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Acquittal of Rishad: AG owes explanation – MP



By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Attorney General’s Department owed an explanation regarding the acquittal of Rishad Bathiudeen, MP, leader of the All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC), a key suspect in the 2019 Easter Sunday carnage, the National Organiser of the Jathika Nidahas Peramuna (JNP) Jayantha Samaraweera, MP, said on Thursday (03).The ACMC is a constituent party of the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB).

The former State Minister asked whether AG Sanjay Rajaratnam, PC, issued instructions that paved the way for Fort Magistrate Thilina Gamage to acquit lawmaker Bathiudeen on Nov 02 as investigations conducted by the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) cleared him of involvement.Rajaratnam succeeded Dappula de Livera, PC, in May 2021. Livera, who was appointed AG a week after the Easter Sunday blasts, is on record as having alleged that the carnage was a grand conspiracy.

The Island interviewed the Kalutara District MP following his media briefing at the JNP Office at Pita Kotte, where the former JVPer questioned the circumstances the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) informed the Fort Magistrate Court of the AG’s decision.Police headquarters, too, certainly owed an explanation as authoritative law enforcement authorities repeatedly assured they were inquiring into the former Trade and Commerce Minister’s involvement with those who carried out the attack, lawmaker Samaraweera said.

ACMC leader Bathiudeen was granted bail on Oct 14, 2021 after having been detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) for over six months. The CID arrested the Vanni District MP on April 24, 2021.Bathiudeen switched his allegiance to the SJB in the run-up to the last general election in August 2020. At the previous parliamentary election, the ACMC contested on the UNP ticket. At that time of the Easter Sunday blasts that claimed the lives of 270 persons, including about 40 foreigners and wounded over 400 others, Bathiudeen served in the Cabinet of President Maithripala Sirisena.

The MP pointed out that the Fort Magistrate announced the AG’s decision on All Souls Day, Nov 02, a day of prayer and remembrance for those who departed.Lawmaker Samaraweera said that in terms of the instructions received from the AG, the Fort Magistrate also released the ACMC leader’s passport.The MP said that he would like to know the status of the investigation into the funding made available by the Colossus Copper factory, Wellampitiya for the suicide bombers as former police spokesman and Attorney-at-Law SSP Jaliya Senaratne was on record as having said the direct involvement of that enterprise in the National Thowheed Jaamaat (NTJ) terror project.

Lawmaker Samaraweera stressed that the police couldn’t go back on statements issued to the media over a period of time as regards the Easter bombing. Responding to another query, the top JNP spokesperson said that investigations revealed how Colossus factory had received favoured treatment in the issuance of copper by the Industrial Development Board (IDB) that was under the purview of the then Trade and Commerce Minister Bathiudeen during yahapalana administration. Bathiudeen has served as the Trade and Commerce Minister from the time Colossus launched its operations in 2012 during the second term of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the MP said.

Lawmaker Samaraweera recalled the revelation made at the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Easter Sunday carnage how the then Public Relations Director of President Sirisena advised the IDB to provide 500 tonnes of copper to Colossus.The MP said that the media reported how Devika Liyanage, a Senior Assistant Secretary of the Ministry of Defence, at that time also directed the IDB to issue Colossus 1000 kilos of brass.

The Catholic Church should take up the issue at hand, lawmaker Samaraweera said, adding that they were in the process of examining the case anew in the wake of the AG’s move.Alleging that successive governments quite conveniently refrained from implementing recommendations of the P CoI made in early 2021, MP Samaraweera said that they intended to raise the issue both in and out of parliament.

The MP noted that local spice tycoon Mohamed Yusuf Ibrahim, the father of Mohamed Ibrahim Ilham Ahmed and Mohamed Ibrahim Insaf Ahmed who detonated themselves at Shangri-La and Cinnamon Grand, respectively, was granted bail in late May this year. Ibrahim had been on the JVP’s National List at the 2015 general election, MP Samaraweera said, alleging that the matter never received the attention of the investigation.

A seven-judge bench presided by Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya, PC, ruled on Sept. 26 that Ranil Wickremesinghe could no longer be named as a respondent in the Easter Sunday fundamental rights petitions filed 12 parties, including the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL). President’s Counsel Jayasuriya served as the AG at the time of the Easter Sunday attacks.MP Samaraweera said that ex-President Sirisena, who is also a respondent through his Counsel Faizer Mustapha opposed in vain the granting of presidential immunity to Wickremesinghe.

Alleging that the government hadn’t implemented P CoI recommendations pertaining to none of the senior law enforcement officers, including the then Head of the State Intelligence Service (SIS) Senior DIG Nilantha Jayewardena, lawmaker Samaraweera said that the AG’s Department should reveal how it dealt with State Counsel Malik Azeez and Deputy Solicitor General Azad Navavi against the backdrop of the P CoI recommending disciplinary action by the Public Service Commission (PSC).The MP noted that Rishad’s brother Riyaj, also arrested in connection with the Easter Sunday carnage, had been granted bail.

The JNP official recalled how the then AG de Livera called for an explanation from the CID in late 2020 when the Riyaj was released by the CID. What really happened to the investigation initiated by De Livera, the MP asked, urging the police and the AG’s Department to come clean on this matter.MP Samaraweera said that the termination of investigation into Bathiudeen should be examined against the backdrop of the AG and the CIABOC (Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption) withdrawing and terminating several dozens of high profile cases.

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13 A: Political parties miss Ranil’s Feb. 04 deadline for submitting their proposals



Udaya compares constitutional threat with Indonesian crisis in late ’90s

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The government hasn’t received proposals from political parties regarding President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s decision to implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution fully.

President Wickremesinghe, on January 26, requested party leaders to furnish their suggestions, if any, by Feb. 04 as he intended to brief Parliament on Feb. 08 as regards the implementation of land and police powers.

Political parties, represented in Parliament, had not responded to President Wickremesinghe’s request so far, authoritative sources told The Island. Responding to another query, sources said that the President’s Office hadn’t received proposals in support of President Wickremesinghe’s declaration or against it.

Several political parties, including the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) spurned the President’s invitation.

Having declared his intention to fully implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, enacted in Nov. 1987, during Thai Pongal celebrations, in Jaffna, on January 15th, 2023, President Wickremesinghe warned party leaders on January 26 he would go ahead with plans unless the parliament repealed it. Both declarations were made in the presence of Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena.

Sources noted that though several political parties declared opposition and some issued statements supportive of the President’s move, they haven’t submitted proposals in writing.

President Wickremesinghe prorogued Parliament, on January 27, the day after setting Feb. 04 as the deadline for political parties to submit proposals. The new session of Parliament begins on Feb. 08.Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) General Secretary, Sagara Kariyawasam, MP, told The Island that the decision to fully implement the controversial amendment shouldn’t be taken hastily.

“We are certainly not opposed to the devolution of power. However, we cannot under any circumstances support an agenda that may cause chaos,” National List MP said.

The Attorney-at-Law said so when The Island asked him whether the ruling party submitted its proposals to President Wickremesinghe.The lawmaker said that there was no requirement to do so as he on behalf of the SLPP explained to the January 26 meeting chaired by President Wickremesinghe why 13th Amendment shouldn’t be fully implemented without examining the ground situation.

“Seven past Presidents didn’t do that. Why didn’t they do so? We’ll have to study why they refrained from granting police and land powers in spite of them being part of that Amendment. If the reasons that compelled them not to do so no longer exist, we can consider the proposals,” lawmaker Kariyawasam said.

Declaring SLPP’s commitment to maximum possible devolution, MP Kariyawasam warned of dire consequences if decisions were made on the basis of language and religion.The SLPP that secured 145 seats at the last general election remains the largest party in parliament though over two dozen MPs quit the government group.

MP Kariyawasam emphasized that they couldn’t act recklessly on the issue at hand.Those who quit the SLPP parliamentary group, too, have strongly opposed the full implementation of the 13th Amendment. Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) leader Udaya Gammanpila, MP, compared the developing crisis here with Western project that divided Indonesia in the late 90s.Attorney-at-Law Gammanpila explained how Western countries exploited the economic crisis in Indonesia to compel Jakarta to grant independence to East Timor.

Addressing a public rally at Dehiwela on Feb. 02  in support of Nidahas Janatha Sandhanaya contesting March 09 Local Government polls, former Power and Energy Minister said that the challenge faced by Sri Lanka owing to the continuing balance of payments and debt crises was very much similar to the circumstances leading to East Timor independence.

The 13th Amendment would split Sri Lanka on ethnic lines, the Colombo District MP warned.The MP recalled how external powers created an environment that compelled Indonesian President Suharto to resign in May 1998 to pave the way for Megawati Setiawati Sukarnoputri to win the next presidential election. The MP said that Sukarnoputri granted independence to East Timor.

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Gas prices up



State-owned Litro has increased the price of domestic gas with effect from midnight yesterday.

Chairman of Litro Company Muditha Peiris said the price of a 12.5 kg domestic gas cylinder would be increased by Rs 334, the price of a 5 kg gas cylinder by Rs 135 and the price of a 2.3 kg gas cylinder by Rs 61 .The 12.5 kg cylinder is Rs 4,743.

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Court moved against construction of highway across wetland



By Ifham Nizam

A case had been filed against the construction of the 3.15 km Orugudawatta-Athurugiriya highway, running through the Thalangama-Avarihena wetland, the Centre for Environmental Justice legal team said.

The construction of roads through a wetland was to be carried out under the National Environment Act 1487/10 Gazette. However, an environmental impact assessment (EIA) report has not been submitted for the project’s second phase. This is an unauthorised practice as per Schedule II of the Gazette.

The suit was filed on 11.02.2021 by two petitioners, including the Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ), under the powers conferred by Sections 24 C and 24D of the Environment Act No. 47 of1980.The proposed highway is to run through the Talangama/Avarihena wetland, which was declared by Gazette No. 1487/10 dated March 2007 as an Environmental Protection area.

The petitioners have requested the Court to issue a writ of prohibition against the respondents for allowing the construction to pass through the Talangama Wetland.However, the respondents have argued that Gazette No. 1487/10 has been amended by Gazette No.2237/7 issued by the Minister, and since the case has been filed based on Gazette No.1487/10 there is no need to maintain this case further.

After considering the facts, the Court of Appeal ordered, on January 19, 2022, that according the Third Schedule (n) of Gazette No. 2237/7, the construction of the expressway in question should not harm the ecologically protected area.

Since the petitioners have been able to prove their case prima facie that the minister changed the original order to the environmental protection zone, the court allowed the petitioner to continue the petition. This was followed by a petition filed by the Road Development Authority and its Chairman on 25 February 2022.

A petition was filed on December 23, 2020, by the Centre for Environmental Justice and Senior Advisor/Director, Hemantha Withanage regarding the illegal activities around the Muthurajawela Sanctuary. The Muthurajawela North Swamp area has been declared as a wetland sanctuary as per the Special Gazette No. 947/13 and its induction zone has also been declared an “Environment Protection Zone’ in 2004 under Sections 24C and 24D of the National Environment Act Gazette No. 1466/26 dated 13 Oct 2006.The petitioners request an interim restraining order to stop activities in the vicinity of the

Muthurajawela Sanctuary violating the Agricultural Development Act No. 46 of 2000, for carrying out activities related to the Extraordinary Gazette No. 772/22 dated 24.06.1993 without an environmental assessment report, carrying out activities that are prohibited in a sanctuary under Section 7 of the Wildlife and Flora Protection Ordinance. They also request to mark the physical boundaries of the Muthurajawela Sanctuary and to issue a writ of mandamus to implement the National Policy on Wetlands.

In the petition, the petitioners sought a writ of mandamus to act in terms of the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance in relation to the damage caused. Giving the order dated 04 April 2022, the Court of Appeal directs the Director General of the Survey Department and the Inspector General of Police to mark the physical boundaries of the Muthurajawela Sanctuary and the Environmental Protection Zone. Also, the Central Environment Authority and the Department of Wildlife Conservation have been ordered to install notice boards in those zones and the Police Commissioner has been ordered to take steps to protect the relevant boundaries and boards and to take steps to prevent illegal activities from taking place in the Muthurajawela Sanctuary and the Environmental Protection Zone.

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