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Sunday June 23rd, 2024

Sri Lanka opposition MP alleges damning omission in Easter bombings probe

image – Harin Fernando Facebook

ECONOMYNEXT –  An intelligence officer who had been arrested in connection with Sri Lanka’s 2019 Easter Sunday bombings was transferred to the custody of military intelligence before a statement could be recorded, opposition MP Harin Fernando told parliament today.

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. The officer’s connection to the bombers had been traced through an IP address, the MP said.

Taking him to their custody, military intelligence had said the suspect was “one of their projects”, claimed Fernando.

The Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) parliamentarian said the officer is not featured in the report submitted by the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) that probed the deadly bombings that killed 269 people and injured over 500.

The MP was repeatedly interrupted throughout his speech, with backbencher MPs in the government hurling insults and vitriolic personal attacks, angered by Fernando’s own insults name-calling.

According to Fernando, the officer’s alleged link to the bombings was mentioned in the testimony given to the PCoI by former office in charge (OIC) of the CID’s Digital Forensic Laboratory Sampath Kumara Senaratne – testimony that Fernando claimed is omitted from the commission’s final report.

“Four CID directors have been transferred since then,” he said, claiming that all CID officers who were investigating the attack were transferred.

Sparking outrage from government MPs, Fernando said that that Maulavi (Islamic preacher) Mohamed Ibrahim Mohamed Naufer who the government claimed had masterminded the bombings was not brought before the presidential commission.

“The so called mastermind was not brought to testify,” he said, amid howling protests from the other side of the aisle.

Fernando further alleged that a single individual who represents President Gotabaya Rajapaksa controls the country’s intelligence apparatus.

“It’s CID officers who are supposed to go to the Attorney General’s Department, but instead it’s this representative of the president that was recently there,” he claimed.

“If you need to find the mastermind, remember that this person is the mastermind,” he added, without elaboration.

On April 06, Public Security Minister Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekara said Maulavi Naufer and one Rasheed Hajjul Akbar, both of whom are in custody, have been identified as the only confirmed masterminds of the attack.

The minister told reportesr that no other suspect had been identified as having masterminded the attacks and stressed that the government has no intention to hide its findings.

Weerasekara was responding to a question about allegations levelled by the opposition that information about those who might’ve planned the attack was not forthcoming.

He said the Maulavi had been promoting ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s brand of Islamic state ideology in Sri Lanka since 2014.

“It was he who brainwashed Zaharan [Hashim, the ringleader of the suicide bombers and founder of the National Thowheeth Jama’ath (NTJ)]. Zaharan came on board in 2016,” said Weerasekara.

Naufer is among 32 individuals against whom criminal proceedings are to be initiated, he said, who are in turn among 211 suspects in remand custody in connection with the bombings. (Colombo/Apr20/2021)

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India supports Sri Lanka Coast Guard to boost maritime security

ECONOMYNEXT – India has given 1.2 million US dollars’ worth spare parts to Sri Lanka’s Coast Guard to be used in a vessel also gifted to the Indian Ocean Island on an earlier occasion, the Indian High Commission in Colombo said.

“Handing over of the large consignment of spares symbolizes India’s commitment to support capability building towards addressing the shared challenges of Maritime Security in the region,” the Indian High Commission said

The spare parts were brought to Sri Lanka on the Indian Coast Guard Ship Sachet, an offshore patrol vessel that was on a two-day visit to the island.

The spares were formally handed over to the Sri Lanka Coast Guard Ship Suraksha which was gifted to Sri Lanka in October 2017 by India.

India has gifted spare parts for the ship in June 2021 and April 2022 and also provided assistance in refilling of Halon cylinders in January 2024. (Colombo/June23/2024)

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Sri Lanka Water Board makes profits, tax-payers inject Rs28bn

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s state-run National Water Supply and Drainage Board has made a profit of 5.2 billion rupees in the year to December 2023, after a tariff increase despite not getting money for 25 percent of its water it pumps out.

Total revenues went up to 61.8 billion rupees in 2023 from 35.4 billion rupees, a Finance Ministry report said.

Water revenue surged to 58.5 billion rupees from 33.1 billion rupees, cost of sales also went up to 32.8 billion rupees from 23.14 billion rupees, helping boost gross profits from 12.3 billion rupees to 29.0 billion rupees.

Finance costs surged to 14.9 billion rupees from 3.9 billion rupees,

NSWD reported net profits of 5.2 billion rupees for the year, against a loss of 2.7 billion rupees a year earlier.

The Treasury had given 28 billion rupees from tax payer money to settle loans.

During the Rajapaksa administration, macroeconomists who ran the Finance Ministry made state enterprises borrow money from banks through Treasury guarantees listing them as ‘contingent liabilities’, claiming they were ‘off balance sheet’.

The Road Development Authority, which had no revenues to speak of borrowed large amounts of money from banks which were listed as ‘contingent liabilities’ though they were a responsibility of the state from day one, allowing macroeconomists to understate both the budget deficit and national debt, critics say.

The water tariffs were raised by 81 percent after macroeconomists printed money to supress interest rates for flexible inflation targeting/potential output targeting. The currency collapsed after macroeconomists tried to float the rupee with a surrender rule in place.

Non-revenue water for which no money is collected was 25.2 percent. The agency was supposed to reduce non-revenue water. In some districts religious establishments are responsible for non-revenue water, according to an official who said it on condition of anonymity.

The water board is also unable to collect money from some services like common toilets for underserved communities. (Colombo/June23/2024 – Update II)

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Sri Lanka will expedite Indian projects: President

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka will expedite Indian-backed projects in the island, President Ranil Wickremesinghe told Indian business people after a visit by Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar this week.

“I discussed with Prime Minister Modi the need to accelerate the joint program that we have decided, agreed on. So the major ones are identified, and Foreign Minister Jaishankar came down today [20] to have a discussion. Now this will show the new path we are taking,” president Ranil Wickremesinghe said.

“It won’t be individual projects. We’ve discussed a fair number of them. First is the grid interconnection between Sri Lanka and India, so that sustainable energy can be transmitted to India.

“We have the Sampur solar power project, which is a Government to Government (G2G) project, and a three island project, which is where we hope the ground breaking can take place in July,” he told Indian business people at the 31st All India Partner’s Meet 2024 (AIPM 2024), held at ICT Ratnadipa in Colombo.

The AIPM 2024 which was organised by KPGM Sri Lanka and India provided a platform for both countries to reaffirm their commitment to collaborative projects that promise to redefine bilateral relations and propel socio-economic growth.

“It’s a great pleasure and a privilege to have you in Sri Lanka, in Colombo, holding this meeting. It shows on one hand the close friendship that our two countries have, and on the other hand, the confidence that you have in Sri Lanka.

“Having now survived two difficult years, I must acknowledge that this was possible because India gave us a loan of $3.5 billion. All that will be repaid.”

Cooperation between the two nations needed to be enhanced, particularly in the energy sector, aiming to foster new development for the Northern region, Wickremesinghe said.

“We are looking at developing Palk Straight for wind energy and solar energy, both countries to get together and have a large farm for solar energy, for renewable energy. It also means that we will have a new economy for the northern province, which was worst affected by the war.”

Several Indian-backed projects in Sri Lanka have stalled due to protests from some parties, with some going to courts.

India is helping expand the Kankesanturai port, and is discussing development of the Palali and Colombo airports.

The National Livestock Development Board of Sri Lanka, in collaboration with India’s Amul Dairy Company, is involved in a project to enhance liquid milk production in the country.

The two nations are also considering establishing land connectivity.

Discussions have also taken place regarding expediting the Trincomalee Development Project, which encompasses industrial investment zones and tourist areas.

“Plans are underway to construct a multi-product oil pipeline from Nagapatnam to Trincomalee, pending the final observation report. Trincomalee is poised to become a hub for oil refining, with the development of ports and investment zones, transforming Trincomalee Port into a significant hub on the Bay of Bengal.

“Today, the entire East Coast is being opened up for tourism, with additional land earmarked for hotels in Galle and southern areas. Moreover, there are plans to establish more investment zones across the country, alongside expanding our professional training programs. In these endeavours, we are collaborating closely with India.” (Colombo/Jun22/2024)

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