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AG reacts to delay in corona probe: Wants to instruct probe team personally

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‘… second wave caused serious threat to people’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Expressing serious concern over the delay in initiating a criminal investigation into the sudden eruption of covid-19 second wave in the first week of Oct, Attorney General Dappula de Livera, PC, has told Acting IGP C.D. Wickremaratne that he would personally issue instructions to the investigators.

Wickremaratne has been informed of the AG’s unprecedented move on Thursday (5) in the wake of the inordinate delay in the high profile probe.

There hadn’t been a previous instance of AG de Livera or any of his predecessors calling police investigators for a briefing before the commencement of an investigation.

As per instructions issued in writing on Oct 5, President’s Counsel de Livera emphasized that advising the team of police officers chosen by the Acting IGP was his legitimate duty and responsibility.

The AG has told the IGP to submit him a list of officers tasked with the investigation.

The unexpected move made by the AG revealed the lapse on the part of law enforcement authorities in initiating an investigation.

AG’s Coordinating Officer State Counsel Nishara Jayaratne told The Island on Nov 5 that the latest intervention was made after specific instructions issued on Oct 29 as regards the launch of an investigation weren’t heeded. Ms Jayaratne said that instructions were issued on Oct 27 and Oct 29 in that regard directing an inquiry into the dangerous situation caused by what the AG called the ‘Brandix cluster.’

Pointing out the catastrophic situation faced by the entire country, the AG directed the appointment of a senior team consisting of experienced investigators to handle the investigation.

Earlier the AG called for a new team after the Colombo Crime Division (CCD) tasked with the investigation was seriously affected by covid-19 epidemic.

The Acting IGP handed over the investigation to the CCD against the backdrop of the country’s premier investigation agency the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) being embroiled in the controversial release of Riyaj Bathiudeen’s held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). The Acting IGP appointed two teams comprising 30 officers and men each to investigate the circumstances leading to Riyaj’s release in spite of the police headquarters previously claiming the suspect having had direct links with one of the National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) suicide bombers. Pending the investigation, police headquarters moved out both DIG CID Nuwan Wedasinghe and Director CID SSP Prasanna de Alwis.

The AG called for a special inquiry on covid-19 eruption while awaiting progress report on the probe on the CID. With the focus on Brandix apparel manufacturing facility at Minuwangoda where the first detection was made, The Island sought clarification from Brandix pertaining two vital matters expected to be also probed by the police.

Q: Did Brandix bring in a group of technicians from India (four or five persons), in addition to 341 Brandix workers and family members brought to Mattala in three flights? 

 A: No, as we have stated before, we did not bring in any person of Indian nationality to Sri Lanka during this time. 341 of our Sri Lankan employees who work at our facilities in Visakhapatnam, India and their families were brought back to Sri Lanka in 03 separate flights, and certificates from authorities confirming their 28-day quarantine period is available for all 341 individuals. These certificates pertaining to all passengers have been produced for verification to the relevant authorities.

 Q: The final flight was scheduled to bring in 60 persons though only 48 arrived in Mattala. Why did 12 people not come back?

 A: In early September, we had requested the necessary approvals from the Government to bring back 60 of our Sri Lankan employees and their families from our facility in Visakhapatnam, India.

While we awaited approval and confirmation of the flight for their return thereafter, 12 of our employees had agreed to stay back and continue working since the ground situation in India was improving at the time. As a result, only 48 of the 60 individuals we had originally sought approval for, arrived on the flight on 22nd September 2020. 

Meanwhile, Police spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana, who is also in charge of the Police Legal Division yesterday told Derana anchor Sanka Amarjith that the investigation called by the AG was delayed due two reasons. DIG Rohana said that in addition to some of the CCD officers contracting coronavirus, the CCD had to record statements of those affected by corona attached to Minuwangoda Brandix facility. DIG Rohana said that the inquiry though being delayed would be conducted by the CCD as directed by the Acting IGP.

 

 



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BASL urges President to de-escalate tensions in different parts of country

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The Bar Association of Sri Lanka has called upon President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to instruct the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of tensions in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by the public.”

 “Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint”, the BASL has said in a media statement.

 “We also call upon you to ensure that steps are taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.”

The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police.

 The armed forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.

Full text of the BASL letter to the President:

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) expresses its gravest concerns at the current situation at fuel stations throughout the country and the reports of several incidents of conflicts between civilians and members of the police force and the armed forces at fuel stations. There has been video footage of civilians being assaulted by personnel of the armed forces and the police, the latest being of a civilian being kicked by an Army officer at a fuel station. There have also been situations of the police and Army opening fire into the air to contain the crowd.

Your Excellency is no doubt aware that thousands of desperate civilians are waiting in queues at hundreds of fuel stations in the country. The queues are kilometres long. The tension at the fuel stations have arisen from this desperation for which there is no immediate solution in sight.

The BASL wishes to warn Your Excellency of the imminent dangers this situation could give rise to. The present unrest could result in a conflagration between civilians and members of the armed forces or the police. Some years ago, confrontations between members of the public and the armed forces resulted in the deaths of civilians. Such incidents between the members of the armed forces or the police and the civilians will discredit Sri Lanka’s armed forces and the police.

We call upon Your Excellency to take all necessary steps to give instructions to the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of the situation in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by public. Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint. We also call upon you to ensure that steps be taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.

The Sri Lanka Army and other service personnel must be deployed only in very limited circumstances as contemplated in the Criminal Procedure Code. The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police. The Armed Forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.

We trust that this will receive the immediate attention of the Government as to do otherwise may otherwise result in unprecedented turmoil and harm.

The BASL believes that the ultimate solution to the situation at fuel stations is to be transparent with the public and to ensure an equitable and effective system of fuel distribution throughout the country.

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SC orders AG to submit report on fuel purchases and distribution

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By A.J.A. Abeynayake

A three-member Supreme Court bench consisting of Justices Vijith Malalgoda, Mahinda Samayawardena and Arjuna Obeysekera yesterday ordered the Attorney General to submit a report on fuel purchases, the distribution thereof and the sectors to be provided with fuel on a priority basis.

The Supreme Court made the order after considering two fundamental rights petitions presented by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka.

The BASL has requested the Supreme Court to direct the Cabinet of Ministers to consult all stakeholders and independent experts to formulate and implement the necessary policies, and to provide concessions in relation to the prices of essential goods and services to the people including LP gas, fuel, electricity, milk powder, medicines and food.

The petitions were filed by the President of the BASL Saliya Pieris PC, Deputy President Anura Meddegoda PC, former Secretary Rajeev Amarasuriya, Treasurer Rajindh Perera and the Assistant Secretary Pasindu Silva.

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A/L may be delayed by one month

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Education Minister Sushil Premajayantha told Parliament yesterday that although it had been scheduled to hold the G.C.E. A/L Examination 2022 in November this year, it could be further delayed by another month.

Responding to a question by MP Shantha Bandara, the Minister said: “The examination should be held at least after three months of releasing the results of the previous A/L exam because the students who need to sit it again should have enough time to prepare,” the Minister said.

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