectors, 12 percent for the industries and hotel sectors, and 24 percent for the general purpose and government buildings sectors.

CEB management and tariff department officials had briefed the ministry on the revised new tariff proposal, taking into account costs reduced from capital and operating expenses from the original proposal, cash flow requirements for 2024 and suggestions received from public consultation and stakeholder meetings, Wijesekara said.

CEB Senior Engineers’ Association Media Spokesman Nandika Pathirage said on Wednesday that this was the best decision that can be taken at the moment.

“There was no rain at all on Tuesday. We have to use more oil these days. If you take hydro, together with mini hydro it makes up 26 percent. Solar and wind make up about 6 percent. Solar alone is 4 percent. If we can increase solar by 10 percent, it will be like during the rainy season of November and December,” said Pathirage.

“Thermal is 68 percent. CEB needs cash to run. If we can reduce it further, we’re all ready to consider it in the next quarter. This is a good number we can arrive at now,” he said.

CEB Deputy General Manager Noel Priyantha, whose resignation was announced Thursday morning following a PR scandal, told reporters on Wednesday that, while it does carry some risk, maintenance and repairs deemed non-essential have been postponed to 2025 and 2026.

“We plan to greatly reduce our capital costs and maintenance costs, through which we expect to provide a considerable reduction in tariffs. What we did was push maintenance and repairs to 2025, 2026. There is a small risk there,” he said.

The official explained that a recent reduction in tariffs by a relatively low 3 to 3.4 percent was due in part to costs involved in activities including maintenance work at the CEB’s extensive network of power stations.

“Profits from the November, December rains were carried forward to 2024. We proposed this year’s tariff with that taken into account. We also planned to do several things that we had missed. CEB owns a large number of power stations. The pandemic came, and then the country went bankrupt. Because of the dollar crisis we couldn’t carry out essential maintenance work. This year we have assigned maximum maintenance,” said Priyantha.

The previous tariff proposal was thus sent to the regulator, the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL), taking into account such tasks the CEB could not carry out due to various reasons, according to Priyantha.

“This was why we had to reduce the tariff by an amount as low as 3 to 3.4 percent. Then we held public consultations. Everyone said in one voice to reduce the tariff. The PUCSL as regulator gave us some criteria, to discuss with the government and move a few these things around and reduce loading a big cost for 2024 and defer it if possible,” he said.

“Which meant do the essential things in 2024, and whatever that can be postponed be moved around a bit,” he said. (Colombo/Feb22/2024)

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Sri Lanka stocks close up, turnover tops 1bn

ECONOMYNEXT – The Colombo Stock Exchange closed up on Thursday, data on its site showed.

The broader All Share Index closed up 6.05 points, or 0.06 percent at 10,655 while the S&P SL20 Index closed down at 3,064 points, up 0.18 percent, or 5.43 points.

Turnover was at 1.4 million. A large part of this came from trading in John Keells Holdings Plc (571 million); the share closed up at 194.00.

Expolanka Holdings Plc also saw large volumes being traded, contributing 202 million to the day’s turnover. The share closed up at 143.75.

Sectors that attracted investor interest were Capital Goods (608mn), Transportation (203mn), Food, Beverage and Tobacco (141mn), and Banks (157mn).

Several companies that announced dividends yesterday saw share prices trade up today. Commercial Bank of Ceylon Plc closed up at 91.30. Overseas Realty (Ceylon) Plc closed up at 16.20.

Positive contributors to the indices in the day included Hemas Holdings Plc (73.60), and Haycarb Plc (72.00). (Colombo/Feb22/2024).

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Sri Lanka parliament appoints members to committees including COPE, COPA

ECONOMYNEXT — Sri Lanka’s parliament has announced the names of legislators appointed to a number of committees, including the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) and the Committee on Public Accounts (COPA).

A statement from parliament citing Deputy Speaker Ajith Rajapakse said on Thursday February 22 that 19 members have been appointed to COPE.

These are, namely: Jagath Pushpakumara, Janaka Wakkumbura, Lohan Ratwatte,  Indika Anuruddha Herath,  Shantha Bandara,  Mahindananda Aluthgamage,  Duminda Dissanayake,  Rohitha Abegunawardhana,  Nimal Lanza,  U K Sumith Udukumbura,  Sanjeeva Edirimanna,  Jagath Kumara Sumithraarachchi,  (Major) Sudarshana Denipitiya,  Premnath C Dolawatte,  Upul Mahendra Rajapaksha,  M Rameshwaran,  (Mrs) Rajika Wickramasinghe,  Madhura Withanage, and  (Prof) Ranjith Bandara.

Members nominated for COPA are Mohan Priyadarshana De Silva,  Lasantha Alagiyawanna,  Prasanna Ranaweera,  K Kader Masthan,  (Mrs) Diana Gamage,  Chamara Sampath Dasanayake,  Wajira Abeywardana,  A L M Athaullah,  Wimalaweera Dissanayake,  Jayantha Ketagoda,  (Dr) Major Pradeep Undugoda,  Karunadasa Kodithuwakku,  Isuru Dodangoda,  Premnath C Dolawatte,  (Mrs) Muditha Prishanthi,  M W D Sahan Pradeep Withana,  Madhura Withanage,  D Weerasingha,  and (Mrs) Manjula Dissanayake.

The rest of the committees are as follows:

Committee on Ethics and Privileges
(Mrs.) Pavithradevi Wanniarachchi,  (Dr.) Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, PC,  Vijitha Berugoda,  Tharaka Balasuriya,  Anuradha Jayaratne,  Chamal Rajapaksa,  Johnston Fernando,  Mahindananda Aluthgamage,  Jayantha Ketagoda,  Madhura Withanage, and  Samanpriya Herath

Committee on Public Petitions
Jagath Pushpakumara,  S. Viyalanderan,  Ashoka Priyantha,  A. Aravindh Kumar,  (Mrs.) Geetha Samanmale Kumarasinghe,  Gamini Lokuge,  Wajira Abeywardana,  (Dr.) Gayashan Nawananda,  Jayantha Ketagoda,  U. K. Sumith Udukumbura,  Mayadunna Chinthaka Amal,  Nipuna Ranawaka,  (Mrs.) Rajika Wickramasinghe,  M. W. D. Sahan Pradeep Withana,  and Yadamini Gunawardena

Ministerial Consultative Committee on Defence
Chamal Rajapaksa,  (Dr.) Sarath Weerasekera, and (Dr.) Major Pradeep Undugoda

Ministerial Consultative Committee on Finance, Economic Stabilization and National Policies
Mahindananda Aluthgamage,  M. W. D. Sahan Pradeep Withana, and (Prof.) Ranjith Bandara

Ministerial Consultative Committee on Women, Child Affairs and Social Empowerment
Jagath Kumara Sumithraarachchi,  (Mrs.) Rajika Wickramasinghe,  and (Mrs.) Manjula Dissanayake

Ministerial Consultative Committee on Investment Promotion
A. Aravindh Kumar,  Dhammika Perera, and Yadamini Gunawardena

Ministerial Consultative Committee on Education
Anupa Pasqual,  Wimalaweera Dissanayake, and Gunathilaka Rajapaksha

Ministerial Consultative Committee on Mass Media
S. M. M. Muszhaaraff,  Jayantha Ketagoda,  and Sanjeeva Edirimanna

Ministerial Consultative Committee on Health
Kanaka Herath,  (Dr.) Gayashan Nawananda, and (Dr.) Major Pradeep Undugoda

Ministerial Consultative Committee on Agriculture and Plantation Industries
Udayakantha Gunathilaka,  Kulasingam Dhileeban,  and Upul Mahendra Rajapaksha

Ministerial Consultative Committee on Wildlife and Forest Resources Conservation
Chamara Sampath Dasanayake,  Kapila Athukorala, and Kumarasiri Rathnayaka

Ministerial Consultative Committee on Justice, Prisons Affairs and Constitutional Reforms
Sisira Jayakody,  Premnath C. Dolawatte, and Sagara Kariyawasam

Ministerial Consultative Committee on Industries
Premalal Jayasekara,  U. K. Sumith Udukumbura, and Lalith Varna Kumara

Ministerial Consultative Committee on Urban Development and Housing
(Mrs.) Kokila Gunawardene,  Milan Jayathilake, and Madhura Withanage

Ministerial Consultative Committee on Foreign Affairs
S. B. Dissanayake,  Namal Rajapaksa,  and (Major) Sudarshana Denipitiya

Ministerial Consultative Committee on Buddhasasana, Religious and Cultural Affairs
H. Nandasena,  Gunathilaka Rajapaksha, and Samanpriya Herath

Ministerial Consultative Committee on Power and Energy
Gamini Lokuge,  Duminda Dissanayake, and Nalaka Bandara Kottegoda

Ministerial Consultative Committee on Environment
S. M. Chandrasena,  Isuru Dodangoda, and (Mrs.) Muditha Prishanthi Ministerial

Ministerial Consultative Committee on Sports and Youth Affairs
Premitha Bandara Tennakoon,  Milan Jayathilake, and D. Weerasingha

Ministerial Consultative Committee on Irrigation
D. Weerasingha,  Yadamini Gunawardena, and Jagath Samarawickrama

Ministerial Consultative Committee on Labour and Foreign Employment
D. B. Herath,  W. D. J. Seneviratne, and Jayantha Weerasinghe, P.C

Ministerial Consultative Committee on State Plantation Enterprises Reforms
Sampath Athukorala,  Thisakutti Arachchi, and M. Rameshwaran

(Colombo/Feb22/2024)

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