WR’s “ISIS Concerns” and MR’s (FM-facilitated) Sino Visit

Why Ranil wanted Mahinda’s Sino tour sponsored by FM?

By Gagani Weerakoon (Ceylon Today – Sunday Edition)

President Maithripala Sirisena participating at the 47th Anniversary of the Public Services United Nurses’ Union (PSUNU) held at the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium in Colombo on Wednesday (16) said the use of given freedom and democracy, to achieve narrow political gains or to spread racism and religious differences, is an obstacle to the future development of the country.

He added that the government is moving forward step by step, towards good governance, meeting the aspirations of the people. He also said that the government is committed to fulfil the aspiration of the people to the maximum level through comprehensive plans, even though it could not provide instant solutions as some sections of the society expected.

President Sirisena also said that the government is committed to protect the professional privileges of the persons who are serving in the health sector while strengthening the free health service of the country. The President presented awards to ten retired persons who rendered a great service to the Public Services United Nurses’ Union.

Ven. Muruththettuwe Ananda Thera, President of the PSUNU presented a special memento to the President.  Ministers Rajitha Senaratne, W.D. J. Seneviratne, State Minister A.H.M. Fowzie, doctors, intellectuals in the field of health and many others participated in this event.

ISIS matter irks man

It was just two days after President’s remarks that Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe in Parliament alleged that 32 Sri Lankan Muslims had joined the ISIS and emphasized foreigners were propagating extremism among Muslim children in the country. Minister Rajapakshe said that extremist foreigners had entered Sri Lanka under the guise of teachers.

Minister Rajapakshe warned that the government would take appropriate measures in accordance with the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) though a section of the international community was opposed to the implementation of the existing law.

Participating in the second reading stage debate on Budget 2017, he revealed that foreign intelligence services had reported that 32 Sri Lankans belonging to four families joining the ISIS.

Describing those who had joined the ISIS as members of well-to-do families of the Muslim community, the minister said that foreign extremists teaching at Muslim international schools in Beruwala, Kalmunai, Kaleliya and Kurunegala propagated hate.

The minister alleged that there had been a spate of serious incidents including killings due to continuing violence among followers of four main chapters known as Thowfique Jamath, Jamaath-e-Islam, Thabilique Jamath and Sunnathival Jamath. The minister vowed that the government wouldn’t allow their fight to jeopardize national security under any circumstances.

Claiming that scores of websites had been propagating violence and communal hatred, Minister Rajapakshe reiterated the UNP-led government’s readiness to address security issues.

“The international community can say anything it likes. Whatever they say we’ll not allow a bloodbath again. We are ready to implement some provisions of the PTA hitherto remained unused. These laws are severe. We will implement those laws.”

Commenting on social media, he alleged that there had been 78 derogatory posts on a particular website against the members of the Sri Lankan legal fraternity. He said those who had been defamed weren’t in a position to respond to various unsubstantiated allegations.

Alleging that one Sandaruwan had been responsible for the despicable web operation, Minister Rajapakshe said that the government could issue an international warrant to bring him here to face charges.

However, Minister Rajapakshe’s statement was not welcomed by many ‘moderates’ in the society, claiming his ‘replay’ of old records was nothing but a mere attempt to fuel racism.

The Muslim Council of Sri Lanka (MCSL) in a statement signed by its President N.M. Ameen noted that they are seriously concerned about the statement made in Parliament by the Minister of Justice about the Muslim community.

“The facts given by the Honourable Minister were reported in the media more than one year ago when a Sri Lankan combatant died fighting with ISIS. There have been no new reports of any others involved since this was reported last year. It is believed that one family had gone to Syria to provide humanitarian support to the war wounded and refugees. Some of the men are alleged to have joined or forced to join the fighting forces of ISIS. The Muslim community, including the Muslim Council, Jamiathul Ulema and other organizations cooperated with the government in identifying the families to provide the necessary support for the intelligence agencies to investigate. Those who have gone to Syria as quoted by Rajapakshe include women and children.”

“Minister Rajapakshe’s statement comes at a very opportune time to certain extremist elements bent on tarnishing the image of the Muslim community for reasons only best known to them. The Thableeq Jamath, Sunnathival Jamath, Thowheed Jamath and Jamaithe Islam and several other organizations are all Muslim religious and social service organizations. They do not promote any form of violence as implied by the Minister. Certain parts of his statement are verbatim of the hate speech spewed by the extremist priest Ven. Galagodaaththe Gnanasara Thera,” Ameen said in his statement.

While noting that no Muslim international school invites extremists to indoctrinate its children with fundamentalism as alleged by the Minister, MCSL stated; “Such has been the language of certain countries that created terrorists out of Madrasas in Pakistan to achieve their own ends. We urge Hon. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe to provide the evidence and take immediate action against anyone who may have violated the laws of the land irrespective of ethnicity or religion.”

Indian Concerns

While it is agreed that Minister Rajapakshe was repeating what Secretary of Defence Ministry Karunasena Hettiarachchi said earlier this year and the facts and figures stay almost the same, it is also noteworthy that our neighbour India too had expressed its concerns about Sri Lanka being a ground of training to militants of IS and similar extremist terror groups.

This column on 16 October, 2016 revealed that India is pushing for stronger intelligence cooperation with the island nation after the hostile situation in Kashmir escalated.

According to reliable sources, Indian intelligence services are seeking stronger cooperation from Sri Lankan security forces and intelligence services through the Sri Lankan Government in tracking down terrorist outfits operating in the country.

They have, according to sources, confirmed that terrorist outfits and extremist groups like Al-Qaida, LeT (Lashkar-e-Taiba), ISIS and IKK (Idara Khidmat-e-Khalq) are using Sri Lanka, especially the Eastern Province as a strategic posting point and operation centre. In addition, the comprehensive intelligence report also states that they have screened about 55 Maldives nationals and several other Sri Lankans of being members of these terrorist outfits.

According to the report, ISIS and Al-Qaida use Sri Lanka and the Maldives as they could not access Chennai that easily.

Even though, India had warned Sri Lanka on similar issues from time to time, it came to a turning point after arresting Maulana Umar Madan in 2009 in Chennai.

Investigations proved that he was a frequent traveller to the Eastern Province and happened to be one of the close confidants of JuD (Jamaat-ud-Dawa) leader Hafiz Saeed and second in command Abdul Rehman Makki.

With Mohammed Rafeeq a confirmed plant by ISIS being arrested for attempting to target the Israeli Consulate in Bangaluru they insisted SL authorities to be on the alert.

According to this intelligence report, these groups operate as fake Indian currency manufacturing teams. China arrested a suspect with Rs 2. 5 million Indian currency in Guangzhou city on 19 August 2016.

The suspect had arrived in China from Colombo and Indian intelligence was able to apprehend him with the assistance of Sri Lankan and its Chinese counterparts. Therefore, India has highlighted the importance of intelligence sharing and cooperation.

MR to get sponsored

Former President turned Kurunegala District MP Mahinda Rajapaksa is all set to undertake a one-week tour in China on the invitation of the Sino Government. He will leave the country on 23 November and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe last week instructed the Foreign Ministry to fully facilitate Rajapaksa’s visit.

While, many were surprised at this gesture as the government was earlier concerned about China’s dealings with the Rajapaksa family even after they were defeated, it was revealed that Premier’s instructions were issued as the tour is based on the Chinese Government’s invitation.

However, Rajapaksa who was known for his love for China and under whose tenure major investment plans were initiated under Chinese funds was seen criticizing the government’s move to handover lands and some national properties to China.

“We agree with the Finance Minister that he presented a different budget, which is aimed at taxing, penalties, levies and selling State assets. It is nothing more than a traditional UNP Budget and an extension of the regaining Sri Lanka of 2002. Hopefully, you will remember how they started selling State properties and increased taxes. They sold almost 80 State properties, but were unable to bring down debt. In 1977, the national debt was 68.6% of the GDP, by the time the UNP left in 1994, the national debt stood at 95% of the GDP. By the end of 2002, national debt went over 100% under Chandrika’s regime, even after the sale of insurance, telecom, and gas.”

According to Rajapaksa, his Government discontinued privatization and reduced foreign debt. “We have put a stop to privatization during the period 2005–14. When I gave the country back in January 2015, debt was reduced to 70.4% of the GDP. By the end of 2015, the national debt had gone up to 76%. It could go up to 78% by the end of this year. Instead of strengthening the Central Bank the Government proposes to hand over the entire payment system to a private operator. More plans are being made to privatize many State assets. Chances are high that expressways, railway lines, and the Moragahakanda Project too, could be privatized. It is unfortunate that a part of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party has joined this group,” he said.

Rejecting government charges of evading book entries and hiding foreign borrowings during his Presidency, Rajapaksa said: “At one time, the government was charging us for unwritten borrowings. If there are unrecorded debts, please reveal the names of the lenders. But if you say these are undocumented loans, then why worry? You don’t have to pay for loans that are not in the books. Even after heavy borrowings, the government was unable to launch a national project of importance or take forward the programmes we have planned before.”

“We have built almost all infrastructure facilities using international borrowings. So, it is unfair to sell national properties at much higher prices compared to the investments made. By selling the Hambantota Port, a monopoly will be created,” he said.

Rajapaksa was seen stumbling upon several times when presenting his written speech and Deputy Minister Ajith P. Perera who obstructed Rajapaksa several times called on Speaker Karu Jayasuriya to install a teleprompter as an encouragement for Rajapaksa to speak freely.