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Thursday December 1st, 2022

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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Sri Lanka’s inflation eases to 61-pct in November

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s 12-month inflation in the capital Colombo fell to 61 percent in November 2022 from 66 percent in October as price stabilized after interest rates were allowed to go up and the exchange rate was pegged around 360 to the US dollar.

The widely watched Colombo Consumer Price Index fell absolutely 0.5 percent to 242.6 points in November after falling .04 percent in the October.

Food prices fell 1.5 percent after falling 2.0 percent a month earlier. The sub-index containing gas fell 0.5r percent and transport fell 3.6 percent.

But some services continued to go up, as relative prices adjusted to the steep fall in the currency after two years of money printing to suppress rates.

Health costs went up 5.7 percent. Furnishing and routine maintenance rose 0.4 percent.

Sri Lanka’s central bank hiked policy rates to 15.5 percent in April and pulled back on longer term money printing, allowing market rates to go to around 30 percent.

The exchange rater is pegged around 363 rupees with a surrender rule where banks are forced to sell dollars to the central bank for new liquidity.

The ongoing currency and inflation crisis is the worst in the history of the central bank.

Sri Lanka’s Latin America style central bank was set up in 1950 giving powers to the country’s macro-economists the power to mis-target rates, create currency crisis and high inflation. (Colombo/Nov30/2022)

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Sri Lanka shares close at one-month high

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka shares closed at one month high on Wednesday gaining for the fourth session on news that government is in talks with ADB and World Bank to get a 1.9 billion dollar loan facility, brokers said.

The main All Share Price Index (ASPI) closed 3.3 percent or 276.02 points higher at 8,651.23, highest index gain in since November 01.

“Investor participation improved on the back of confirmed talks with multilateral and bilateral lenders including world banks and ADB for USD 1.9Bn after IMF board level agreement is reached,” First Capital Market Research said in it’s daily note.

Former Central Bank Governor Indrajit Coomaraswamy said in a forum on Monday that the government is in discussion with ADB and World Bank to get loans of 1.9 billion US dollars after a reform program with International Monetary Fund is approved

A policy loan now being discussed with the World Bank may bring around 700 million US dollars, Coomaraswamy told a business forum organized by CT CLSA Securities, a Colombo-based brokerage.

The Asian Development Bank may also give around 1.2 billion US dollars most of which will be budget support, he said.

The market witnessed a turnover of 3.3 billion rupees, higher than this year’s daily average turnover of 2.9 billion rupees. This is the highest turnover generated since October 04.

In the last few sessions market gained after Central bank governor said market rates should eventually ease despite the fears of a domestic debt restructuring as inflation falls, increased liquidity in dollar markets, and the inter-bank liquidity improves.

In the past sessions, the index continued to fall on the speculation of a local debt restructuring although no proper decision has been taken so far.

The market saw a foreign inflow of 39 million rupees. The total net foreign inflow stood at 18.33 billion rupees so far for this year.

The more liquid index S&P SL20 closed 3.4 percent or 89.78 points higher at 2,730.08.

The ASPI has fallen 0.5 percent in November after losing 13.4 percent in October.

It has lost 29.2 percent year-to-date after being one of the world’s best stock markets with an 80 percent return last year when large volumes of money were printed.

Sampath Bank pushed the index up to close at 10.9 percent to 36.6 rupees.

Other top gainers were Browns Investment gained 15.4 percent to close at 7.5 rupees and LOLC gained 9.4 percent to close at 411.3 rupees.(Colombo/Nov30/2022)

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Sri Lanka bonds, T-bills ease, overall market dull

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s treasury bonds eased and T-bill yields fell on the speculation on talks with ADB and World Bank to obtain financial aid but the over all market was dull on Wednesday while the Central Bank’s guidance peg remained unchanged, dealers said.

“During the day, secondary market witnessed some buying interest on the back of speculations on yields easing while talks about financial aid from ADB and World Bank further strengthened interest,” First Capital Market Research said in it’s daily note.

A bond maturing on 01.05.2024 closed at 32.00/60 percent on Wednesday, down from 32.30/90 percent on Tuesday.

A bond maturing on 07.07.2025 bond closed at 30.80/31.30 percent up from 30.30/31.25 percent on Tuesday.

A bond maturing on 15.05.2026 closed at 31.00/30 percent down from 31.10/31.30 percent on Tuesday.

The three-month T-bills closed at 32.30/33.25 percent, down from 32.60/33.00 percent.

The Central Bank’s guidance peg for interbank transactions remained unchanged at 363.19 rupees against the US dollar.

Commercial banks offered dollars for telegraphic transfers between 371.79 and 372.10 for small transactions, data showed.

Buying rates are between 361.79 – 362.00 rupees. (Colombo/Nov 30/2022)

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