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Arrested and remanded:

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Now, Bathiudeen has to face money laundering charges

By Norman Palihawadane and Hiran Seneviratne

Police yesterday commenced a special operation to arrest those who had been aiding and abetting former minister and SJB MP Rishad Bathiudeen to evade arrest, Police Media Spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said.

Bathiudeen was remanded yesterday evening after being arrested in Dehiwala.

DIG Rohana said seven persons including a female doctor in whose house MP Bathiudeen had been hiding had been taken into custody. Her husband, a private tutor, had also been taken into custody, the DIG said.

Among other suspects was a foreign employment agent who had escorted the MP from one hiding place to another, the DIG said. The owner of the house from where the MP was arrested is still missing.

The female doctor and her husband were tenants in the apartment, where Bathiudeen was hiding.

“Some more persons are to be taken into custody,” the police spokesman said.

DIG Rohana said the arrest had been made around 3 am by a CID team who traced Bathiudeen to Ebenezer Place in Dehiwala.

He was taken into custody based on the Attorney General’s instructions to the police on Oct 13 to arrest him on charges of misappropriating public funds by using 222 SLTB buses to provide transport facilities to the displaced people in the Puttalam area to cast their votes in the 2019 Presidential Election.

MP Bathiudeen, Project director Mohamed Yaseen Samsudeen and project accountant Alagarathnam Manoranjan are accused of violating Article 82(1) of Presidential Elections Act, No. 15 of 1981 by misappropriating public funds.

The CID, on the direction of the Attorney General, requested the Colombo Fort Magistrate to issue an arrest warrant on MP Bathiudeen and the other two suspects on charges of criminal misappropriation of public funds and violation of election laws.

However, the Magistrate ruled that the Police could arrest the suspects without a warrant for violation of public property. Thereby, Attorney General Livera directed the Police to arrest the three suspects according to the law.

MP Bathiudeen had filed a writ application through a lawyer seeking an order from the Court of Appeal to prevent his arrest.

AG’s coordinating officer State Counsel Nishara Jayaratne told The Island that Attorney General Livera had advised the CID to place MP Bathiudeen under surveillance 24 hours before the issuing of the directive to arrest the former minister.

State Counsel Jayaratne said that the arrest of MP Bathiudeen was not something that had happened suddenly. 

She said that 24 hours before the Attorney General’s advice pertaining to the arrest was provided in writing to the CID officers and the Acting IGP, the AG had summoned the CID officers and verbally instructed them to make preparation.

The Attorney General had advised the high-raking CID officers to carry out suitable surveillance on MP Bathiudeen and to stay alert regarding him, 24 hours before the advice was handed in writing, the AG’s coordinating office said. 

She said that if the CID officers had followed the AG’s verbal advice of pre-preparation and had carried out proper surveillance activities, the suspect would not have been able to flee.

The Attorney General yesterday provided the Acting IGP with further advice in writing with regard to the criminal investigation against MP Bathiudeen and also met with the investigative officers of the CID.

It was revealed during that discussion that the CID is also carrying out investigations regarding over 10 more incidents related to MP Bathiudeen, State Counsel Jayaratne said.

The AG presented the Acting IGP with detailed information pertaining to those investigations and issued instructions to conduct further investigations under the offence of Money Laundering and also to appoint a special team of experienced and knowledgeable officers to carry out the investigations efficiently and thoroughly. 

The AG also instructed to carry out criminal investigations against all individuals who had aided and abetted MP Bathiudeen to evade arrest and remain in hiding and to report to the court.

AG de Livera instructed to specially investigate into the individuals who held press conferences and made statements that the former minister was in hiding, she said.

The AG also called for reports on the progress in investigations within the next two weeks.



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Cabraal: Prez appoints members to Port City Economic Commission

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By Shyam Nuwan Ganewatta

The President of the country would always appoint members to the Colombo Port City Economic Commission, entrusted with running of that city under the proposed CPCEC Bill, State Minister of Money & Capital Market and State Enterprise Reforms, Ajith Nivard Cabraal, yesterday, told the media, in Colombo.

State Minister Cabraal said that most critics of the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill had not even read it.

“Sri Lankans don’t need to obtain a visa to enter the Port City as some claim. The Port City will be administered by the Colombo Port City Economic Commission and the Bill we have presented details how the area will be governed,” Cabraal said responding to a question posed by a journalist.

The State Minister said that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had asked him to counter the misinformation and fake news that was being spread about the Bill. Once people have read and understood the Bill, most who criticise it would have to change their tune, the Minister said.

 

Journalists also questioned the State Minister on the allegations levelled by MP Wijeyadasa Rajapakse. The State Minister said that Rajapakse had not even asked a question about the Bill during the Parliamentary Group meetings.

“As I said earlier, the Port City will be administered by Colombo Port City Economic Commission. All members are appointed by the President. The Chairman of the Commission too is appointed by the President. The President can get rid of them anytime he wants,” Cabraal said.

The State Minister added that no one would be allowed to withdraw money or assets from Sri Lanka and invest in the Port City. “This is a special economic zone. We need to attract foreign direct investments. We need to have ease of doing business in this zone and we have to make it an important financial hub in the region.”

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Two hotels to be built obstructing elephant corridor in Sinharaja – MONLAR

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Forest land being cleared for the construction of a hotel

By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Bowitiyatenna elephant corridor, used by elephants in Sinharaja to travel to Dellawa – Walankanda forest had been obstructed by two businessmen by clearing a section of the forest to build hotels, Sajeeewa Chamikara of the Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) said.

“One hotel is being constructed in the Dolekanda Grama Niladari area after clearing seven acres of forest land. The Kalawana Divisional Secretariat has approved the construction of the hotel ignoring environmental regulations. Right now, forests are being cleared, land is being prepared and buildings are being constructed using heavy equipment.”

Another hotel was being built at the Bowitiyatenna Elephant Corridor, situated in Godakawela Divisional Secretariat area by a businessman from Godakawela. He has cleared around eight acres of forest land, the environmentalist said.

The two hotels were obstructing the elephant corridors used by the remaining two elephants in the Sinharaja Forest Reserve. Now, the the people of Rambuka, Thanawela, Ellagama, Handiyekade, Kajugaswatte, Pothupitiya, Kopikella and Cypresswatte would have the elephans marauding their villages, the environmentalist said, adding that the residents of those villages would lose property and lives due to the hotels being constructed by obstructing the elephant corridors.

“Most of the forest areas surrounding the Sinharaja are to be annexed to the Forest Reserve because they are an important part of the forest network. These unscrupulous businessmen and politicians supporting them are attempting to carve out as much land as possible before these areas receive protected status. They are also doing their best to delay the declaration of these lands as protected areas.”

Chamikara said that the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) had the power to take action against those who carried out such illegal activities.

According to Section 23 (a.) (a.) of the National Environmental Act, when a project is carried out without environmental clearance, the CEA can produce such people before a magistrate’s court. If found guilty, a person can be fined up to Rs. 15,000 or imprisoned up to two years or subjected to both.

Chamikara said: “According to Article 27(14) of Chapter VI of the Sri Lankan constitution the state shall protect, preserve and improve the environment for the benefit of the community.” However, the CEA seems to have no interest in taking action against those who are building these hotels illegally. This is CEA’s attitude to almost all major environmental destruction that seems to be taking place these days.

“The government is silent when the Sinharaja forest is degraded and elephant corridors are closed by businessmen. The right to land seems to be a right reserved only for businessmen. We have the right to oppose these under article 28. (f) of the Constitution which states that we have a fundamental duty ‘to protect nature and conserve its riches.’ Article 28. (e) states that we also have a fundamental duty ‘to respect the rights and freedoms of others.’ Thus, we, the citizens have the right to oppose the illegal use of natural resources by powerful businessmen. If we do not oppose these moves as citizens, powerful businessmen will take over all our natural assets like they are doing at Sinharaja.”

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RDHS predicts Coronavirus spike in Jaffna over the weekend

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By Dinasena Ratugamage

There might be a spike in COVID-19 cases in Jaffna this weekend, A.

Kethiswaran, Regional Director Health Services told the media yesterday. Dr. Kethiswaran made the prediction after 26 new cases were detected in Jaffna.

A large number of COVID-19 cases had been reported from Jaffna in the past few weeks. Thus, the people should adhere to health guidelines. If people did not follow the guidelines, there would be a spike in cases and then some places would have to be locked down, he said.

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