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Thursday September 21st, 2023

Sri Lanka police chief points finger at former AG over Easter attack probe confusion

ECONOMYNEXT- Sri Lanka’s police chief C D Wickramaratne on Tuesday said former Attorney General Dappula De Livera is bound to answer questions over suspicions created by his remarks last year when he retired from the position.

The police chief’s comments come as head of Sri Lanka’s Catholic Church Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith has alleged a conspiracy by unnamed parties in allowing the 2019 Easter Sunday attack to take place with the aim to back a political party at coming election.

The accusation came after an allegedly long delay in justice to the victims and their families from a probe under President Gotabaya Rajapaksa government.

Former AG De Livera in May last year has said that information by the State Intelligence Service, “with times, targets, places, method of attack and other information is clear evidence there was a grand conspiracy in place with regard to the April 21 2019 attack.”


Police chief Wickremeratne said De Livera has a “duty” to make the public aware of any existing “evidence that the attacks were a political conspiracy.”

“De Livera has no new evidence. He had to have analysed the already available records that are piled up to a four foot height and summarised that information to come to the conclusion that this is a political conspiracy,” Wickremeratne told reporters in Colombo.

“It is his duty as the former Attorney General to think about the people of the country, especially the Cardinal and other Christians, and other people impacted by this, and present the facts of the case, if not to the Police, then to the Cardinal.”

De Livera was not immediately available for comment.

Christians have been demanding justice for those killed in the Easter Sunday attack three years ago and have raised concerns over the government’s slow progress and delay in releasing some of the presidential commission reports. The authorities finally released the reports  in February ahead of a UN human rights session.

The Cardinal has already taken the government’s delay to the Vatican and the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

Political analysts say contradictory statements by government leaders have given rise to concerns over the investigations.

Separately, opposition legislators Harin Fernando raised questions over former Public Security Minister Sarath Weerasekera allegedly using the same vehicle used by terror leader Zaharan Hashim. Weerasekera said the vehicle was confiscated and is now under the custody of the elite police.

In April last year, Weerasekara said Maulavi (Islamic preacher) Mohamed Ibrahim Mohamed Naufer and another Islamic leader Rasheed Hajjul Akbar had been identified as the only confirmed masterminds of the attack. However, Hajjul Akbar has been already granted court bail.

Tuesday’s comments by the police chief also come amid intensified protests against President Rajapaksa, demanding that he step down, over his handling of Sri Lanka’s worsening economic crisis. Meanwhile, the third anniversary of the Easter Sunday attack falls on Thursday.

Cardinal Ranjith has expressed his solidarity with the protestors demanding justice for the victims of the Easter attack and that the government step down as it has “failed in governance”.

Wickramaratne said the Cardinal had the authority to forward a written request for information through his lawyers to the Attorney General, who is bound to provide answers, “unless the information could impact national security”.



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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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Sri Lanka’s 2022 EPF returns falls to lowest, single digit in near two decades – CB data

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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