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Easter Sunday probe: Bathiudeen brothers face 90-day detention under PTA

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… question mark over why Riyaj was released in late 2020

by Shamindra Ferdinando

The Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) yesterday (25) protested against the arrest of its Vanni District member Rishad Bathiudeen and his brother, Riyaj in connection with the 2019 Easter Sunday carnage under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).

Rishad Bathiudeen is the leader of the All-Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC), a constituent of the SJB. The ACMC leader served as a Cabinet minister under both President Mahinda Rajapaksa (2010-2015) and President Maithripala Sirisena (2015-2019)

SJB MP Manusha Nanayakkara told The Island that the latest arrests had been made close on the heels of the main Opposition alleging possible involvement of some members of the intelligence services in the carnage.

The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and the Terrorist Investigation Department (TID) arrested Rishad and Riyaj from their respective residences at Bauddhaloka Mawatha and Wellawatte.

DIG (Legal) Attorney-at-Law Ajith Rohana said that Bathiudeen brothers had been taken in following a joint CID-TID operation. The suspects were being interrogated on a Detention Order obtained in terms of the PTA for a period of 72 hours, he said. 

Depending on the ongoing investigations, the police under the PTA could detain the suspects for further 90 days, DIG Rohana said, adding that they were among altogether 702 persons arrested in connection with the Easter Sunday carnage.

The DIG said that of those arrested 202 had been remanded and 83 held by the CID and the TID under the PTA.

The Police Spokesman said that investigators had conducted a comprehensive probe into funding of the Easter Sunday suicide bombers and a range of financial transactions that had taken place in the run up to the 2019 attacks.

Sources familiar with the high-profile investigation said the CID had quietly released Riyaj in late 2020 after declaring the police had not been able to gather sufficient evidence in respect of his alleged involvement with those who carried out Easter attacks. The CID arrested Riyaj on April 14, 2020. Riyaj’s release triggered protests within the ruling SLPP government with over 100 MPs including ministers signing a petition demanding an immediate inquiry into the unexpected development.

 Attorney General Dappula de Livera, PC, intervened amidst allegations that the police were suppressing information as regards Riyaj’s involvement. The AG summoned the DIG CID, Director CID and other officers directly involved in the inquiry for discussions at his department where fresh instructions were issued in respect of the investigation.

Attorney-at-law Rushidhi Habibi on behalf of the ACMC questioned the need for law enforcement authorities to raid the former minister’s residence when he always reported to the CID when asked to do so. The lawyer questioned why the police had behaved that way during Ramadan.

Alleging that Bathiudeen was a victim of a political conspiracy, the lawyer claimed the Presidential Commission of Inquiry that probed the Easter Sunday carnage had not found anything against the former minister. The ACMC spokesman alleged that Rishad had been targeted because his party with four members in parliament and 169 in Local Government bodies backed the Opposition candidate at the 2019 presidential poll.

 In a social media post just before the police took him away, Bathiudeen said that he would have come willingly if he had been asked to. The MP questioned the rationale behind over 100 policemen raiding his Bauddhaloka Mawatha residence as if they were coming to take Velupillai Prabhakaran.

Top Church spokesperson Rev Father Cyril Gamini yesterday told The Island that the Church was closely following the ongoing investigations. “We are concerned. We are really concerned. Those who suffered expect justice not a cover-up. We are closely following the investigation,” he said, adding that they were in the process of examining all available information including statements made in Parliament on the Easter carnage.”

 

 



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Govt. urged to increase nursing cadre to tackle national health crisis

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

National Coordinator, Training (Nursing) Pushpa Ramyani de Soysa says that against the backdrop of alarming increase in the number of positive Covid-19 cases, the government needs to act swiftly and decisively to strengthen the nursing staff or face the consequences.

The top nurse insists a moment cannot be wasted as the ongoing epidemic threatens to overwhelm the entire country. The nurses’ spokesperson attached to the Accident Ward of the National Hospital, Colombo, delivered the dire warning in a live interview with Dasun Wasantha on the state-run ITN yesterday (14)

The outspoken official said that at the time Covid-19 erupted in 2020, the nursing staff consisted of approximately 38,000 representing all grades. At that time, the country experienced a staggering 50 per cent dearth of trained nursing staff, de Soysa said, urging those responsible as well as the public of the urgent need to strengthen the nursing staff.

She explained how the nursing staff worked under unbearable pressure as the entire medical staff backed by the military and the police struggled to cope up with the relentless Covid-19 onslaught.

Responding to the interviewer on live ‘Hathweni Paya’ , de Soysa said that as an immediate interim measure, those who had retired in the past few years could be brought back to lessen the pressure on the staff. When The Island sought further clarification from the National

Coordinator, the nursing veteran emphasized the Covid-19 challenge had to be tackled, in addition to the regular workload. A further deterioration of the situation could cause a catastrophe, she told The Island.

The National Coordinator told the ITN as nurses couldn’t be trained overnight the way required beds and other equipment could be supplied to hospitals, hence the urgent need to bring back the retired without further delay. She repeatedly stressed the responsibility on the part of the administration whoever in power to increase the nursing staff to meet the country’s growing requirement. Acknowledging the services rendered by the health services at an extremely difficult period, nurse de Soysa underscored the critical role played by the nursing staff in the overall effort against the epidemic.

Soysa highlighted what she called a coordinating role played by the nursing staff in the treatment of persons afflicted by Covid-19 or some other illness. In the absence of sufficient number of nurses, personnel had been re-allocated, de Soysa said, pointing out that due to Covid-19 explosion patients were being accommodated at hospitals.

Commenting on challenges faced by the nursing profession, de Soysa recalled the sacrifices made during the 30-year-war that was brought to a successful conclusion in May 2009. “Regardless of d immense difficulties, the nursing staff fulfilled their responsibilities during the conflict. We’ll do the same now,” de Soysa said, pointing out as many as 270 nurses had been tested Covid-19 positive, in addition to thousands quarantined.

The National Coordinator complained about the dearth of some critically important data relevant to the Covid-19 situation needed for evaluation purposes. Timely decisions couldn’t be taken for want of updated data at global and local level, she said.

She also discussed difficulties caused by some of those seeking treatment at hospitals not being aware of their condition, hence the need to be vigilant. However, sometimes, nursing staff served without taking into consideration the grave risks them faced. A grave looking de Soysa told the ITN interviewer they couldn’t follow health guidelines. “We cannot keep one meter distance in hospitals,” de Soysa said.

Nurse de Soysa said that she received both doses of covishields vaccine as key part of overall measures in place for the protection of the medical staff.

Without referring to any political party, de Soysa explained how the political administration over the years treated the nursing staff as slaves. Government treated nursing staff as dirt, de Soysa said, recalling with gratitude how Ven Muruththettuwe Ananda thera spearheaded a campaign that paved the way for significant improvement in the nursing service. The National Coordinator said that before the Ven. Thera’s intervention, they were assigned intolerable tasks regardless of their complains.

Responding to another ITN query, de Soysa said that successive governments hadn’t responded to their call for enhancement of the nursing service with the introduction of a system to produce qualified nurses who specializes in selected fields. Although action had been taken , the entire process was proceeding at snail pace, she alleged.

The National Instructor made reference to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s 2019 presidential election manifesto that also dealt with the issue at hand. The top nurse didn’t mince her words when she pointed out that the required improvements weren’t introduced as expected, hence the need to move now.

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Coronavirus spreading fast in North

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By Dinasena Ratugamage

COVID-19 is spreading across a number of areas in the Northern province at a rapid pace, according to THE provincial health officials.

Five members of the same family in Kattakadu, Kilinochchi have contracted COVID-19 and been sent to Krishnapuram Treatment centre.

One family member is a university student, who stayed in Colombo. He returned home recently and several family members started developing Covid-19 symptoms a few days later. Health officials conducted PCR tests and found that all five family members had contracted the virus. Six other neighbouring families have been placed under quarantine.

Meanwhile, 43-year-old man was arrested by Kilinochchi Police for hoarding alcohol to be sold, at a higher price, during the current lockdown. The suspect is a resident of Kalmadukulam, Dharmapuram. He is to be produced before the Kilinochchi Magistrate’s Court.

However, most towns in the North had been deserted yesterday due to the lockdown.

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Navy nets 30 illegal migrants

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More than 30 persons were apprehended by the Sri Lanka Navy and Coast Guard in Samindugama on Thursday and Friday while they were preparing to migrate to a foreign country by boat illegally.

The owner of the house where the suspects had stayed was also arrested, together with15 others involved in human smuggling.

The suspects, residents of Jaffna, Batticaloa, Mullaitivu and Puttalam areas, were handed over to the Chilaw Police.

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