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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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Six nabbed with over 100 kg of ‘Ice’

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By Norman Palihawadane and Ifham Nizam

The Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) yesterday arrested six suspects in the Sapugaskanda Rathgahawatta area with more than 100 kilos of Crystal Methamphetamine also known as Ice.

Police Media Spokesman, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Ajith Rohana told the media that the PNB sleuths, acting on information elicited from a suspect in custody had found 91 packets of Ice.

A man in possession of 100 kilos of heroin was arrested in Modera during the weekend and revealed that a haul of Ice had been packed in plastic boxes.

The PNB seized more than 114 kilos of Ice from the possession of a single drug network.

According to the information elicited from the suspects, more than 100 kilos of Ice were found.

The PNB also arrested six persons including two women with 13 kilos of Ice, during an operation carried out in the Niwandama area in Ja-Ela on Sunday.

DIG Rohana said the ice had been packed in small plastic boxes and hidden in two school bags.

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PM intervenes to iron out differences among coalition partners

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By Norman Palihawadane

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday said that he was confident that differences among the constituents of the SLPP coalition as regards the May Day celebrations and the next Provincial Council elections could be ironed out soon.

Leaders of all SLPP allied parties have been invited to a special meeting to be held at Temple Trees with the PM presiding on April 19.

Prime Minister Rajapaksa said it was natural for members of a political alliance to have their own standpoints and views on matters of national importance. “This is due to the different political ideologies and identities. It is not something new when it comes to political alliances world over. In a way, it shows that there is internal democracy within our alliance.

The PM said: “As a result of that the allied parties may express their own views on issues, but that does not mean there is a threat to the unity of the alliance. An alliance is more vibrant and stronger not when all the parties think on the same lines but when the member parties have different ideologies.”

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Thilo Hoffman remembered

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A copy of the book “Politics of a Rainforest: Battles to save Sinharaja” was handed over to Dominik Furgler, the Swiss Ambassador in Sri Lanka by the author of the book, Dr. Prasanna Cooray at the Swiss Embassy in Colombo last Tuesday, to be sent to the family of the late Thilo Hoffman in Switzerland.

Hoffman, a Swiss national, who made Sri Lanka his second home for six decades, was a pioneering environmental activist who led the battles to save Sinharaja from the front in the early 1970s, abreast with the likes of Iranganie Serasinghe, Kamanie Vitharana, Lynn De Alwis and Nihal Fernando of the “Ruk Rekaganno” fame. That was the era when the trees of Sinharaja were felled for the production of plywood by the then government. Hoffman was also a livewire of the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS) for a long time. Hoffman died in 2014 at the age of 92.

The book includes a chapter on Thilo Hoffman.

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