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Thursday February 29th, 2024

Sri Lanka President is not mastermind of Easter attack: Secretary

Police and Ambulances outside the Shrine of St Anthony in Kochchikade after the Easter Sunday attacks

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s top defence official Wednesday announced that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was not the “mastermind” of the Easter Sunday carnage that many claim was the catalyst for his ascendency.

General Kamal Gunaratne told a press conference organised by the Presidential Media Division that there was no basis for the allegations against Rajapaksa, a political non-entity at the time, who announced his candidacy two days after the April 2019 suicide bombings that killed at least 279 people.

The attacks were blamed on a group of local jihadists although the bombings were belated claimed by the Islamic State group led at the time by the internationally-wanted Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi who was later killed in a US bombing in Syria six months later.

“There are lot of allegations on social media that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was the main mastermind of the Easter attacks,” Gunaratne said. “There is no truth in those allegations. It is a despicable attempt at making political gains”

He also denied allegations that the country’s current head of intelligence, Major General Suresh Sallay, was also involved in instigating the National Thowheed Jamath leader Zahran Hashim to carry out the audacious bombings. Sallay was previous the head of the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI).

He said many linked Sally to the bombings because he was also a member of the minority Muslim community. Hundreds of Muslims were detained following the Easter Sunday attacks and some are still in detention without charges.

“It is unfair to make those allegations. As far as I know, Sally, a ‘golaya’ (student ) of mine from the time of being a cadet to major general. He can’t speak a word of Tamil or Arabic. He has not read the Koran, only the “Sally” part of his name is Muslim. He is not a radical.

“His two children have Sinhala names. He is married to a Sinhala-Buddhist lady,” Gunaratne said adding that Sallay who currently heads the State Intelligence Service, the country’s premier spy agency, was an asset to the country and the “jaaythiya” (race).

Sallay was performing a ”bodi pooja” at the “Uda maluwa” of Anuradhapura (Sri Maha Bodhi) when Gunaratne went there during the opening of the Sandahiru Seya temple recently, he said.

He also flatly denied that the suicide bomb leader was funded by the directorate of military intelligence (DMI) during a previous Rajapaksa administration when Sallay headed the DMI. Government minister had previously admitted that several Thowheed Jamath groups as well as the BBS, the Bodu Bala Sena group were supported by intelligence agencies. Zahran Hashim had broken away from one such Thowheed Jamath groups and formed his own.

In October, Sallay filed a complaint against Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith’s spokesman father Cyril Gamini Fernando over allegations that he (Sallay) played a key role in nurturing Zaharan Hashim. (COLOMBO, December 15, 2021)

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  1. Surath 720 says:

    Only a credible judicial process can decide who the masterminds were. In the absence of such a process rumours and loose talk will continue. No amount of character certificates issued by Defence Sec will stop people’s suspicions, fair or not. DS should not act the judge, jury and the executioner.

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  1. Surath 720 says:

    Only a credible judicial process can decide who the masterminds were. In the absence of such a process rumours and loose talk will continue. No amount of character certificates issued by Defence Sec will stop people’s suspicions, fair or not. DS should not act the judge, jury and the executioner.

Sri Lanka’s RAMIS online tax collection system “not operatable”: IT Minister

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s online tax collection system RAMIS is “not operatable”, and the Ministry of Information Technology is ready to do for an independent audit to find the shortcomings, State IT Minister Kanaka Herath said.

The Revenue Administration Management Information System (RAMIS) was introduced to the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) when the island nation signed for its 16th International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme in 2016.

However, trade unions at the IRD protested the move, claiming that the system was malfunctioning despite billions being spent for it amid allegations that the new system was reducing the direct contacts between taxpayers and the IRD to reduce corruption.

The RAMIS had to be stopped after taxpayers faced massive penalties because of blunders made by heads of the IT division, computer operators and system errors at the IRD, government officials have said.

“The whole of Sri Lanka admits RAMIS is a failure. The annual fee is very high for that. This should be told in public,” Herath told reporters at a media briefing in Colombo on Thursday (29)

“In future, we want all the ministries to get the guidelines from our ministry when they go for ERP (Enterprise resource planning).”

President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government said the RAMIS system will be operational from December last year.

However, the failure has delayed some tax collection which could have been paid via online.

“It is not under our ministry. It is under the finance ministry. We have no involvement with it, but still, it is not operatable,” Herath said.

“So, there are so many issues going on and I have no idea what the technical part of it. We can carry out an independent audit to find out the shortcomings of the software.”

Finance Ministry officials say IRD employees and trade unions had been resisting the RAMIS because it prevents direct interactions with taxpayers and possible bribes for defaulting or under paying taxes.

The crisis-hit island nation is struggling to boost its revenue in line with the target it has committed to the IMF in return for a 3 billion-dollar extended fund facility. (Colombo/Feb 29/2024) 

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Sri Lanka aims to boost SME with Sancharaka Udawa tourism expo

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is hosting Sancharaka Udawa, a tourism industry exhibition which will bring together businesses ranging from hotels to travel agents and airlines, and will allow the small and medium sector build links with the rest of the industry, officials said.

There will be over 250 exhibitors, with the annual event held for the 11th time expected to draw around 10,000 visitors, the organizers said.

“SMEs play a big role, from homestays to under three-star categories,” Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau Chairman, Chalaka Gajabahu told reporters.

“It is very important that we develop those markets as well.”

The Sancharaka Udawa fair comes as the Indian Ocean island is experiencing a tourism revival.

Sri Lanka had welcomed 191,000 tourists up to February 25, compared to 107,639 in February 2023.

“We have been hitting back-to-back double centuries,” Gajabahu said. “January was over 200,000.”

The exhibition to be held on May 17-18, is organized by the Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators.

It aims to establish a networking platform for small and medium sized service providers within the industry including the smallest sector.

“Homestays have been increasingly popular in areas such as Ella, Down South, Knuckles and Kandy,” SLAITO President, Nishad Wijethunga, said.

In the northern Jaffna peninsula, both domestic and international tourism was helping hotels.

A representative of the Northern Province Tourism Sector said that the Northern Province has 170 hotels, all of which have 60-70 percent occupancy.

Further, domestic airlines from Colombo to Palali and the inter-city train have been popular with local and international visitors, especially Indian tourists. (Colombo/Feb29/2024)

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Sri Lanka rupee closes at 309.50/70 to the US dollar

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s rupee closed at 309.50/70 to the US dollar Thursday, from 310.00/15 on Wednesday, dealers said.

Bond yields were slightly higher.

A bond maturing on 01.02.2026 closed at 10.50/70 percent down from 10.60/80 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2027 closed at 11.90/12.10 percent from 11.90/12.00 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.07.2028 closed at 12.20/25 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.07.2029 closed at 12.30/45 percent up from 12.20/50 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.05.2030 closed at 12.35/50 percent up from 12.25/40 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.07.2032 closed at 12.55/13.00 percent up from 12.50/90 percent. (Colombo/Feb29/2024)

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