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Chamuditha complains his life is in danger, but won’t give up ‘Salakuna’

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‘No point in seeking police protection, have written a letter to be released if I’m harmed’ 

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Popular Hiru TV anchor Chamuditha Samarawickrema says there are threats to his life, but he will continue to host the weekly live ‘Salakuna’ programme.

“I am determined to go ahead with it whatever the obstacles are,” Samarawickrema told The Island yesterday (6) identifying some specific threats.

Asked whether he would lodge a complaint with the police, Samarawickrema said obviously there was no point in doing so.  Acknowledging there were honest officers and men,

Samarawickrema said that those at the helm of law enforcement ruined the once proud service.

The way law enforcement authorities had handled the Shangri-La case following the exposure of influential makeup artist Chandimal Jayasinghe’s birthday party therein on the night of May 30 in violation of Covid-19 health guidelines demonstrated their partiality, the Hiru journalist said.

Instead of going to police, he had decided to pen a detailed letter in case those angered and affected by the Hiru exposure on May 31 night and the subsequent developments resorted to violence. Answering another question, Samarawickrema said that ‘Salakuna’ would conduct a live interview with Mass Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella tonight (7). “If I’m harmed, the letter will be in the public domain. The public will know the identities of those responsible,” Samarawickrema said, adding that as part of precautions he had given Harendra Jayalal’s YouTube channel an interview, which was released online on Saturday night.

Asked to name those threatening him, Samarwickrema said that there were four specific threats from a notorious businessman, two persons from the Polonnaruwa District and another whose henchmen had threatened to sever an arm and a leg of his. All of them had been mentioned in the letter, he said.

The popular TV anchor emphasised that he didn’t have any issue with Chandimal Jayasinghe, model Piyumi Hansamali or Shangri-la hotel. The contentious issues raised during two-hour ‘Salakuna ’programme  on the night of 31 May, with Police Spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana, who is also the senior officer in charge of the Police Legal Division and Public Health Inspector Union President Upul Rohana participated as participants, had caused quite a stir, Samarawickrama said.

The ‘Hiru’ team comprised Samarawickrema, Chapa Bandara and Kalindu Widanage.

Samarawickrema said that the media couldn’t be faulted for reporting the Shangri-La party.

Public Security Minister  Rear Admiral (retd) Sarath Weerasekera’s intervention in the Shangri-La affair, too, should be probed, Samarawickrema said, pointing out that in a statement issued on the night of 04 June, the Public Security Ministry had acknowledged he received calls from both Hansamali through her lawyer Manju Sri and Chandimal claiming they were being moved to a quarantine centre in Passara without basic essential items such as clothes.

 

Samarawickrema said that he worked as a freelancer in addition to running two social media channels-Truth with Chamuditha and cnb (Chamuditha News Brief).

Samarawickrema emphasised that at a time the entire country was struggling to tackle the pandemic, the government couldn’t under any circumstances allow ministers, regardless of their portfolios and seniority, pursue personal agendas.

Samarawickrema recalled how transport minister SLPP heavyweight Gamini Lokuge had caused a serious setback to the government’s battle against Covid-19 by doing away with travel restrictions imposed in Piliyandala area recently. The government had done nothing about it, Samarawickrema alleged, saying that the SLPP’s much touted ‘One Country, One Law’ slogan had apparently become a joke.

When Moratuwa Mayor Saman Lal Fernando meddled with the vaccination programme recently, he had been arrested by the police, produced in court and remanded till 11 June but those who allowed a party to be held at Shangri-La had gone scot-free, Samarawickrama said, adding that some people taken into custody in Jaffna for partying had been remanded.

Samarawickrema also acknowledged that Opposition political parties, too, had refrained from commenting on the issue at hand. However, former Minister Ravi Karunanayake, JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake, MP, Roshan Ranasinghe, MP and Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage over the phone inquired about the incident.  Yes, perhaps, Opposition lawmakers, too, may be wary of attracting the wrath of those who launched what Samarawickrema called a social media tirade against him and ‘Hiru.’



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People to get fuel price shock soon

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The Cabinet sub-committee on the cost of living had decided to increase fuel prices, Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila told the media yesterday (11) in Colombo. He said that the date of the price hikes  would be revealed soon.

The Minister said that if they announced the date, it would lead to long lines at filling stations and it would have disastrous consequences during the pandemic.

“We know that things are hard for everyone, that is why we didn’t increase fuel prices for 21 months. But the government can no longer bear the losses. The oil prices in the world market have been increasing. By the end of 2020, the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) had accumulated a loss of RS. 331 billion. Each year we spend three billion dollars to import oil,” he said.

Gammanpila said that the main sources of income for the country had been affected due to the pandemic and foreign investments and tourism had stopped and a large number of Lankans working abroad had returned, decreasing remittances.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Office on May 20 said that a ministerial subcommittee discussed the sharp increase in crude oil prices compared to 2019 and 2020.

The PM chaired the meeting in the Committee Room 8 in Parliament. The Cabinet subcommittee discussed ways and means of addressing the problems caused by the crude price hike.

The PM’s Office said that ministers had discussed how to sustain public relief in the wake of further increase in expenditure. The subcommittee discussed the financial problems of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB), among other things. The PM’s Office said that ministers had discussed how to sustain public relief in the wake of further increase in expenditure. The subcommittee discussed the financial problems of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB), among other things. (RK)

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HRC asks IGP to explain how he intended to stop deaths of suspects in police custody

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Report called by June 13

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Human Rights Commission has sought an explanation from IGP C.D. Wickremaratne as regards continuing deaths in police custody.

In a letter dated June 8, 2021, HRC Chairman Dr. Jagath Balasuriya has raised the recent deaths in police custody with the focus on two incidents involving Panadura and Batticaloa police.

HRC Acting Director Research and Monitoring Nihal Chandrasiri told The Island that the June 8 dated letter was the latest missive addressed to the IGP regarding this particular issue since the formation of the new HRC following the last general election in August 2020.

Chandrasiri made available to The Island, a copy of Dr. Balasuriya’s letter addressed to IGP Wickremaratne.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in late Dec 2020 named former lawmaker Balasuriya as the Chairman of the HRC comprising· Dr. M.H. Nimal Karunasiri, Dr. Vijitha Nanayakkara, Ms. Anusuya Shanmuganathan and H.K. Navaratne Weraduwa.

Chandrasiri said that the HRC first took up deaths in police custody in the wake of the killing of Dinithi Melan alias Uru Juwa, who had been arrested by the Nawagamuwa police, and Dharmakeerthi Tharaka Perera Wijesekara alias Kosgoda Tharaka in the second week of May 2021.

Civil society activist attorney-at-law Senaka Perera told The Island that continuing deaths in police custody should be examined against the backdrop of a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka delivered that the extra-judicial killing of a suspect in police custody violated the right to life, in spite of the absence of an explicit right to life clause  in the Constitution of Sri Lanka.

According to Dr. Balasuriya’s letter, reportage of the deaths of Chandana Vidushan and Ali Khan in the custody of the Batticaloa police and Panadura (North) police, respectively, prompted the HRC to take up the matter with the IGP. Declaring that the HRC has initiated an inquiry in terms of Section 14 of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka Act, No.21 of 1996, Dr. Balasuriya said that inquiries revealed both victims suffered cruel and inhuman treatment in the hands of the police, leading to their deaths?.

Expressing serious concern over what he called the absence of safety and security of those in police custody, Dr. Balasuriya has pointed out to the IGP relevant sections of the Constitution, in addition to Supreme Court rulings in respect of such matters and two letters dated Oct 21, 2020 and  March 17, 2021 that dealt with the issue at hand.

Asserting that continuing deaths in police custody resulted in deterioration of public confidence in law and order, such incidents underscored the threat to what he called public freedom. Having reminded the IGP that the HRC intervened in terms of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka Act, No.21 of 1996, Dr. Balasuriya has requested the IGP to submit a report to him of measures he intended to introduce to prevent deaths in police custody by or before June 13.

In the wake of several killings in police custody, Romesh de Silva, PC, recently moved the Court of Appeal on behalf of convicted heroin dealer Gampola Vidanalage Samantha Kumara alias Wele Suda held at maximum security Boossa prison. President’s Counsel successfully argued against the police taking Wele Suda into their custody.  

President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) President’s Counsel Saliya Pieris has appeared in the Court of Appeal on behalf of Janith Madushankar alias Podi Lassi. Having brought to the notice of justices, Sobitha Rajakaruna and Dhammika Ranepola, the most recent killings in police custody of ‘Uru Juwa’ and ‘Kosgoda Tharaka,’ Peiris sought the court’s intervention to ensure his client’s safety and security.

The lawyer has requested that the court direct the IGP to transfer his client from the custody of the CID to another unit.

 

 

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Health trade union alliance claims their strike a success

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

Senior health officials including doctors benefited from the current health crisis, Health Services Trade Union Alliance (HSTUA) President Saman Rathnapriya said yesterday commenting on the trade union action resorted to by a number of health sector unions, excluding the GMOA.

Rathnapriya maintained that the strike was a success and non-health sector unions  too had supported them because what he called unfair increases in allowances received by doctors affected the entire state sector. The allowance given to doctors had been increased by 78%, from Rs. 41,220 to Rs. 78,120, however other categories had not received any increase in their allowances, he said.

“Our union action was a success, but we are not happy we had to do this. Nurses and other staffers have not received any increase in their allowances although they too are contributing greatly in the fight against COVID-19. The Health Ministry is unnecessarily creating issues by giving a colossal allowance increase to the doctors,” Rathnapriya said.

College of Medical Laboratory Science (CMLS) President Ravi Kumudesh said that the doctors held top positions in the Health Ministry and for many years they had been ignoring the salaries and allowances of other employees.

“They not only mistreat us but create new issues, testing our patience. Throughout this pandemic you can see this. They get all the perks and have even their family members vaccinated. They are taking advantage of the fact that we are exercising patience in view of the pandemic,” Kumudesh said.

Kumudesh added that the union action had not affected the anti-COVID-19 programme, cancer, maternity and paediatric hospitals, etc.

“We are not doing this to inconvenience the people. We are trying to ensure that the Health Ministry does not create additional problems,” he said

President of All Ceylon Management Service Officer’s Union, Udeni Dissanayake said that they too supported the trade union action because the actions of the GMOA would have an adverse impact on the entire state sector.

Doctors had received certain perks in recent years, and they had contributed to salary anomalies and inequality of remuneration across the board, he said.

“Doctors were treated with great respect in our culture, and this is being eroded by the actions of the GMOA. They have been receiving allowances increased and after a while those of similar standing in other sectors, too, ensure that they get hikes, but those in the lower grades do not see any increase. Although we are not a health sector union, we fully support this action for two reasons. One is that the cause is just and the other is that the impact of the allowance hike given solely  to the doctors will soon be felt by us,” Dissanayake said.

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