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Govt. Analyst, AG, Police blamed for increase in number of remandees



Prisons crisis: Prez sets record straight

Ballistic expert included in special team to conduct autopsies

By Shamindra Ferdinando

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, yesterday (10) faulted the Government Analyst’s Department, the Attorney General’s Department and the Police over the simmering crisis in the ‘prisons system.’

The President’s Office quoted President Gotabaya Rajapaksa as having said at a meeting summoned to discuss shortcomings and problems in the ‘prisons system’ that due to inordinate delay on the part of the Government Analyst, the AG and the police, a large number of suspects were held in prisons pending investigations.

The President said so when a special five-member committee headed by former High Court Judge Kusala Sarojini Weerawardena handing over an interim report on the Mahara prison riot to Justice Minister Ali Sabry. A top level CID investigation too is underway into to the prison riot.

President Rajapaksa suggested that in addition to the departments mentioned, the Prisons, the Customs and Rehabilitation, etc., should constitute a Presidential Task Force to address the issues at hand.

Justice Minister Ali Sabry, PC and Prisons Management and Prisons Rehabilitation Minister Lohan Ratwatte were among those present at the meeting.

President Rajapaksa directed relevant authorities to explore the possibility of setting up pre-fabricated buildings at locations already chosen for prisons while underscoring the urgent need for a rehabilitation project for over 12,000 prison inmates addicted to narcotics. President Rajapaksa also suggested that foreign prisons, too, should be studied as part of the overall efforts to improve conditions in the country’s jails.

All the inmates killed in Mahara prison riots were remandees.

Police spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said that they had been in remand for narcotics related offences. They were residents of Minuwangoda, Biyagama, Ja-ela, Weliweriya, Wattala-Hunupitiya, Ederamulla, Anguruwathota, Kelaniya and Sapugaskanda. The police spokesperson said that families of the dead inmates had identified the bodies.

DIG Rohana said that on a court directive the autopsies of the 11 dead would be conducted by a five-member team consisting of four consultant judicial medical officers and one ballistic expert from the Government Analyst’s Department.

Earlier in the day, DIG Rohana said that the CID inquiring into Mahara incidents had so far recorded 228 statements from Prisons officers (70), doctors (11) nurses (17) and the rest inmates.

The Mahara prison had approximately 2,800 including 600 convicts at the time of the riot.

DIG Rohana previously told a joint press briefing called by the police and the Excise Department that 72,000 persons had been arrested since 2019 November over narcotics offences.

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Pakistan Navy ship arrives in Colombo



Pakistan Navy Ship (PNS) Taimur arrived, at the port of Colombo, on a formal visit, yesterday morning (12). The visiting ship was welcomed by the Sri Lanka Navy, in compliance with naval traditions.The 134m-long ship is commanded by Captain M. Yasir Tahir and it is manned by 169 as the ship’s complement.

The Commanding Officer of PNS Taimur is scheduled to call on Commander Western Naval Area, at the Western Naval Command Headquarters, today. The ship is expected to remain in the island, until 15th August, and the crew of the ship will take part in several programmes, organized by the Sri Lanka Navy, to promote cooperation and goodwill between the two navies.

PNS Taimur is also expected to conduct a naval exercise with the Sri Lanka Navy in western seas on its departure on 15th August.

Meanwhile, PNS Tughril, an identical warship belonging to the Pakistan Navy, arrived in Sri Lanka on an official visit on 13th December 2021 and conducted a successful naval exercise with SLNS Sindurala off the western coast on 16th December. Naval exercises of this nature with regional navies will enable each partner to overcome common maritime challenges in the future, through enhanced cooperation.

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Stalin reads riot act to govt. over proposal to allow schoolchildren to work part time



By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Alliance of Trade Unions and Mass Organisations yesterday warned that the government’s decision to allow schoolchildren, between the ages of 16 and 20, to work part time, would have disastrous consequences.Addressing the media on 11 Aug., General Secretary of the Ceylon Teachers’ Union, Joseph Stalin, said that the government was planning to amend laws, allowing schoolchildren to work in the private sector for 20 hours a week.

“Now, this may look like a progressive idea. A lot of families are

struggling and if another family member can chip in, it would be a great help. I am sure a lot of children feel the same way. It is also true that there may be children who will find great jobs and horn their skills,” he said.However, these proposals have come at a time when education is in crisis and the schools are on the verge of collapse.

“During the last two and a half years, most children have learnt nothing. But children who go to elite schools are doing better. These schools have systems in place, but most others don’t. Children who do not go to tier one schools have suffered and most children who do not go to such elite schools will not find part time work that will prepare them for the jobs of the future,” he said. “It’s not easy to balance school work with vocation training, especially physically intensive work. Most people will drop out and social mobility will further stagnate. Fix the education system first and create a more level playing field,” Stalin said.

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Harsha: Will RW use Emergency to steamroller his economic reforms?



By Saman Indrajith

SJB MP Harsha de Silva yesterday asked President Ranil Wickremesinghe whether the latter was planning to use Emergency powers to suppress the people who might oppose his economic reform agenda.

“It is being asked why the government wants to continue the State of Emergency. The anti-government protesters have gone home. There is no unrest. There are those who say that the President wants to keep the Emergency laws to carry out economic reforms. Does that mean the President will use these laws to scare people into submission if they do not accept his economic reforms? I don’t think people can be intimidated. I want the President to answer this question,” he said.

MP de Silva said that the government did not have public support and that it was obvious that the spectre of the Rajapaksas was haunting the government.

“I agree that Wickremesinghe was appointed constitutionally. We have to work within the Constitution. However, the 134 votes he received on 20 July were not realistic. They have managed to manipulate the Constitution, but the government doesn’t have the support of the people. The problem is can the government win the support of the people,” he said.The SJB lawmaker added that Sri Lanka needed to restructure its debt. However, the country had not even started the process.

“One of the consultants we hired, Lazard, says that we have to start with China because it is new to debt restructuring. But we have not done so. Not only that, we have in fact started a diplomatic issue with China. What’s the front page news today? Can this government solve this sensitive international issue? Can it carry out the necessary economic reforms?” he asked.

MP de Silva said that the government had to work with the people and that it had to be honest with them. The government needed to present a common programme on which an all party government could be established.

“In 2020, we said that the government was on the wrong path and that we needed to seek IMF assistance. The government didn’t listen. We need an all-party programme to go before the IMF and get a decent deal. Today, I present to Parliament an economic recovery plan we have prepared. When we decided to throw our weight behind SLPP MP Dullas Alahapperuma, I was entrusted with the task of making an economic plan. We have run it through experts too. I ask the MPs to look at this and suggest improvements.”

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