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May 9 violence: Inquiry panel calls for action against then Army commander

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The conduct of Acting Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) and then Army Commander Shavendra Silva during the events of March 31 and May 9 last year should be further investigated by a specialised investigating unit such as the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), a Board of Inquiry (BOI) appointed to look into lapses by the armed forces and state intelligence services during this period has recommended.

The three-member BOI comprising Admiral of the Fleet Wasantha Karannagoda, Marshal of the Air Force Roshan Goonetileke and General Daya Ratnayake has concluded that orders and instructions given by then President Gotabaya Rajapaksa as Commander in Chief and subsequent supporting orders given by Defence Secretary Kamal Gunaratne had not been conveyed by General Shavendra Silva to the Field Commanders on time.

Furthermore, no clear instructions had been issued with regard to action to be taken to quell mob violence, which the BOI says amounts to wilful neglect of duty. As a result, the troops on the ground were not able to prevent damage to public property and harm to persons. The report was filed before the Court of Appeal on Thursday. President’s Counsel Uditha Igalahewa, appearing for the three-member BOI, filed the report in the court when a writ petition filed by 22 government MPs representing Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) was taken up before a two-judge bench comprising Justices Nishshanka Bandula Karunaratne and M.A.R. Marikkar.

The BOI report concludes that violence that took place on the afternoon of May 9 along Galle Road and Galle Face could have been mitigated, if not prevented, if the Secretary of Defence had acted upon an intelligence report which had been hand-delivered to his residence on Sunday, May 8 by the State Intelligence Service (SIS) and the WhatsApp message on the same intelligence on the following morning by the Director SIS with regard to possible clashes/violence at Galle Face on May 9.

The Inspector General of Police (IGP) had acted on the same intelligence report that had been copied to him and deployed the police. However, due to miscommunication and poor assessment of the evolving ground situation, the number of policemen deployed was not sufficient to deal with the situation effectively, the report has noted.

The BOI has observed that the failure to stop protesters (from inside Temple Trees) from reaching the protest site at the Galle Road entrance to Temple Trees and at Galle Face, resulting in violent clashes, was the main reason for the countrywide mayhem that followed.

The Army Commander had informed Field Commanders not to deploy troops until he personally gave the order to do so. By doing so, he had taken the initiative away from ground commanders to take appropriate action to quell mob violence as and when the ground situation demanded, the report states.

The BOI has also concluded that a lack of legal protection afforded to operational troops for lawful actions had resulted in a reluctance to act decisively at a time of necessity. It has recommended that indemnity for lawful actions of servicemen and police whilst performing their duties should be introduced as a matter of priority.

The general belief of widespread corruption and misusing of public funds was the root cause to mobilise people for violent protests, the BOI says.

(sundaytimes.lk)

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Heavy rains across the island

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Due to South-West monsoon conditions which are gradually establishing across the island, prevailing showery and windy conditions will continue further, says the Met. Department.

Showers or thundershowers is to occur at times in Western, Sabaragamuwa, Central, North-western and Southern provinces and in Mannar district.

Showers or thundershowers will occur at several places elsewhere on the island, it said.

Heavy showers above 100mm are likely at some places in Western, Sabaragamuwa and North-western provinces and in Galle, Matara, Kandy, Nuwara-Eliya and Mannar districts.

Fairly strong winds about 30-40 kmph can be expected at times over the island, according to the Meteorology Department.

General public is kindly requested to take adequate precautions to minimize damages caused by temporary localized strong winds and lightning during thundershowers.

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Waymba Governor using 3 official residences!

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It is reported that the Governor of the North West Province – Mr. Nasir Ahmed is using two more official residences in addition to the one he is entitled to as the governor.

According to reports, Mr. Ahmed is using the governor’s official residence located at the Kurunegala lake round. In addition, he is also said to be using the official residence of the Kurunegala mayor as well as an official house belonging to the North West Ministry of Agriculture.

Provincial Council sources also state that the previous governor – Mr. Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena too had used other official residences other than the one he was entitled to. However, the governors appointed before that, have not done so.

The occupancy of official quarters not entitled to the relevant official, is illegal and violates government circulars. 

(Souce : Aruna)

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Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi killed in helicopter crash, official says

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Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and his foreign minister were killed in a helicopter crash in mountainous terrain and icy weather, an Iranian official said on Monday, after search teams located the wreckage in East Azerbaijan province.

“President Raisi, the foreign minister and all the passengers in the helicopter were killed in the crash,” the senior Iranian official told Reuters, asking not to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Iran’s Mehr news agency confirmed the deaths, reporting that “all passengers of the helicopter carrying the Iranian president and foreign minister were martyred”.

An Iranian official earlier told Reuters the helicopter carrying Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian was completely burned in the crash on Sunday.

State TV reported that images from the site showed the aircraft slammed into a mountain peak, although there was no official word on the cause of the crash.

State news agency IRNA said Raisi was flying in a U.S.-made Bell 212 helicopter.

Raisi, 63, was elected president in 2021, and since taking office has ordered a tightening of morality laws, overseen a bloody crackdown on anti-government protests and pushed hard in nuclear talks with world powers.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who holds ultimate power with a final say on foreign policy and Iran’s nuclear programme, had earlier sought to reassure Iranians, saying there would be no disruption to state affairs.

Rescue teams fought blizzards and difficult terrain through the night to reach the wreckage in the early hours of Monday.

“With the discovery of the crash site, no signs of life have been detected among the helicopter’s passengers,” the head of Iran’s Red Crescent, Pirhossein Kolivand, told state TV.

Earlier, the national broadcaster had stopped all regular programming to show prayers being held for Raisi across the country.

In the early hours of Monday, it showed a rescue team, wearing bright jackets and head torches, huddled around a GPS device as they searched a pitch-black mountainside on foot in a blizzard.
Several countries expressed concern and offered assistance in any rescue.

The White House said U.S. President Joe Biden had been briefed on reports about the crash. China said it was deeply concerned. The European Union offered emergency satellite mapping technology.

The crash comes at a time of growing dissent within Iran over an array of political, social and economic crises. Iran’s clerical rulers face international pressure over Tehran’s disputed nuclear programme and its deepening military ties with Russia during the war in Ukraine.

Since Iran’s ally Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, provoking Israel’s assault on Gaza, conflagrations involving Iran-aligned groups have erupted throughout the Middle East.

In Iran’s dual political system, split between the clerical establishment and the government, it is Raisi’s 85-year-old mentor Khamenei, supreme leader since 1989, who holds decision-making power on all major policies.
For years many have seen Raisi as a strong contender to succeed Khamenei, who has endorsed Raisi’s main policies.

Raisi’s victory in a closely managed election in 2021 brought all branches of power under the control of hardliners, after eight years when the presidency had been held by pragmatist Hassan Rouhani and a nuclear deal negotiated with powers including Washington.

However, Raisi’s standing may have been dented by widespread protests against clerical rule and a failure to turn around Iran’s economy, hamstrung by Western sanctions.

Raisi had been at the Azerbaijani border on Sunday to inaugurate the Qiz-Qalasi Dam, a joint project. Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev, who said he had bid a “friendly farewell” to Raisi earlier in the day, offered assistance in the rescue.

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(Reuters)

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