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Former State Minister Nalin Bandara among those asked for suspects’ release on police bail



Anti-Muslim violence in Hettipola

By Rathindra Kuruwita

Former State Minister Nalin Bandara had urged police officers in Hettipola, on May 2019, to release six suspects arrested for allegedly attacking Muslim owned properties following the Easter Sunday attacks, the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) into the Easter Sunday attacks was informed yesterday.

SSP Oshan Hewavitharana, who was in charge of the Kuliyapitiya Police Division at the time, told the PCoI that there had been indications of unrest in the area by early May.

“On May 12, I was informed that an unidentified group had asked several Muslim businessmen to close their shops. I went there with the Dummalasuriya OIC and took steps to reopen those places.”

The witness said that on the same day, around 5.30 pm, he had got a call from the Kuliyapitiya HQI that four Muslim owned shops in Hettipola Road, Karanthipola, Kuliyapitiya had been attacked. Acting on a tip-off, the HQI had later arrested four persons, Hewavitharana said.

The witness said around 200 people along with religious leaders had surrounded the police station, and he called in reinforcements and secured the police area.

“However, we decided to release the four suspects on police bail until investigations were complete,” he said.

Hewavitharana added that the next significant incident had occurred at Kinigama, Hettipola. A large number of people had gathered after a complaint that a stock of ammunition has been thrown into the Kinigama Tank by members of the local mosque, the witness said. The police with the assistance of Navy divers had searched the tank for two days, 10 and 11 May 2019.

“They failed to find anything but some individual found them on the 12th when he went to bathe. Then there was tension as people gathered near the mosque. Police and Army were sent to the location and although they managed to disperse the crowd several Muslim mosques had been attacked. Six people were later arrested by the Army and handed to Bingiriya police. They were then sent to Hettipola Police station.”

However, a large number of people had gathered near Hettipola Police station on 13 May 2019 demanding the release of the suspects. The people insisted that these men had been arrested without evidence, the witness said. To resolve the issue, a meeting was held at Weerapokuna School and this was attended by former State Minister Nalin Bandara, senior regional officers and religious leaders of all communities.

“Given that we had not conducted investigations into the incident and the sensitivity of the issue we asked those who had gathered for their opinions too. They also agreed that the suspects should be released on police bail until investigations were over. The State Minister also said that this was the best way to defuse the situation,” Hewavitharana said.

The SSP said that he had informed the decision to the Hettipola OIC. The suspects were to be sent to Bingiriya and given bail. However, those who had gathered there prevented the police from taking the suspects to Bingiriya.

“Did anyone else come to the station at this time?” Attorney General’s Department official leading the evidence asked the witness.

“MP Dayasiri Jayasekera came to the police and helped resolve the issue. He told the people that there was an agreement to give police bail to suspects. Jayasekera lives close to the Hettipola police station and was helpful,” Hewavitharana said.

“There was no evidence against the six suspects?” Chairman of the PCoI asked.

“No, they were picked up on the road,” the witness said.

Hewavitharana added that police had taken action to disperse the crowds that had gathered at the Hettipola town. However due to shortage of manpower, they were unable to prevent them from damaging shops, he said.

“That is why we didn’t arrest people but just dispersed them. We knew that we could get CCTV footage and arrested suspects later,” he said.

Minister Jayasekera is to appear before the PCoI today.

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GL sounds far-reaching educational reforms  



Education Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris yesterday (21) acknowledged that for want of tangible measures on the part of successive governments, there was a critical mismatch between the education provided and the availability of job opportunities.

The academic, in quarantine as a result being identified as potential Covid-19 contact, emphasised the need for far reaching changes to address the issue as part of their efforts to restructure the entire system.

Prof. Peiris said so in his short remarks at an event to mark the 100th anniversary of the University of Colombo.

The one-time External Affairs Minister said: “It is a great pleasure for me to felicitate the University of Colombo, my alma mater on this happy occasion. It is a significant milestone because we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the faculty of arts, faculty of science and the library of the University of Colombo. As we look back on that span of a full century, the characteristics of the University which comes to mind is its resilience. During that period the University has had to face and indeed overcome many challenges. The society of our country has undergone a fundamental transformation during that period.

The University had the strength to cope with rapidly changing circumstances. I would identify that as a principal accomplishment of the University of Colombo.

The University proved its capacity for development, change and refinement and adaptation in order to keep pace with dramatically changing circumstances. The University proud as its history is I am sure will have an even more magnificent future. It has an important role to play in the far reaching changes we are contemplating in the educational system of our country. It is our intention in the course of this year 2021 to restructure the entire system in order to address the fundamental problem of a rather critical mismatch between the education we provide in our Universities and other educational institutions on the one hand and the availability of employment, livelihoods on the other. There is regrettably gap in this regard and it should be our collective endeavor to address this problem. We are also revisiting the curricular. The substance of our curricular  the methods of teaching in such a way  as to serve better the public in a  better way   In all these efforts I have no doubt the expertise of the University of Colombo by any standards  will be of enormous assistance to us in achieving goals we have set ourselves (SF)

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China slaps sanctions on 28 Trump administration officials, including Pompeo



China has imposed sanctions on 28 former Trump administration officials, including outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, agency reports said yesterday.

In a statement released just minutes after President Biden took office, China’s foreign ministry said it had decided to sanction those “who have seriously violated China’s sovereignty and who have been mainly responsible for such U.S. moves on China-related issues.”

The list of names features former Health and Human Service Secretary Alex Azar; former White House trade adviser Peter Navarro; former national security adviser Robert O’Brien; Kelly Craft, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; and Matthew Pottinger, who recently resigned as deputy national security adviser. Former national security adviser John Bolton and former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon were also included.

The sanctions prohibit those individuals and their immediate family members from entering mainland China, Hong Kong and Macao. They are also restricted from doing business with China, as are any companies or institutions associated with them.

“Over the past few years, some anti-China politicians in the United States, out of their selfish political interests and prejudice and hatred against China and showing no regard for the interests of the Chinese and American people, have planned, promoted and executed a series of crazy moves which have gravely interfered in China’s internal affairs, undermined China’s interests, offended the Chinese people, and seriously disrupted China-U.S. relations,” the ministry said.

The move comes just one day after Pompeo issued a forceful statement accusing China of committing genocide against Muslim Uighurs and other minority groups in its Xinjiang region, for which the U.S. sanctioned several Chinese officials in July. That was one of numerous instances of sanctions, visa bans and trade restrictions imposed on Chinese politicians and Communist Party officials in the Trump administration’s final year.

Relations between the U.S. and China deteriorated considerably under the previous administration, which took an unusually confrontational approach. Pompeo and other officials referred to China as constituting America’s greatest threat, as NPR’s John Ruwitch has reported.

In fact, Bolton appeared to celebrate the sanction against him, calling it “great news” in a tweet posted Wednesday afternoon.

“I accept this prestigious recognition of my unrelenting efforts to defend American freedom,” he wrote.

It is unclear what changes Biden plans, but Ruwitch noted, “Even if the Biden team moves swiftly to put the U.S.-China relationship back on a less antagonistic track, Beijing will be wary after the dramatic changes of the past four years.”

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Expert Committee appointed to report on gold, copper and iron ore deposits



By Ifham Nizam

Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweeera yesterday appointed an expert committee to conduct a scientific study on the Seruwawila gold, copper and iron ore deposits.

With iron ore prices skyrocketing worldwide and both neighbouring giant India and China having huge demands, Sri Lanka was keen on tapping natural resources, an official said.  

The committee will be coordinated by an Additional Secretary to the Ministry and will be chaired by Prof. Athula Senaratne of the University of Peradeniya and its other members are H W. Navaratne, Dr. Stalin Fernando, Dr. Bernard Perera, Dr. C.H.K.R. Siriwardena and Dr. O.K. Dissanayake.

Amaraweera, addressing the media, at his Ministry yesterday said the mineral deposit had been explored in the 1970s with the help of technology available at that time, and it had been found that there was iron, copper as well as a certain amount of gold in the Seruwawila deposit.

As today’s excavation technology was very advanced, it was possible to dig up to 250-300 metres, the Minister said.

The Minister also said that all possible steps would be taken to increase the value of the mineral resources through value addition locally to ensure higher prices.



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