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Former ministers Bathiudeen, Haleem visited house of suspect arrested over Easter bombings several times

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

Former ministers Rishad Bathiudeen and Mohamed Haleem on several occasions had visited the house of Muhinuddin Isham Ahamed, arrested in connection with the Easter Sunday bombings, it was revealed yesterday at the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Easter Sunday bombings.

Nilantha Sanjeewa Fonseka, the Grama Niladhari of No 536/A division of the Dehiwala Mount Lavinia MC limit, where Isham’s house is located, revealed that before the PCOI yesterday.

The State Counsel (SC) leading evidence asked the witness if he had to look into a number of persons in his Grama Niladari division in connection with the Easter Sunday attacks.

Fonseka said that he had to help police looking for Muhinuddin Isham Ahamed, who is the son of Mohamed Hanifa Muhinuddin living at No. 213/3, Quarry Road, Dehiwala.

The witness said that the day before the Easter Sunday attacks, Isham had held a meeting with a large number of youth in the area. The witness added that Isham was studying at a private university, and was also working for a private company.

Fonseka said that there was a Thowheed Jamaat mosque near where Isham lived and that the mosque was a hotspot of trouble even before the Easter Sunday attacks.

“Isham also frequented the mosque. After the attack, Isham as well as three other residents of the area, Mohommad Akram Awkam, Wuhari Mohamed Rafiq and Mohommad Akram Sajihar were arrested,” he said.

“Did any politicians come there after Isham was arrested?” the SC asked the witness.

“Yes, a few VIPs came. Former ministers Rishad Bathiudeen and Mohamed Haleem visited Isham’s house on several occasions,” Fonseka said.

An office assistant of the Dehiwala – Mt. Lavinia MC also testified before the PCOI and said that he had seen Bathiudeen visiting Isham’s house.

Dhammika Priyantha Samarasinghe, the owner of the house where Isham and his family had lived on rent also testified before the Commission yesterday.

The witness said that various youth had visited the house during the night to meet Isham and he had seen Bathiudeen leave the house about two days after Isham’s arrest on 26 April, 2019. The witness said Bathiudeen had spent about 30 minutes in the house.

Inspector of Police (IP) Samantha Jayamahamudali, who is attached to the Commission’s Investigation Unit, who also gave evidence before the Commission, said he had recorded a statement from Hanifa Muhinuddin and Isham.

In addition, he said that he had obtained a report regarding the official vehicles used by former Minister Bathiudeen, State Minister Buddhika Pathirana, Secretary to the Ministry Ranjith Asoka and Additional Secretary J. M. S. N. Jayasinghe.

Rishvie Habib, the attorney-at-law who represented the former Minister Bathiudeen was given an opportunity by the Commission to cross-examine the witness. Habib said he had sought instructions from his client, who was currently in remand custody.

Accordingly, the Chairman of the Commission directed the Secretary to the Commission to look into the legal possibility of making necessary arrangements.



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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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