2019 Sri Lanka bombings

angelburst29

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
The head of the Catholic church in Sri Lanka on Thursday issued a scathing criticism of the government over the Easter attacks that killed more than 250 people, decrying a "total lack of interest" in determining why intelligence reports were ignored.

Ranjith, 71, said Indian intelligence services first notified Sri Lanka on April 4 of an impending attack and then three times more,
including a phone call at 6:45 a.m. on the day of the blasts.


Sri Lanka cardinal says government hiding truth over Easter attacks
FILE PHOTO: Security personnel stand guard in front of St Anthony's Shrine, days after a string of suicide bomb attacks across the island on Easter Sunday, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, April 29, 2019. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui/File Photo


Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith spoke of his frustrations just hours before he was due to meet Pope Francis and show the pontiff a video with graphic images of the April 21 attacks on three churches and four hotels. The attacks were claimed by Islamic State militants.

“There was a serious lack of responsibility on the part of the government,” Ranjith told reporters. “Now they have appointed all kinds of committees and commissions and there is bickering going on between the sides, you know, (about) who is responsible.”

President Maithripala Sirisena has criticized a parliamentary investigation, where some have accused him of mishandling national security.

Ranjith, 71, said Indian intelligence services first notified Sri Lanka on April 4 of an impending attack and then three times more, including a phone call at 6:45 a.m. on the day of the blasts.

“But nobody took serious note. This disaster could have been prevented because if I knew that there was an attack planned I would have closed the churches and told the people to go home,” he said in answer to a question.

A Parliamentary Select Committee led by allies of Sirisena’s rival Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is trying to identify possible lapses that allowed the attacks to happen.

“Everybody is trying to pass the blame on to the others. And there is an attempt to hide (the facts),” the cardinal said.

"Even his (the president's) own culpability in the matter might be in question, so they are trying to hide it. There is a total lack of interest in this matter on the part of the government and on the part of various agencies that are responsible for security,” he said.

The video he prepared for the pope, who visited Sri Lanka in 2015, shows the suicide bombers with backpacks approaching and then cuts away to scenes of mangled corpses, a blood-spattered statue of Jesus and mass burial sites.

The cardinal spoke at the presentation of a report by Aid to the Church in Need, a Catholic charity that helps Christians in places where they are a minority. Sri Lanka is about 70 percent Buddhist, 13 percent Hindu, 10 percent Muslim and 7 percent Catholic.
Sri Lanka prosecutor orders probe of nine officers over Easter bombing lapses
FILE PHOTO: Police officers work at the scene at St. Sebastian Catholic Church, after bomb blasts ripped through churches and luxury hotels on Easter, in Negombo, Sri Lanka April 22, 2019. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha/File Photo

Sri Lanka's main prosecutor directed the acting police chief to carry out an investigation into nine officers who are suspected of failing to help prevent the Easter Sunday bombings that killed more than 250 people, a document showed.

“You are hereby directed to initiate criminal investigations with regard to the lapses of the above officers to prevent/minimize the above attacks,” the Attorney General wrote in a letter to the acting police chief. The letter named the nine senior police officers.

Despite three advance intelligence reports from India on pending attacks, Sri Lanka’s top defense officials failed to act before the Easter day suicide bombings by Islamist militants that targeted three churches and three luxury hotels.

Authorities said the attacks were carried out by two little-known domestic groups: the National Thawheedh Jamaath (NTJ) and Jamathei Millathu Ibrahim.

Authorities say the threat of more attacks has been contained and the security services have dismantled most of the network linked to the bombings.
 

angelburst29

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
June 19, 2019 - Russian Security Council: IS members formerly active in Syria, Iraq behind Sri Lanka blasts
Russian security council: IS members formerly active in Syria,Iraq behind Sri Lanka blasts

The Sri Lanka terrorist attacks were organized by the militants of the Islamic State (IS, terrorist organization outlawed in Russia - TASS) formerly active in Syria and Iraq, Russian Security Council Deputy Secretary Yuri Kokov said at the Tenth International Meeting of High-Level Representatives on Security Issues in the Russian city of Ufa.

"Experts have estimated that these attacks [in Sri Lanka] have been prepared by the local supporters of the global jihad ideology, based on the IS foreign structures," he said. The practical organization of the explosions was set up by the members of a local radical group who returned to Sri Lanka after fighting on the side of the IS in Syria and Iraq.

According to Kokov, currently, the main centers of terrorist activity are the Middle East, Africa, South and South-East Asia. "In the past, IS militants called on its supporters to move to Iraq and Syria, however, now they offer them to stay and continue the jihad in their countries of residence," he noted.

"These threats are also relevant to the European Union states, where several terrorist attacks have been carried out this year already in the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and France, which confirms the gravity of the statements made by leaders of international terrorist organizations on their commitment to carry out terrorist attacks in Europe," the Russian security official noted.

He added that the increased incidents of terrorist activity in the West lead to a reaction from right-wing radicals, as it happened in New Zealand, where several mosques were attacked in March. "In this regard, we cannot rule out the threats coming from extremists of various kinds."

The Russian Security Council representative noted the threats coming from militants sentenced for terrorist activity, as well as from the widows of terrorists that had been executed or killed in action.

On April 21, a series of terrorist attacks, unprecedented in the country’s history, hit Sri Lanka. A total of eight explosions occurred in luxury hotels and churches in the cities of Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa during Easter services. Three hundred and fifty-nine people had been reported dead, however, it was later revealed that medical agencies incorrectly overestimated the number of casualties. According to the latest reports, the attacks killed around 250 people. The country’s authorities confirmed that the explosions had been carried out by suicide bombers who were Sri Lankan nationals.

He added that the increased incidents of terrorist activity in the West lead to a reaction from right-wing radicals, as it happened in New Zealand, where several mosques were attacked in March.
Faced with rising far right, Soros Foundations look West
FILE PHOTO: A Hungarian government billboard that reads: 'Soros wants to transplant millions from Africa and the Middle East', is shown in Budapest, February 14, 2018. REUTERS/Bernadett  Szabo/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: A Hungarian government billboard that reads: 'Soros wants to transplant millions from Africa and the Middle East', is shown in Budapest, February 14, 2018. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo/File Photo

George Soro's Open Society Foundations, best known for funding civil rights activists across Eastern Europe and the developing world, are increasingly turning their attention to affluent western Europe in response to the rise of the far right there.

Officials at the hedge fund magnate and philanthropist’s charity, which disburses around a billion dollars a year, said the nationalist right’s recent electoral successes were triggering the same contraction in the space for independent activism that had earlier been seen in Eastern Europe.

In southern France, the foundation has stepped in to replace funding to local migrant rights and anti-discrimination groups whose financing was frozen when Marine Le Pen’s then-National Front, since renamed National Rally, took power in a number of municipalities.

With Germany’s anti-immigration Alternative for Germany set to make gains in regional elections across the country’s east in the autumn, the foundation is preparing to take similar steps, said Selmin Caliskan, a director in its new Berlin office.

“We are now looking into the possibility of having a support and solidarity emergency fund for civil society actors in eastern Germany who share our values,” she said.

“Everyone who works there on racism, on anti-Semitism, on helping and supporting migrants and asylum seekers, people like the Red Cross, they all have this concern that their funding will be lost,” she added.

The enlarged focus - which includes funding organizations devoted to fostering community spirit in poor parts of Northern England that voted strongly for Brexit - reflects a concern that Western Europe is also succumbing to the charms of nationalist strongman leaders like Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

The OSF, which emerged from Soros’s attempts in the 1980s to foster democratization in Hungary, the country of his birth, recently decamped from Budapest, which for three decades had housed one of its headquarters, due to concerns that it was no longer able to operate free of government harassment.

Goran Buldioski, head of the new Berlin office, recalls counting the ever growing numbers of government-sponsored anti-Soros billboards that mushroomed along his route to work in the final months before the move to Germany.

But, he said, the 88-year-old Soros’s elevation to global bogeyman of the far right in countries from the United States to Russia and the Philippines had little to do with the foundation or even Soros himself. The vilification was a “smokescreen” to cover up attacks on local civic organizations, he added.

But its growing volume of work in western Europe was not coming at the expense of its activities elsewhere, he said.

“Over the years, we have expanded our work to all of Europe, supporting independent civil society East to West, North to South,” he added in a later statement. “There has been no shift of our work from Eastern to Western Europe.”

Salil Shetty, former head of Amnesty International and OSF’s Asia-Pacific head said Germany had a responsibility to which it did not always live up as an outspoken champion of human rights around the world.

Berlin, always keen to fund democratization and civil society initiatives, was often muted in its criticisms when that harmed the interests of the industrial giants on which Germany’s exporting economy depends.

“They need to be called out more where there are hard trade-offs - India, China and so on,” he said.
 

angelburst29

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Sri Lanka's president on Wednesday signed death sentences for four people convicted of drug-related offences in a decision analysts said is aimed at boosting his chances of re-election later this year.

Sri Lanka reinstates death penalty for drug crimes ahead of polls
FILE PHOTO: Sri Lanka's President Maithripala Sirisena speaks during a meeting with the Foreign Correspondents Association at his residence in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Nov. 25, 2018. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte


“I have already signed the death penalty for four (convicts). It will be implemented soon and we have already decided the date as well,” Sirisena told reporters in Colombo, without giving details.

He said the four could appeal their convictions on charges of trading and trafficking in drugs.

Many Sri Lankans, including several influential religious leaders, are in favor of reinstating the death penalty to curb rising crime, though rights groups have warned that such a measure would be ineffective.

“The death penalty does not deter crimes any more effectively than other punishments,” said Kumi Naidoo, secretary general of rights group Amnesty International.

“Executions are never the solution,” he added. The last execution in Sri Lanka was 43 years ago.

Sri Lankan presidential hopeful Rajapaksa faces new lawsuits in U.S. court
FILE PHOTO: Sri Lanka's former defense secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa greets supporters after his return from the United States, in Katunayake, Sri Lanka April 12, 2019. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte/File Photo

Sri Lankan torture victims have filed 10 new claims for damages in a U.S. court against wartime defense chief Gotabaya Rajapaksa, lawyers for the plaintiffs and a rights group said, possibly jeopardizing his plan to run for president.
 

angelburst29

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Sri Lankan police on Tuesday arrested their own chief and the former defense secretary for failing to prevent attacks on churches and luxury hotels that killed more than 250 people in April, a police spokesman said.

Sri Lanka police chief, ex-defence secretary arrested over bombings
FILE PHOTO: A soldier stands guard outside the Grand Mosque, days after a string of suicide bomb attacks on churches and luxury hotels across the island on Easter Sunday, in Negombo, Sri Lanka April 26, 2019, -

The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) arrested Inspector General of Police Pujith Jayasundara and former secretary to the Ministry of Defence Hemasiri Fernando, while they were receiving medical treatment at state-run hospitals, the spokesman, Ruwan Gunasekera, said.

Attorney General Dappula de Livera ordered their arrest on Monday and urged the acting police chief to bring charges against the two, including for “crimes against humanity”.

Jayasundara and Fernando were not immediately reachable for comment, though both had previously appeared before a parliamentary committee investigating the attacks and denied the allegations.

They are the first two state officials to be arrested for allegedly failing to prevent the Easter Sunday attacks, claimed by the militant group Islamic State. The bombings took place despite repeated warnings from Indian intelligence that an attack was imminent.

“Police will report facts regarding the arrest to the Colombo chief magistrate in a while,” Gunasekera told Reuters.

President Maithripala Sirisena has accused Fernando and Jayasundara of failing to act on an April 4 intelligence report about the April 21 bombings.

Jayasundara, the first serving police chief to be arrested, told parliament that the president had asked him to take the blame for the bombings and resign, promising him a diplomatic posting in return.

Jayasundara refused to quit and was later asked to go on compulsory leave, with his deputy standing in for him.

Fernando, who resigned as defense secretary, told parliament that Sirisena had given instructions to keep Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, with whom he fell out in October, out of security council meetings. The defense secretary reports to the president, who heads the Defence Ministry.

Sirisena has not publicly addressed the accusations but said after the testimonies last month that he would not accept the committee’s conclusions.
 

angelburst29

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Sri Lanka is moving to curtail Saudi Arabian influence, after some politicians and Buddhist monks blamed the spread of the kingdom's ultra-conservative Wahhabi school of Islam for planting the seeds of militancy that culminated in deadly Easter bomb attacks.

Wahhabism confronted: Sri Lanka curbs Saudi influence after bombings
A boy rides a bicycle while looking at an army soldier stationed in front of a Sufi mosque in Kattankudy, Sri Lanka, June 11, 2019. REUTERS/Alexandra Ulmer

A boy rides a bicycle while looking at an army soldier stationed in front of a Sufi mosque in Kattankudy, Sri Lanka, June 11, 2019. REUTERS/Alexandra Ulmer

July 5, 2019 - On April 21, nine Sri Lankans blew themselves up in churches and luxury hotels, killing more than 250 people and shocking the country a decade after its civil war ended.

Sri Lanka has since arrested a Wahhabi scholar and is poised to take over a Saudi-funded school. The government also says it will monitor previously unchecked money flows from donors including prominent Saudi families to mosques on the Indian Ocean island.

“Nobody will be able to just make donations now,” said Muslim cabinet minister Kabir Hashim, who has urged Muslim communities to look at how radical ideas could have spread. He said the Department of Muslim Religious and Cultural Affairs would oversee donations.

The outcry in Sri Lanka is the latest sign that Wahhabism, which critics deem a root cause of the jihadist threat, is under pressure internationally.

Jihadist organizations, including Islamic State - which claimed responsibility for the Easter bombings - follow an extreme interpretation of Islam's Salafi branch, of which Wahhabism was the original strain.

Saudi Arabia rejects the idea that Wahhabism is problematic and defends its record by pointing to the detention of thousands of suspected militants. Riyadh in June sent back five Sri Lankans allegedly linked to the Easter attacks.

Saudi diplomats in Colombo have expressed “displeasure” over being targeted during a recent meeting with President Maithripala Sirisena, a Sri Lankan official stated.

MONKS’ INFLUENCE
That backlash has focused on one man in particular - Muhammad Hizbullah, a businessman and politician who was the governor of Sri Lanka’s Eastern Province until he resigned in June following protests by hardline Buddhist monks.

The monks, who are influential on the island where 70 percent of the population are Buddhists, and some members of parliament say Hizbullah’s links to Riyadh contributed to the spread of militancy in his native Kattankudy, a Muslim-majority town.

Hizbullah’s family helped build Saudi-financed mosques and a Saudi-funded higher education institute, Batticaloa Campus, which has not opened yet, in the Eastern Province.

The mosque and school projects were led by the Hira Foundation, a non-profit owned by Hizbullah and his son Hiras.

Its financial statements show income of some $31,000 between 2014 and 2018, though Hizbullah told parliament Hira had received $2 million from foreign donors.

In an interview with Reuters at his home in the capital, Colombo, Hizbullah, 56, said most funds come from the Juffalis, a leading Saudi merchant family. Reuters also found two wires from other Saudis but was not able to trace them. Hizbullah said they were pooled contributions from smaller donors.

The Sheikh Ali Abdullah Al Juffali Foundation Charity wired some $24.5 million to Batticaloa Campus between 2016 and 2017, bank statements and loan agreements seen by Reuters show.

Hizbullah warned the experience of the Juffalis, who he said have received hate mail, was spooking Saudi investors. He did not identify any investors.

Ongoing investigations have not shown that any Saudi money flowed to the plotters. And critics attribute moves against Saudi influence to burgeoning Islamophobia, including mob attacks on Muslim properties in May. “Not a single Saudi institution, charity or individual gave even one rupee to terrorists,” Hizbullah said.

The charity’s website lists the founders as Ali al-Juffali, a businessman and former member of the kingdom’s consultative assembly who died in 2015, and his four sons. The charity says its objectives include supporting orphans and activities that promote religious tolerance.

The Juffalis, who promised a total of $100 million to Batticaloa Campus, have halted loans over the school’s uncertain future, Hizbullah said. Construction of the sprawling campus, designed in Islamic architectural style, has been paused, he added.

Hira also connects mosques with donors. The modest Siharam Mosque, for example, was rebuilt in 2015 thanks to some $56,000 from the Juffalis, according to a mosque plaque and its ex-president M.Y. Adam, who said Hira received a 10% commission. Hizbullah did not respond to questions about mosque funding.

SCAPEGOAT?
Hizbullah also denied allegations made by some monks that he had links to the attacks, and no evidence has surfaced to support that claim.
His critics, however, point to a 2015 photograph that shows Mohamed Hashim Mohamed Zahran, who authorities say led the April suicide bombings and blew himself up at a Colombo hotel, grinning under his beard as he shakes Hizbullah’s hand.

Hizbullah said he was seeking support from Zahran, also a Kattankudy native, for a parliamentary election. Back then, Hizbullah stressed, Zahran was just a charismatic preacher who could deliver some 2,000 votes in the devout town of roughly 50,000.

His supporters - and even some opponents - say Hizbullah is a scapegoat. Ameer Ali Shihabdeen, an Eastern Province member of parliament from a rival party, said Hizbullah was being targeted despite a lack of evidence linking him to the attacks.

Wahhabism spread to Sri Lanka's Eastern Province three decades ago, when the area was convulsed by conflict between mostly Hindu Tamil separatists and the Buddhist-dominated government, according to local religious leaders and politicians.

Muslim scholars received scholarships to study in Saudi Arabia, while impoverished farmers escaped clashes by becoming drivers or maids in the Middle East - often returning home with stricter Islamic practices, the sources said.

Saudi-funded mosques mushroomed. Women ditched their saris for all-enveloping black abayas. Some Sri Lankan Sufis, who follow a mystical form of Islam that Wahhabis consider heretical, said they began to be persecuted.

Hizbullah’s political career, which included stints in parliament, blossomed during this time. In Kattankudy, his name adorns schools, a public hall and roads.

Batticaloa Campus, the college funded by the Juffalis, initially planned to teach sharia, which some critics say limits women’s rights. Hizbullah said sharia only meant the academic subject of Islamic Studies, and that the discipline had been dropped from curriculum plans.

Students would pay half standard tuition fees, which Hizbullah said was partly why this long-neglected area welcomes Arab donors’ deep pockets.

A parliamentary committee last month called for authorities to take over Batticaloa Campus and compensate investors, citing incomplete documentation, possible violations of foreign exchange rules, and national security concerns.

No decision has been announced yet, but a presidential spokesman told Reuters that Sirisena, a Hizbullah ally who is on the back foot ahead of presidential elections this year, also favors a takeover.

WAHHABI SCHOLAR BEHIND BARS
Some Kattankudy Sufis link the advent of Wahhabism to the 1990 opening of the Saudi-financed Center for Islamic Guidance, which boasts a mosque, school, and library. Reuters was unable to trace Saudi donors, who had names common in the Middle East, thanked on a plaque at the center.

The center “brainwashed” youth and distributed flyers denouncing Sufism, according to H. M. Ameer, a community spokesman who said his house was destroyed during anti-Sufi unrest in 2004. Persecution intensified with the rise of Zahran, the suspected Easter bombings ringleader, whose followers attacked Sufis with swords in 2017, Ameer added.

Representatives of the center did not respond to requests for comment about the Sufis’ allegations. They previously told Reuters the center practiced “moderate Islam”.

The center’s Riyadh-educated founder, Mohamed Aliyar, was arrested in May for allegedly funding Zahran.

Aliyar’s lawyer Abdul Uwais said he was a victim of paranoia over Wahhabism.

Two sources from Kattankudy’s Muslim leadership said Zahran voraciously read Wahhabi texts from Aliyar’s center, but that the men were not known to be close.
Slideshow (10 Images)
Wahhabism confronted: Sri Lanka curbs Saudi influence after bombings

Muslims in Sri Lankan highlands to down shutters as hardline Buddhists meet
FILE PHOTO - Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero, head of the hardline Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) or Buddhist Power Force, speaks during a news conference in Colombo, Sri Lanka May 28, 2019. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte
FILE PHOTO - Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero, head of the hardline Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) or "Buddhist Power Force", speaks during a news conference in Colombo, Sri Lanka May 28, 2019. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

Shops owned by Muslim traders in the Sri Lankan central highlands district of Kandy will remain closed on Sunday as thousands of hardline Buddhist monks gather to decide who to back in the country’s upcoming presidential elections.

The gathering, called by Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara, the influential head of Buddhist nationalist group Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), is worrying Muslim traders and residents in Kandy, an ancient capital that was rocked by violence last year as mobs ran amok for three days vandalizing mosques, homes and businesses.

“All Muslim-owned shops are likely to be closed on Sunday to avoid any possible confrontation, as thousands of monks are expected in the town for the conference,” Niyaz Muheeth, president of the Kandy Muslim Traders Association stated.

Sri Lanka’s apex body of Islamic scholars, All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama (ACJU), urged Muslims to avoid visits to the central district that contains Kandy on Sunday.

In response, BBS said in a statement thousands of monks are expected to gather in Kandy to take a crucial decision on behalf of the country.

In a letter to police, Dilantha Withanage, CEO of BBS, accused Muslim groups including ACJU of trying to sabbotage the Sunday event, by misleading the police with fabricated information and complaints.

Sri Lanka has had a history of ethnic and religious violence and was torn for decades by a civil war between separatists from the mostly Hindu Tamil minority and the Sinhala Buddhist-dominated government. The war ended in 2009.

In recent years, Buddhist hardliners, led by BBS, have stoked hostility against Muslims, saying influences from the Middle East have made Sri Lanka’s Muslims more conservative and isolated.

Buddhists make up about 70% of Sri Lanka's 22 million people while Muslims account for 10%.

The Buddhist gathering on Sunday comes ahead of presidential polls scheduled to be held either in November or December in which President Maithripala Sirisena, former defense secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe could be possible candidates.

Gnanasara, a hardline monk who is accused of inciting violence against Muslims and has been leading the campaign against Islamic extremism, has called for as many as 10,000 Buddhist clergy to attend the meet, in an effort to unite Sinhala Buddhists.


The monk, who was released from prison last month after a pardon by Sirisena over contempt of court charges, has also hinted BBS may back a surprise candidate, whose views are more aligned with the group’s ideology, to contest the elections.

“We will either mould our political leaders, or we will send them home,” he said at a press conference on June 21.
Sri Lanka's top court delays first executions in 43 years
Sri Lanka's Supreme Court has delayed the death penalty for four people convicted on drug-related offences, one of their lawyers said on Friday, in what would have been the first executions in 43 years.

President Maithripala Sirisena signed death sentences last month for the four convicted on charges of trading and trafficking in drugs, ending a moratorium on capital punishment since 1976.

The top court granted interim relief and will hear the appeal on Oct. 29, said M.A. Sumanthiran, a lawyer representing one of the appellants.

Sirisena was elected as a reformist in January 2015, but has struggled to fulfill pledges such as addressing human rights abuses, eliminating corruption and ensuring good governance.

His hardline policy on drug crimes is aimed at boosting his chances of re-election this year, political commentators say.

The policy is in part inspired by the Philippines’ so-called “war on drugs”, where thousands have died in encounters with police.

Many Sri Lankans, including several influential religious leaders, are in favor of reinstating the death penalty to curb rising crime, though rights groups have warned that such a measure would be ineffective.

Sri Lanka has hired two hangmen to prepare for the return of the death penalty.

The last hangman quit in 2014 without ever having to execute anyone, citing stress after seeing the gallows for the first time. Another hangman hired last year never turned up for work.
 

angelburst29

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Sri Lanka police chief, ex-defense secretary released on bail in Easter attacks case
FILE PHOTO: Security personnel stand guard in front of St Anthony's Shrine, days after a string of suicide bomb attacks across the island on Easter Sunday, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, April 29, 2019. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui/File Photo

Sri Lanka's police chief and former defense secretary were released on bail on Tuesday, a week after they were arrested over allegations that they failed to prevent the Easter Day bomb attacks that killed more than 250 people.

Colombo magistrates’ court granted their release and will hear the case on July 22, Anuja Premaratne, who is representing both the accused, stated.

The Criminal Investigation Department last week arrested Inspector General of Police Pujith Jayasundara and former secretary to the Ministry of Defence Hemasiri Fernando while they were both receiving treatment in hospital. The two were remanded in custody a day later.

Attorney General Dappula de Livera had ordered their arrest last week and urged the acting police chief to bring charges against the two, including for “crimes against humanity”.

Jayasundara and Fernando denied the allegations when they appeared before a parliamentary committee investigating the attacks on churches and luxury hotels.

They are the first two state officials to be arrested for failing to prevent the attacks, claimed by the militant group Islamic State. The bombings took place despite repeated warnings from Indian intelligence that an attack was imminent.

President Maithripala Sirisena has accused Fernando and Jayasundara of failing to act on an April 4 intelligence report about possible attacks. The suicide bombers struck on April 21.

Jayasundara, the first serving police chief to be arrested, told a parliamentary committee last month that the president had asked him to take the blame for the bombings and resign, promising him a diplomatic posting in return.

Jayasundara refused to quit and was later asked to go on compulsory leave, with his deputy standing in for him.

Fernando, who resigned as defense secretary, told the committee that Sirisena had given instructions to keep political rival Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe out of all security council meetings where sources have said the warnings were discussed. The defense secretary reports to the president, who heads the Defence Ministry.

Sirisena has not publicly addressed the accusations but said after the testimonies last month that he would not accept the committee’s conclusions.

Sri Lanka PM says still in talks with U.S. on military cooperation pact
FILE PHOTO: Sri Lanka's ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe looks on during a parliament session in Colombo, Sri Lanka December 5, 2018. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

Sri Lanka is still in talks with the United States on a status-of-forces agreement (SOFA) for visiting U.S. military personnel, the prime minister said, disregarding a warning by the president that it would undermine sovereignty.
 

angelburst29

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
The US’ interest in replacing the 1995 Status Of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with Sri Lanka stems from its desire to turn the island nation into its unsinkable aircraft carrier in South Asia and possibly even the base of a prospective “Eighth Fleet” tasked with controlling the so-called “Indian Ocean”, but its long-term strategic plans won’t succeed unless Washington ensures that incumbent leader and vehement opponent of this deal President Sirisena loses the upcoming elections later this year and is therefore unable to stop this scheme from entering into force.

The US Wants Sri Lanka To Become Its Unsinkable Aircraft Carrier In South Asia - Eurasia Future

July 12, 2019 - Sri Lanka catapulted to global attention a few months ago when it was victimized by one of the worst-ever suicide bombing attacks since 9/11, but the island nation’s latest security-related crisis is conspicuously being ignored by the Mainstream Media. Its pro-Western Prime Minister is collaborating with the US to replace the 1995 Status Of Forces Agreement (SOFA) in order to make it easier for the American military to deploy to the country at will, which prompted the patriotic president to promise that “I will not allow the SOFA that seeks to betray the nation. Some foreign forces want to make Sri Lanka one of their bases. I will not allow them to come into the country and challenge our sovereignty.” Only regional outlets reported on this simmering political-security crisis even though it has global strategic implications in the event that America achieves its tacit goal of turning the country into its unsinkable aircraft carrier in South Asia.

The Pentagon’s newly published “Indo-Pacific” Strategy Report makes it clear that it intends to establish and maintain dominance over the so-called “Indian Ocean” through which a significant share of the global commercial and energy trade traverses in order to “contain” China in the New Cold War. The recent rebranding of the Pacific Command to the “Indo-Pacific” Command emphasizes the operational importance that the US places on this body of water, so it’s only natural that the next step might be the creation of an “Eighth Fleet” tasked with controlling it. Accordingly, while the strategically positioned British-owned but US-leased island of Diego Garcia might seem like the most logical place to base it at, the tiny atoll is far away from the Afro-Eurasian landmass and therefore ill-suited for taking on such a role. Instead, Sri Lanka would make a much better location because of its proximity to the US’ new military-strategic ally India and being astride the global shipping routes on which a lot of the Chinese economy depends.

The only way to ensure that the US’ long-term strategic plans succeed is for President Sirisena to lose the upcoming elections that are scheduled for later this year. The Sri Lankan leader’s political career perfectly encapsulates the strategic dilemma in which his country has found itself. When his predecessor (and recent political ally Rajapaksa) openly embraced China as a “balancing” force for guaranteeing Sri Lanka’s sovereignty in the face of the threats posed by the nearby rising Indian hegemon, he channeled the West’s infowar against its Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) deals (and especially the one in Hambantota) to rally the masses with populist rhetoric and narrowly win the 2015 election. Rajapaksa blamed India’s foreign intelligence service for meddling in the run-up to the vote and being responsible for his defeat, which in hindsight was probably true after Sirisena temporarily pivoted towards New Delhi and its Washington patron immediately after his victory. The “honeymoon” was short-lived, however, since he eventually decided to reorient towards China in order to “balance” out the excessive influence that those two Great Powers began to wield over Sri Lanka.

His attempt to replace his ardently pro-Western Prime Minister late last year with Rajapaksa of all people in order to ensure the success of his new “balancing” policy engendered a constitutional crisis that ultimately ended in failure, which resulted in the irreconcilable polarization in the country that some have claimed made the Easter suicide attacks much easier to carry out. In any case, Sri Lanka is divided like never before, and the US’ efforts to push through its revised SOFA are only accentuating the differences within the country and pushing its government closer to the edge of collapse. Barring any unforeseen circumstances such as Sirisena selling out to the US, he’s expected to keep his promise to fight tooth and nail against any deal that infringes on Sri Lanka’s sovereignty, with it also being in the back of his mind that he needs to do so in order to stand the best chance of winning re-election. That being the case, it can be anticipated that America will covertly work together with India to attempt a repeat of RAW’s 2015 election meddling to try to unseat the patriotic incumbent and advance their agenda for turning the island nation into their joint protectorate.
 

angelburst29

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
The U.S. seems in a hurry to by-pass certain Sri Lanka protective mechanisms, sidestepping bureaucracy that requires clearance from the Government in landing aircraft and stationing military troops (visiting forces) on it's soil but the U.S. denies "any intention of setting up a military base".

In short, the U.S. military wants complete control to come and go, as it pleases and without consent of Sri Lanka authorities.

Of note - "Sri Lanka sits near one of the World's busiest shipping routes in the Indian Ocean" and if you take in consideration, recent developments surrounding Iran and the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf, whereby the U.S., U.K. and the Saudi's have "ganged-up" on Iran, threating Iran's sovereignty and economic structure, to wrestle control of the Strait of Hormuz away from Iran, then there is little left to the imagination, as to what the U.S.'s true intensions are?

China is also a major investor in Sri Lanka, building seaports and highways. If the U.S. strips Sri Lanka sovereignty by gaining control of routes in the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka will become another vassal to the U.S. and it's proxies and subject to it's dictates. By default, the U.S. military will have complete control of the seaports that China built to improve Sri Lanka's shipping industry.

I suspect, the next U.S. move on the Chessboard would be to send in Pompeo or Bolton to push the U.S. deal through - with no red-tape? With the above in mind, I'm inclined to question, what - if any, the U.S. might have had a hand in the recent devastating bombings?


U.S. wants military cooperation pact with Sri Lanka to tackle red tape: TV

The United States wants a special forces cooperation agreement with Sri Lanka to sidestep bureaucracy and has no intention of setting up a military base in the country,
the American ambassador to the island nation said in a television interview.

The comments represent the latest attempt by ambassador Alaina B. Teplitz to assuage concerns over U.S. involvement in the Indian Ocean island after plans to sign a Status of Forces Agreement (SoFA) by the two countries was heavily criticized by local media and some political analysts who see it as a threat to Sri Lanka’s sovereignty.

Also called the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), it will establish the framework for U.S. military personnel visiting Sri Lanka at the invitation of the government and is still being negotiated by both nations, Teplitz said.

“The visiting forces agreement is an update to an existing agreement and it is designed to address a number of red tape issues,” Teplitz told state-run TV channel Rupavahini in an interview late on Saturday.

Giving the example of the 2017 floods in Sri Lanka, Teplitz said the government had sought help from the United States and it brought in relief supplies but the aeroplanes transporting them required clearance from the government.

The agreement would allow the United States to speed up these procedures, she said, so that when there is an emergency “we don’t spend time to cut through the red tape.”

Sri Lanka sits near one of the world’s busiest shipping routes in the Indian Ocean and over the last several years China has become a major investor, building ports and highways.

India, which is just next door, is starting to push back against China’s growing influence and so are the United States and Japan, experts say.

Teplitz had earlier this week dismissed the idea that the military pact had anything to do with China.


“China has nothing to do with the VFA; this is all about the long-standing bilateral partnership with Sri Lanka,” she said during a live Facebook chat on Wednesday.

She said the U.S. and Sri Lanka currently renegotiate certain administrative issues around entry and exit of military personnel before every single training or ship visit which takes up a lot of time. (Comment: a cover story - masking true intention.)

The agreement lays down rules for the benefit of both countries - “meaning no base, no permanent presence of U.S. troops”, said Teplitz, adding that Sri Lanka retains the right to approve or deny all entry of people, vessels and aircraft.

The debate on the need to have such an agreement has taken center stage especially after the Easter Sunday attacks and is driving a deeper wedge between the country’s President Sirisena Maithripala and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe who are already at loggerheads.

Sirisena said earlier in July he would not sign any military cooperation deals that are “unsuitable for the country”.

Days later Wickremesinghe told the parliament that negotiations are still on with the United States to agree on a pact but he too would not agree to anything that challenges Sri Lanka’s sovereignty.
 

angelburst29

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Sri Lanka police say no evidence for direct IS link to Easter attacks
FILE PHOTO: A nun arrives as a Sri Lanka's commando soldier stands guard in front of the main entrance to St. Lucia Cathedral as survivors and families of victims of Sri Lanka's Easter Sunday bombing arrive for a special mass for those who lost their lives, in Colombo, Sri Lanka May 11, 2019. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

FILE PHOTO: A nun arrives as a Sri Lanka's commando soldier stands guard in front of the main entrance to St. Lucia Cathedral as survivors and families of victims of Sri Lanka's Easter Sunday bombing arrive for a special mass for those who lost their lives, in Colombo, Sri Lanka May 11, 2019. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

COLOMBO July 24, 2019 - Sri Lankan police have not found enough evidence to prove that Islamic State (IS) militants were directly involved with the Easter Sunday bombings, the chief investigator said on Wednesday, even though the group had claimed responsibility.

The attacks on churches and hotels in Colombo and in the east killed more than 250 people, the worst suicide bombings since the civil war against Tamil separatist fighters ended in 2009.

“From the investigations conducted so far there is not enough evidence to say that there is a direct ISIS link to the Easter Sunday attacks,” Ravi Seneviratne, the head of police criminal investigation department, told a parliament select committee probing the April 21 attacks.

Police have said members of two little-known local Islamist groups, the National Thawheedh Jamaath (NTJ) and Jamathei Millathu Ibrahim, carried out the bombings.

Some members of these groups may have had training from Islamic State in Syria, police have previously said.
 

angelburst29

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Sri Lanka names war veteran as army chief, U.S., U.N. critical of decision
Chief of staff of Sri Lankan army Shavendra Silva attends a news conference in Colombo, Sri Lanka May 16, 2019. Picture taken May 16, 2019. On August 19, 2019 Shavendra Silva was named as army chief. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

Chief of staff of Sri Lankan army Shavendra Silva attends a news conference in Colombo, Sri Lanka May 16, 2019. Picture taken May 16, 2019. On August 19, 2019 Shavendra Silva was named as army chief. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

Sri Lanka's President on Monday named war veteran Shavendra Silva as its army chief, drawing sharp criticism from the United States and the United Nations over the appointment of an officer who has been accused of serious human rights violations.

Silva, 55, is credited with successfully leading an Army Division against dissident Tamil Tigers in the final phases of the Island Nation's year-long brutal civil war.

His victory, however, was highly controversial. Thousands of civilians were killed in the last phases of the armed conflict, including in areas declared by the government to be a ‘no fire zone’ which came under sustained army shelling, including hospitals.

A United Nations panel has accused Silva’s division of suspected extrajudicial executions of unarmed rebels in the final week of the war which ended in 2009 and systematic torture of people in custody.

Silva, who joined the army in 1984 and was its chief of staff since January, has denied the accusations.

“I am deeply troubled by the appointment of Lieutenant-General Shavendra Silva as Commander of the Sri Lankan Army, despite the serious allegations of gross violations of international human rights and humanitarian law against him and his troops during the war,” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said in a statement on Monday.

His promotion “severely compromises Sri Lanka’s commitment to promote justice and accountability”, she said, adding that it also set back security sector reform.

Washington expressed its disapproval of Silva’s appointment in a strongly-worded statement.

“The allegations of gross human rights violations against him, documented by the United Nations and other organizations, are serious and credible,” the U.S. Embassy in Colombo said in a statement.

“This appointment undermines Sri Lanka’s international reputation and its commitments to promote justice and accountability, especially at a time when the need for reconciliation and social unity is paramount.”

Silva was named head of the army after the previous chief Mahesh Senanayake’s term ended on Sunday.

His appointment demonstrates a disregard for human rights, said civil society groups including the Center for Policy Alternatives.

The Sri Lankan President’s office and the military media unit did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the criticism.
 

angelburst29

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Sri Lanka seeks extradition of ex-central bank chief from Singapore
FILE PHOTO: Sri Lanka's former Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran leaves the Presidential Commission of Inquiry to Investigate and Inquire into the Issuance of Treasury Bonds in Colombo, Sri Lanka March 10, 2017. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

Sri Lanka will ask Singapore to extradite former central bank governor Arjuna Mahendran in connection with an insider trading investigation, a Foreign Ministry official said on Tuesday.

Mahendran, a Singapore national, has failed to appear before a Sri Lankan court despite being summoned over allegations of malpractice during a 30-year-bond sale in 2015 when he led the central bank.

The auction was originally planned at a modest 1 billion rupees but then scaled up by a factor of ten to meet government borrowing needs, resulting in a spike in the borrowing cost.

“We will transmit the extradition request through our embassy in Singapore once the defense ministry authenticates the documents given by the Attorney General Department,” a Foreign Ministry official stated.

President Maithripala Sirisena in the past has accused Singapore of not helping to extradite the Sri Lankan-born Mahendran, who left for Singapore early last year after a promise that he would return to face trial.

The Singapore government said in March it was waiting for proper documentation from the Colombo government to pursue the extradition process.

Mahendran, a close ally of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, was handpicked for the central bank governor post despite opposition from Sirisena.

In March, Sri Lankan police arrested a former central bank deputy governor and four board members of primary dealer Perpetual Treasuries Ltd for their suspected involvement in the alleged government bond scam.

In February 2018, police arrested Arjun Aloysius, owner of Perpetual Treasuries and an ex-central bank deputy governor as well as Mahendran’s son-in-law, over the same case. Aloysius has also denied wrongdoing and was freed on bail early this year.
Australia intercepts Sri Lankan boat with 13 asylum seekers: government
Australia's military intercepted a Sri Lankan boat carrying 13 asylum-seekers last month, Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton said on Monday, as Canberra sought to defend the relocation of a Tamil family to a remote detention center.

Australia says asylum seekers from Sri Lanka rising
Head of Australia's operation to combat illegal maritime migration Major General Craig Furini inspects the western fisheries harbor next to Sri Lanka Navy Director-General operations Niraja Attygalle after a news conference about illegal migrations during his visit, in Negombo, Sri Lanka, September 3, 2019. REUTERS/Ranga Sirilal

The number of Sri Lankans trying to enter Australia illegally by sea is rising, an Australian general said on Tuesday, a day after Canberra said it had intercepted a 13th boat carrying asylum seekers from the Indian Ocean island.

In Sri Lanka, a polarizing politician reaches out to minorities but suspicion lingers
Sri Lanka's former wartime defense secretary and presidential candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa shares a moment with Muslims during his visit at Ketchimale mosque in Beruwala, Sri Lanka August 17, 2019. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

Sri Lanka presidential candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa has been a polarizing figure for much of his political life. It is an image he is trying to change.

Sri Lanka court orders remains of Easter attacker moved after protests
A Sri Lankan court on Friday ordered police to exhume and relocate the remains of an Easter Sunday suicide bomber buried in a public cemetery in the eastern district of Batticaloa, after residents' protests stoked tension.
 

angelburst29

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Opening of Sri Lanka's tallest tower marred by corruption allegation
The Lotus Tower, the tallest tower in South Asia in shape of a 356-meter lotus and built with Chinese funding, is seen during its launching ceremony in Colombo, Sri Lanka September 16, 2019. Picture taken through a window. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

The grand opening of Sri Lanka's tallest tower was mired in controversy on Monday when President Maithripala Sirisena said one of the Chinese firms contracted to work on the project had disappeared with $11 million of state funds.

Sri Lankan lawmakers to investigate Lotus Tower graft allegation
FILE PHOTO: The Lotus Tower, the tallest tower in South Asia in shape of a 356-meter lotus and built with Chinese funding, is seen during its launching ceremony in Colombo, Sri Lanka September 16, 2019. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte/File Photo

A Sri Lankan parliamentary panel will investigate an allegation of corruption against a Chinese company contracted to work on the construction of South Asia's tallest tower.

Sri Lanka to hold presidential vote on Nov. 16
Sri Lanka will hold a presidential election on Nov. 16, the head of the island nation's election body told Reuters on Wednesday, as its $87 billion economy struggles to recover from a political crisis and the aftermath of deadly Islamist bombings.
 

angelburst29

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Sri Lanka presidential front-runner would restore relations with China: adviser
FILE PHOTO: Sri Lanka's former defense secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa waves after he was nominated as a presidential candidate during the Sri Lanka People's Front party convention in Colombo, Sri Lanka August 11, 2019. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte/File Photo
Sri Lanka's leading presidential candidate, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, would "restore relations" with the country's top lender China if he wins the Nov. 16 vote, his adviser said on Thursday.

President Maithripala Sirisena initially suspended all Chinese investment projects after his election in January 2015, citing allegations of corruption, overpricing and flouting of government procedures.

The following year, the Sirisena government allowed Chinese projects to resume after demanding changes in some. But diplomatic ties have been strained since.

Opposition candidate Rajapaksa, a former defense chief and brother of pro-China former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, was ready to repair the ties with China, should he win the November election, one of his advisers said.

“Now China is looking at us differently. When Gotabaya Rajapaksa becomes the president... he will set the record right and restore the relationship to where it was,” Palitha Kohona told reporters in Colombo.

Sirisena sparked a political row this week when he alleged corruption at a Chinese company contracted to build the Lotus Tower, South Asia’s tallest tower. A Sri Lankan parliamentary panel said it would investigate.

Neither the company nor the Chinese embassy in Colombo has commented on the allegations. China has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in its multi-billion dollar infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka.

“I suppose the thinking was if we upset China, the West would come to us with endless bags of gold... But the bags of gold never materialized,” Kohona said.

Rajapaksa is widely seen as the frontrunner in November’s election due to his popularity among Sri Lanka’s Sinhala Buddhist majority for his role in ending a 26-year civil war in 2009.

However, his candidature is yet to be confirmed, with uncertainties lingering over a legal battle related to misappropriation of funds and his renunciation of U.S. citizenship. Sri Lanka does not allow dual citizens to contest elections.

Rajapaksa has denied wrongdoing and says he has already renounced his citizenship.
 
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