Sirisena’s PR Director gave the order – Witness
By Buddhika Samaraweera
The Industrial Development Board (IDB) had once been informed to issue 500 metric tonnes of copper to the factory owned by Cinnamon Grand Hotel suicide bomber, Mohamed Ibrahim Insaf Ahmed, located in the Wellampitiya area through a letter sent in June 2018 by former President Maithripala Sirisena’s Public Relations Director, Shantha Bandara, said former Secretary to the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, K.D. Ranjith Asoka.
He also said on another occasion, at the time Senior Assistant Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, Devika Liyanage had also informed the IDB to issue 1,000 kilos of brass to the said factory.
Asoka said this on 3 July while testifying before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry appointed to probe the bombings on 21 April 2019 Easter Sunday.
The witness said that in 2019, a three-member committee was appointed to look into the issuance of scrap metal to Insaf Ahmed’s factory by the IDB.
The report of that committee was received on 6 May 2019 and according to its findings, former Chairman of the IDB, Mahinda Jinasena had instructed to issue a large quantity of scrap metal to Insaf Ahmed’s factory, he added.
Responding to a question by members of the Commission as to whether the then Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen has had some connection with Insaf Ahmed, Asoka said that although one of Insaf Ahmed’s accountants visited the Ministry frequently, he did not know whether there was any connection between Bathiudeen and Insaf Ahmed.
However, he added that he later saw in a newspaper that Insaf Ahmed was awarded the best entrepreneur of the Year.
Recalling that Insaf Ahmed’s factory had applied to the IDB on several occasions for purchasing scrap metal at concessionary prices, Asoka added that he noticed a few special cases such as Bandara having asked the IDB to supply the said factory with 500 metric tonnes of copper.
The Commission also inquired as to whether it had been revealed at some point that the scrap metal purchased by Insaf Ahmed’s factory from the IDB had been exported to foreign countries. In reply, the witness said that they had exported scrap metal and had thereby generated foreign exchange.
The Commission then questioned whether Asoka was aware of the fact that Insaf Ahmed had used that money for extremist activities, to which the witness said that he knows about only now.
He also said that Insaf Ahmed’s factory had the opportunity to export the relevant material through a Cabinet paper signed by then Ministers Bathiudeen and Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena.