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HRCSL recommends guidelines on regularising quarantine processes

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…acknowledges need to restrict movements et al

Acknowledging the need to restrict freedom of movement and liberty of people in the interests of public health and public order during an extraordinary health emergency such as that facing the country at present, the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) has in a letter addressed to Health Minister Pavitra Wanniarachchi and Army Commander Lt. Gen. Shavendra Silva, head of the National Operations Centre for Prevention of COVID 19 Outbreak, made a series of recommendations to address public concerns.

HRCSL Commissioner Ramani Muttettuwegama said that the Commission appreciated the efforts that were being made to curb the rapid spread of COVID-19 in the country. The Commissioner said: “The Commission continues to recognise the need to restrict freedom of movement and liberty of people in the interests of public health and public order during an extraordinary health emergency such as that facing the country at present. The Commission has observed that a large number of persons have been subject to quarantine processes in view of the resurgence of the fear of spread of COVID-19 pandemic and has received a variety of complaints and expressions of concerns relating to the process.”

The Commissioner said: “The Commission has observed that a large number of persons have been subject to quarantine processes in view of the resurgence of the fear of spread of COVID-19 pandemic and has received a variety of complaints and expressions of concerns relating to the process. In this regard, the Commission welcomes confirmation that first contacts of the COVID-19 infected patients who were earlier sent to quarantine centres, will now be home quarantined. We are in agreement that quarantining persons to their home will be the best option.

Since it is incumbent on the Commission under Act No. 21 of 1996 to examine whether restrictions on liberty are compatible with our Constitution and international human rights obligations, having given due consideration to the concerns expressed by the general public, the Commission presents the following guidelines:”

The Commission is of the view that the quarantine process can be regularized under the law by:

(i) Transparency in delegation of powers by the “Proper Authority”;

(ii) Vest powers of testing on designated qualified personnel;

(iii) List the places designated as quarantine centres and the designating authority.

(iv) Clarify the period of required quarantining.

(v) Create a receipt system for quarantined persons including the reason for quarantine, the place they are being taken to and the length of isolation;

(vi) External scrutiny of quarantine centres, especially by the “proper authority”;

(vii) Prohibit those handling quarantine from informing the media of the proposed quarantining efforts, exposing those being quarantined to public gaze as though they were offenders rather than unfortunate victims of a virulent virus.

The Commission is also of the view the hardships imposed by the quarantining process can be ameliorated by:

(i) Ensuring quarantined period is considered paid/ duty leave;

(ii) Ensuring financial or any other assistance to families of those in quarantine;

(iii) The Grama Niladhari be immediately informed when a person is quarantined;

(iv) In the circumstances where the vulnerable dependents in the families are left behind due to quarantine process, the Grama Niladhari to ensure provision of all necessary support to vulnerable persons including alerting the proper authorities.

The Commission wishes to emphasize that nothing in these recommendations should be construed by any member of the public to act contrary to health guidelines issued by the public health authorities in regard to the COVID 19 pandemic or act in a manner that would be harmful to public health in general. The Commission also reiterates that placing the persons of first contact with COVID 19 patients under home quarantine will remove most of the concerns listed above but is issuing these recommendations in the event the  government wishes to establish quarantine processes again in the future.

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Foreign force behind Easter Sunday attacks – Sirisena

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

A powerful foreign country or an agency was behind the Easter Sunday bombings and the National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) leader Zaharan Hashim, former President Maithripala Sirisena yesterday told the PCoI investigating the Easter Sunday attacks.

“I also do not believe that Zaharan was the leader of that organisation. Because a leader would never have initiated a suicide attack and died during the first wave,” Sirisena said.

The former President also said that Islamic extremism had spread rapidly in the country due to the support extremists received from Muslim politicians.

Sirisena also said that the military and intelligence officials had been demoralised by harassment they suffered during the yahaalanaya administration. This was the reason why local institutions failed to uncover NTJ’s plans. “But this incident is a conspiracy because it appeared that Zaharan was being manipulated by some foreign hand,” the former President said.

The President further said that during the previous administration, UNPers had headed the Ministry of Law and Order for several years that they had significantly weakened the intelligence services. Although he had taken the Ministry of law and Order in the last stages of the yahapalana government, he had not been able to undo the damage the UNP had done in four years, the witness said.

Commissioner: “Did you know that during your tenure as President, Muslim MPs and ministers were forcible acquiring land in Vanni and Batticaloa and they were constructing Muslim villages and mosques there?”

Sirisena: “Some ministers used their political power to clear forests and cultivate lands. Some ministers were angry with me when I tried to stop them. I tried hard to control those actions. But it was difficult for me to deal with that situation. Fundamentalism rose due to the protection given by Muslim political leaders. Certain political parties are based on religion, race and language. This is disastrous. I tried to stop these people but my decisions were not implemented.”

 

 

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Bathiudeen granted bail

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Former Minister Rishad Bathiudeen was released on bail by the Fort Magistrate’s Court yesterday. Fort Magistrate Priyantha Liyanage released Bathiudeen on cash bail of Rs. 100,000 with two sureties of one million rupees each.

The Magistrate also imposed a travel ban on Bathiudeen and said that the guarantors should be his close relatives.

The Magistrate granted bail to the MP considering the risk of him contracting COVID-19 as two inmates in cells next to his had recently tested positive for coronavirus.

Bathiudeen was remanded in connection with alleged misappropriation of public funds during the last presidential election to transport voters.

The former minister has been accused of misusing 222 buses owned by the SLTB for transporting internally displaced persons from Puttalam to polling stations in Silavathurai, Mannar during the 2019 Presidential Election. Two others, Mohamed Yaseen Samsudeen and Alagarathnam Manoranjan face the same charges.

They have allegedly violated Article 82(1) of Presidential Elections Act, No. 15 of 1981 by misappropriating public funds amounting to Rs. 9.5 million.

Bathiudeen was arrested at an apartment complex at Ebenezer Place in Dehiwala in the early hours of October 19. He was then produced before the court and placed under remand custody. His bail application was also rejected by the magistrate’s court on several occasions

 

 

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Zahran supported Sirisena and SLMC at 2015 elections, Hizbullah tells PCoI

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

National Thawheed Jamaat (NTJ) and its leader Zahran Hashim supported Former President Maithripala Sirisena and the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) at the 2015 elections, former Eastern Province Governor M.L.A.M Hizbullah, on Tuesday night, told the PCoI probing the Easter Sunday attacks.

Hizbullah was giving evidence before the PCoI for the second day.

“Zahran supported the SLMC at the 2015 general election. After the UNP-led coalition won the election, NTJ members fought with our supporters. Several people were injured during the clash, including Zahran’s brother. SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem visited Zahran’s brother at the hospital.”

The witness also submitted a footage of a demonstration opposite NTJ Headquarters in Kattankudy. It contained a speech by Zahran, who expressed his dismay after Sirisena appointed Hizbullah as a national list MP.

“In this video, Zahran clearly says he supported Maithripala Sirisena at the 2015 presidential election. Zahran also says he sent a fax to the former President, urging him not to appoint me to Parliament.”

However, it was earlier revealed that in 2015, representatives of five recognised political parties, including the UPFA and the UNP, had signed agreements with Zahran in the run-up to the 2015 general election. Representatives of Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC,) Democratic Party, UNP, UPFA and National Front for Good Governance (NFGG), too, had signed agreements with Zahran in exchange for NTJ support, the Commission was told.

Hizbullah, on Monday, admitted that his party had also signed an agreement with the NTJ.

“Zahran told social media that he would support any politician who agreed to his proposals. All the parties joined him. I also went along.”

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