Sri Lanka denies poll allegations

Updated 12 December 2014
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Sri Lanka denies poll allegations

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s government has denied allegations made by a group of independent monitors that it is using state resources to give an unfair advantage to President Mahinda Rajapaksa who is running for an unprecedented third term in next month’s election.
The seven observer groups, some of which are funded by foreign non-governmental organizations, on Thursday raised concerns that the ruling party was exploiting public services and employees and that the police were ignoring complaints.
“These are wild accusations. If there is a basis for those allegations, they should take action,” government spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella said.
Police spokesman Ajith Rohana rejected charges that police were biased toward any candidate, adding: “There can be delays, but we totally deny inaction and the allegations.”
Rajapaksa, president of the Indian Ocean island state since 2005, had been expected to win re-election easily until the emergence last month of his former health minister, Mithripala Sirisena, as the opposition’s common candidate to challenge him.


Sri Lanka churches halt public services over security fears

Updated 47 min 52 sec ago
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Sri Lanka churches halt public services over security fears

  • Potential bombers ‘at large’ as death toll lowered to 253
  • Muslims asked to shun Friday prayer

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s Catholic churches suspended all public services over security fears on Thursday, as thousands of troops joined the hunt for suspects in deadly Easter bombings.

A senior priest said that all public services were being suspended and all churches closed “on the advice of security forces.”

Authorities revised the death toll down to 253, from the previous figure of 359, explaining that some of the badly mutilated bodies had been double-counted.

The father of two of the suspected bombers has been arrested on suspicion of aiding his sons.

Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said suspects remained at large and could have access to explosives. Some of the suspects “may go out for a suicide attack,” Wickremesinghe said.

Hundreds of Ahmadi refugees in western Sri Lanka have taken refuge in mosques and a police station after facing intimidation following the bombings. Scores of Ahmadis who settled in Negombo after fleeing persecution in their home countries have been thrown out of their accommodation by landlords.

Sri Lanka’s Defense Secretary Hemasiri Fernando resigned on Thursday over security failures. He submitted a letter of resignation to President Maithripala Sirisena.

Britain’s Foreign Office advised against all but essential travel to Sri Lanka.

“The horrific attack is a demonstration of how tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) that originated in this island nation several decades ago returned to haunt a shocked and broken government thanks to a complete collapse of counterterrorism capability or capacity,” Dr. Theodore Karasik, a security expert, writes in an opinion piece.

Hate preacher Zahran Hashim, head of the National Thowheeth Jama’ath group that is being blamed for the attacks, developed a reputation as a preacher who “copied” Daesh propaganda videos to enhance his posts via the pro-Daesh Al-Ghuraba media channel, which used Facebook and YouTube as its primary platforms, Karasik says. 

Sri Lanka’s Islamic affairs minister, M. H. M. Haleem, asked all Muslims to avoid prayers on Friday for security reasons. He also said it would be a mark of respect for those who perished in the nation’s worst violence in years.

Politician and Western Province Gov. Azath Salley told Arab News that the blasts were orchestrated by a handful of extremists and that the island’s Muslim population could not be held responsible for their “deviant” actions.