Key suspect in Lasanthas killing given diplomatic post by Gota

Fonseka in his testimony to the police has said security and intelligence operations in Colombo were carried out by Rajapaksa and national Intelligence Chief Kapila Hendawithrana, who is also accused of leading a killer squad, according to a report filed in the Mount Lavinia courts last month.However, the latest evidence showed that Gotabhaya Rajapaksa nominated army intelligence operative major Bandara Bulathwatte as an “intelligence officer” with the rank of second secretary at the Sri Lankan embassy in Bangkok, just a week before the January 2010 presidential elections. The appointment of major Bulathwatte was made in the heat of a bruising presidential election campaign. Bulathwatte’s bio data was obtained from army commander Jagath Jayasuriya. Transfer of public servants cannot be carried out when an election has been called unless with the concurrence of the Elections Commissioner or under urgent national security considerations, but such a requirement was not mentioned in appointing Bulathwatte to Thailand a week before the polls.However, after President Mahinda Rajapaksa was re-elected and Fonseka was arrested, defence secretary Rajapaksa changes his mind and tells the Foreign Secretary to defer Bulathwatte’s posting due to national security considerations.“Request please to make necessary arrangements to postpone the scheduled departure of the above officer (Major B.W.D.M.R.P.S.S.B.D Bulathwatte) until further notice as his presence in Colombo is of importance with regard to matters pertaining to national security,” said the then chief of National Intelligence Kapila Hendawitharana in a letter to the Foreign Secretary. This letter is sent on February 25, almost a month after the election is won by President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The chief suspect in Lasantha Wickrematunga’s assassination was given a diplomatic post by the then defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa but it was withdrawn soon after Mahinda Rajapaksa won the January 2010 election, fresh evidence has revealed, according to the Economy News website.Rajapaksa has denied any involvement in the January 2009 assassination of Sunday Leader editor Wickrematunga and a string of other attacks against dissident journalists, but new evidence shows he nominated the main suspect as an intelligence officer at the Sri Lanka embassy in Thailand. President Rajapaksa was challenged at the polls by his army chief Fonseka who ended up in jail after a controversial court martial and high court proceedings against him.In a hastily prepared letter, Rajapaksa asked the Foreign Secretary to appoint Bulathwatte as an intelligence officer after recalling another officer holding the rank of second secretary in Bangkok. It was done in such haste, even a bio data of Bulathwatte was not attached, although it was requirement for him to get his visa and have the appointment regularised by the foreign ministry.This letter dated January 18, 2010 was issued in Rajapaksa’s name and it was authenticated as genuine by the then additional secretary to the defence ministry, Ravi Arunthavanathan. Exactly two weeks after asking the Foreign secretary to hold Bulathwatte’s appointment, Hendawitharana gives the go ahead to send Bulathwatte to Thailand. Hendawitharana then makes a U-turn five days later asking the foreign secretary to further postpone the appointment.This time, the reason for the postponement is: “The presence of the officer is urgently required for a very important matter pertaining to the national security.”Technical evidence and telephone records have placed Bulathwatte at the location where Lasantha was killed as well as in the places where other journalists were attacked. His six-member gang is now in remand custody and several of them have been identified by those who survived attacks.The vehicle used in some of the attacks as well as Lasantha’s killing has been recovered from the home of a woman linked to Bulathwatte, who is now in remand custody.Soon after the former defence secretary’s name was mentioned in a court document last month, he denied any involvement and left the island and is said to be in Singapore following a study course.The former military intelligence chief, Hendawitharana, has already been questioned by police in connection with Lasantha’s killing, but investigators said several other officers are due to be questioned and high profile arrests are imminent.Two other suspects in the attacks against Lasantha and several others, Warrant Officers R. L. Rajapaksha and I. P. A. Udalagama, had been given clerical jobs at the Sri Lankan embassy in Germany. The then powerful defence secretary has denied allegations by his army commander and erstwhile friend Sarath Fonseka that he led a killer squad comprising handpicked army commandos attached to a secret killer gang. Rajapaksa has countered the allegation saying that if there were any secret killer squads involving army personnel, Fonseka as the then commander should take responsibility. read more

Greece agrees to harsh new bailout terms vows quick approval of required

A man reads a newspaper outside a shop in in the northern Greek port city of Thessaloniki, Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2015. Greece has agreed on the broad terms of a new three-year bailout package with international creditors, with only a few details left to iron out, the finance minister said Tuesday.(AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos) Greece agrees to harsh new bailout terms, vows quick approval of required reforms by Elena Becatoros And Derek Gatopoulos, The Associated Press Posted Aug 11, 2015 4:21 am MDT Last Updated Aug 11, 2015 at 1:00 pm MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email ATHENS, Greece – Greece agreed to harsh terms for a new three-year bailout Tuesday and vowed to push it through parliament this week, despite mounting dissent in the ruling left-wing party.With the country facing the risk of a debt default next week, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had sought to speed up the talks and get approval of a deal this week.After Greece and its creditors reached an accord on the main points on Tuesday, Tsipras called for an emergency session of parliament for a vote late Thursday.Greece needs to start tapping the new bailout — worth 85 billion euros ($93 billion) — so that it can make a key debt repayment next week and secure its future in the euro.The draft agreement forces Tsipras to accept what he had vowed to resist only months ago: the sale of some state property and deep cuts to pensions, military spending and ending tax credits to people considered vulnerable.Officials in Athens and the European Union said a few issues were left to be ironed out Tuesday.“We are very close. Two or three very small details remain,” Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos said as he emerged Tuesday morning from all-night discussions with creditors.The European Commission, a key negotiator in the talks, confirmed the progress. Annika Breidthardt, the Commission’s spokeswoman for economic affairs, said the details were expected to be cleared up later in the day.Dissenters in Tsipras’ left-wing Syriza party, who want to end bailout talks and return to a national currency, promised to fight the deal, describing it as a “noose around the neck of the Greek people.”Tsipras requested an end to the summer recess to allow for the two-day approval procedure and to get a vote before a meeting of eurozone finance ministers on Friday.The agreement still requires approval from higher-level representatives, and senior finance officials from the 28 EU nations were holding a conference call Tuesday.Germany, the largest single contributor to Greece’s two previous bailouts and among the toughest negotiators so far, remained cautious on the timing for a final deal. “We will have to examine the results that come in the course of today,” deputy finance minister Jens Spahn told n-tv television.Investors cheered the news of progress.Greece’s government borrowing rates fell, a sign investors are less worried about a default. The 2-year bond yield dropped by 4.2 percentage points to 14.73 per cent. The Athens Stock Exchange, which reopened recently after being shut for five weeks during the most severe part of Greece’s financial crisis closed up 2.1 per cent.Cash-strapped Greece needs more money by Aug. 20 at the latest, when it has a debt repayment of just over 3 billion euros to make to the European Central Bank.The government insisted it has also gained key concessions from lenders: greater control over labour reforms, avoiding a “fire sale” of state assets, and softer deficit targets.It said it had agreed to have a 0.25 per cent government deficit this year and a 0.5 per cent surplus next year, when not counting the cost of servicing debt. Those so-called primary surpluses would rise to 1.75 per cent in 2017 and 3.5 per cent in 2018.The surpluses are more ambitious than those of many European countries — Spain, for example, is not expected to achieve a primary surplus before 2018. That’s largely because the creditors want to make sure Greece is able to start paying off its debt load as soon as possible.The government claims the creditors wanted even more ambitious surplus targets, and that the targets it agreed to mean it has will be able to spare the country budget cuts worth about 20 billion euros.“This practically means that with the current agreement there will be no fiscal burden — in other words new measures — in the immediate future,” the government said in a note.Banks will be strengthened with new cash infusions by the end of the year and will have an immediate boost of “at least 10 billion euros,” it said. The government insists this means there is no longer any danger that the banks may have to raid bank deposits to restore their financial health.The government also said that banks will not make repossessions and auctions of primary residences will not occur within 2015.Greece has relied on bailouts worth a total 240 billion euros ($263 billion) from eurozone members states and the International Monetary Fund since concern over its high debts locked it out of bond markets in 2010. To secure the loans, successive governments have had to implement spending cuts, tax hikes and reforms.While the austerity has reduced budget overspending, the measures compounded a deep recession and pushed unemployment to a record high. Figures next week are expected to confirm that Greece’s recession deepened in the second quarter.Though the government was elected on a staunchly anti-austerity platform in January, it has been forced into a policy U-turn after bailout talks came close to collapse last month.While Greece’s parliament ratified further tax hikes and reforms, the rebellion by hardline Syriza lawmakers has left Tsipras’ party with only a nominal parliamentary majority.That has stoked speculation that Tsipras will call early elections after the bailout deal is signed. Tsipras still retains strong personal support in opinion polls, which show Syriza heading for a potentially big victory.____Lorne Cook in Brussels, Geir Moulson in Berlin and Ciaran Giles in Madrid contributed to this report.____Follow Becatoros at http://twitter.com/ElenaBec and Gatopoulos at http://twitter.com/dgatopoulos read more