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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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BASL urges President to de-escalate tensions in different parts of country

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The Bar Association of Sri Lanka has called upon President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to instruct the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of tensions in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by the public.”

 “Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint”, the BASL has said in a media statement.

 “We also call upon you to ensure that steps are taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.”

The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police.

 The armed forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.

Full text of the BASL letter to the President:

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) expresses its gravest concerns at the current situation at fuel stations throughout the country and the reports of several incidents of conflicts between civilians and members of the police force and the armed forces at fuel stations. There has been video footage of civilians being assaulted by personnel of the armed forces and the police, the latest being of a civilian being kicked by an Army officer at a fuel station. There have also been situations of the police and Army opening fire into the air to contain the crowd.

Your Excellency is no doubt aware that thousands of desperate civilians are waiting in queues at hundreds of fuel stations in the country. The queues are kilometres long. The tension at the fuel stations have arisen from this desperation for which there is no immediate solution in sight.

The BASL wishes to warn Your Excellency of the imminent dangers this situation could give rise to. The present unrest could result in a conflagration between civilians and members of the armed forces or the police. Some years ago, confrontations between members of the public and the armed forces resulted in the deaths of civilians. Such incidents between the members of the armed forces or the police and the civilians will discredit Sri Lanka’s armed forces and the police.

We call upon Your Excellency to take all necessary steps to give instructions to the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of the situation in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by public. Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint. We also call upon you to ensure that steps be taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.

The Sri Lanka Army and other service personnel must be deployed only in very limited circumstances as contemplated in the Criminal Procedure Code. The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police. The Armed Forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.

We trust that this will receive the immediate attention of the Government as to do otherwise may otherwise result in unprecedented turmoil and harm.

The BASL believes that the ultimate solution to the situation at fuel stations is to be transparent with the public and to ensure an equitable and effective system of fuel distribution throughout the country.

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SC orders AG to submit report on fuel purchases and distribution

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By A.J.A. Abeynayake

A three-member Supreme Court bench consisting of Justices Vijith Malalgoda, Mahinda Samayawardena and Arjuna Obeysekera yesterday ordered the Attorney General to submit a report on fuel purchases, the distribution thereof and the sectors to be provided with fuel on a priority basis.

The Supreme Court made the order after considering two fundamental rights petitions presented by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka.

The BASL has requested the Supreme Court to direct the Cabinet of Ministers to consult all stakeholders and independent experts to formulate and implement the necessary policies, and to provide concessions in relation to the prices of essential goods and services to the people including LP gas, fuel, electricity, milk powder, medicines and food.

The petitions were filed by the President of the BASL Saliya Pieris PC, Deputy President Anura Meddegoda PC, former Secretary Rajeev Amarasuriya, Treasurer Rajindh Perera and the Assistant Secretary Pasindu Silva.

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A/L may be delayed by one month

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Education Minister Sushil Premajayantha told Parliament yesterday that although it had been scheduled to hold the G.C.E. A/L Examination 2022 in November this year, it could be further delayed by another month.

Responding to a question by MP Shantha Bandara, the Minister said: “The examination should be held at least after three months of releasing the results of the previous A/L exam because the students who need to sit it again should have enough time to prepare,” the Minister said.

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