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Interdiction of four cops over alleged assault: CI asks why Police Legal Division won’t represent them

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…finds fault with Inspectors’ Association, too

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Chief Inspector Linton de Silva yesterday (5) questioned the rationale in law enforcement officers interdicted over unsubstantiated accusations being deprived of assistance through the Police Legal Division.

The veteran investigator said that he was struggling to meet legal costs after he was interdicted along with three police constables on February 26, within 24 hours after a law student Migara Gunaratne accused them of assaulting him at the Kelaniya Divisional Criminal Investigation Detective Bureau located at the Peliyagoda police station.

CI de Silva also questioned how the Inspectors’ Association turned a blind eye to the plight of him and the three constables interdicted without an inquiry.

“We were denied a fair inquiry. I’m quite ashamed of the way the police reacted to unfounded accusations,” De Silva said, underscoring the need to review the entire process.

Responding to another query, the officer said that he believed the Public Security Ministry would take tangible measures in that regard.

The officer also said that the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL), should inquire into the case as Migara Gunaratne entered the police station identifying himself as an attorney-at-law though he was only a final year law student.

Acknowledging that there was a spate of accusations in respect of the police conduct, the investigator emphasized those being accused, too, should receive a fair hearing.

The CCD took over the controversial investigation from the SIU amidst accusations the policemen hadn’t been treated justly.

The officer emphasized that by preventing them from seeking assistance from the Police Legal Division their Department found them guilty before the conclusion of the ongoing proceedings at the Magistrate’s court (no 05) at Hulftsdorp.

 According to statements recorded by the police inquiring into the incident at the Peliyagoda police station, the special unit led by CI de Silva had arrested eight persons wanted for cheating people. The arrested included four Nigerians, two Uzbekistan women and a local couple. Having obtained Detention Orders in respect of the eight, the investigators acting on the information obtained from those detained, on Feb 25 arrested three others. Their arrests led to the recovery of over Rs. 8 mn whereas investigations revealed the existence of a covert operation that facilitated the transferring of money collected here through illegitimate means to Dubai. Of the recovered money, over Rs 7.5 mn had been hidden in the ceiling. The police identified a Canada based person who played a major role in the operation.

 Since the interdiction of four policemen, those arrested on Feb 25th along with money had been given bail.

 CI de Silva said that the gang had duped gullible persons using social media platforms. Attorney-at-law Charitha Gunaratne had visited the Peliyagoda police station with the wife and two children of one of the suspects arrested on March 23. The lawyer’s brother, Migara, despite only being a final year law student had arrived there subsequently identifying himself as an attorney-at-law.

 CI de Silva has told investigators that he rushed to the Duty Officer’s room after hearing loud noises. Duty Officer, a Sub Inspector has alleged that Migara Gunaratne handed over his hand phone to one of the Uzbek women in custody and when CI de Silva inquired why he did so and demanded that he hands over the phone immediately, the law student pushed the officer. The officers present therein had exercised their right to use force to arrest the suspect and recover the phone.

The police later produced Migara Gunaratne before Judicial medical Officer, Ragama who after having examined the law student stated that he suffered minor injury.

CI de Silva alleged that subsequently, Migara Gunaratne posted a picture of himself with a quite serious looking injury on his face. However, before the law student accompanied by police left for Ragama Hospital, a policeman had taken a picture with minor injury on his face, CI de Silva said.

Having followed proper procedures in bringing the situation to relevant authorities, the four interdicted police officers are awaiting the outcome of the investigations.

In respect of three constables, Kelaniya ASP (1) can decide to reinstate them whereas the decision on the CI rests on Senior DIG Deshabandu Tennakoon, in charge of the Western Province.

CI de Silva has initiated the investigation following instructions received from SSP Roshan Dias. SSP Dias has ordered an investigation after a young couple duped by a person to the tune of Rs. 1.4 mn after promising them USD 80,000 from a foreign party. The arrest of four Nigerians and two Uzbek women followed leading to the arrest of three more influential persons on Feb 23 and 25, respectively.



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Was six-week delay in using Chinese vaccine deliberate asks State Minister

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‘Who accepts responsibility for deaths due to delay in inoculation’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Urban Development, Coast Conservation, Waste Disposal and Community Cleanliness State Minister Dr Nalaka Godahewa yesterday (13) questioned the failure on their part to administer 600,000 Chinese Sinopharm vaccines while the ground situation deteriorated.

Addressing the media at his ministry, Dr. Godahewa said that delaying the use of the stock donated by China was an unfortunate lapse.

Sri Lanka received the stock on March 31 whereas the government finally gave the go ahead to use it only on May 8.

Responding to media queries, Dr. Godahewa said that stakeholders had been engaged in a debate without using the available vaccines. The State Minister questioned the rationale in delaying tactics while asking whether the delay was deliberate.

The State Minister asked who would accept the responsibility for the deaths of people who were deprived of available vaccines with the government. If those responsible for the entire vaccination process used Sinopharm, the country could have secured additional stocks from China. The State Minister addressed the media in the wake of the country recording cumulative death toll of nearly 900 with over 2000 new cases being reported on a daily basis.

AstraZeneca and Sputnik procured from India and Russia, respectively, were administered within 24 hours after receiving them whereas the Chinese vaccine stock was held up for six weeks.

Acknowledging the delay on the part of the government, Dr. Godahewa said that the vaccination drive was underway.

Blaming the delay on those who found fault with the Chinese vaccines, Dr. Godahewa claimed that strong critic and Samagi Jana Balavegaya MP Harin Fernando was among the recipients of Chinese vaccine. According to the State Minister over 280mn doses of Chinese vaccine had been used so far as the world struggled to cope up with the raging pandemic.

Dismissing Opposition allegations of political interference in Covid-19 strategy, Dr Godahewa emphasized that the health authorities should take final decisions. The government wouldn’t interfere with health authorities, the Minister said, alleging that the Opposition played politics with the Chinese vaccine.

Dr Godahewa said that Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa sought meetings with representatives of countries soon after he received information on the government of Sri Lanka receiving assistance from those countries.

The State Minister explained how President Gotabaya Rajapaksa played a significant role in the overall government effort to procure much needed assistance from overseas.

Acknowledging shortcomings in the government response to the daunting Covid-19 challenge, Dr. Godahewa questioned the Opposition strategy. Challenging the Opposition response to the pandemic, Dr Godahewa asked whether they built up public opinion against the vaccination programme.

Dr. Godahewa said that in spite of the setback suffered by the vaccination project, the government was able to secure vaccines from China and Russia.

The State Minister said that the fast spreading epidemic was quite a challenge and efforts were being made to bring the situation under control.

The State Minister said that countrywide lockdowns would help control the situation. However, there was no consensus on the matter. Those who earned daily wages opposed lockdowns, the State Minister said, adding that whatever the outcome the final decision on such matters should be taken by health authorities.

Authoritative sources said that while Chinese vaccine stock remained unused, the government administered 927,000 of 1,264,000 covishield (500,000 doses free, 500,000 paid for and the rest through UN’s covax facility) till April 6. Sources pointed out if the Chinese vaccine was used, the country wouldn’t have to experience a shortfall of over 600,000 covishield doses for those who received the first jab.

The National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA) is the authority for approving the use of medicine.

Controversy surrounds the government decision not to administer Sputnik V and Sinopharm for those over 60 though covishield was made available without any age-related restrictions.

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Customs seize 200 mn sticks of foreign cigarettes hidden in 21 containers

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By Prabhath Withana

Customs officials had seized over 200 million sticks of foreign cigarettes worth over nine billion rupees hidden in 21 containers, Customs Department sources said.

The Compliance and Facilitation Division of the Customs Departments investigated the 21 containers that had been marked as ‘Ceylon Black Tea’ and sent from the United Arab Emirates. The containers had been marked for re-exporting to countries such as the Netherlands, Germany, the United Kingdom, customs sources said, adding that the investigators found that forged shipping documents had been made for the containers. A name and address of a Sri Lankan tea company had been mentioned in the documents as the re-exporter.

It has also found that 12 other containers had been re-routed using similar documents from Colombo Port to countries including Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, France, the United Kingdom and Bangladesh, the customs sources said.

The Customs officials had contacted the names of foreign companies included in the documents but found that they were not aware of the fact that their names had been forged. The customs officials are planning to further investigate the matter with the assistance of international customs officials.

Further investigations are in progress under the guidance of Customs Director General Maj Gen (retd) G.V. Ravipriya by Customs Director Harsha Jayatilake, Deputy Customs Directors Dappula Arewatte and Wijearatne Bandara.

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Kiriella calls for suspending development projects and channeling funds to buy vaccines

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By Saman Indrajith

Chief Opposition Whip Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella yesterday called on the government to accelerate procuring Covid-preventing vaccines, and if the latter could not find money it had to channel funds allocated for development projects by suspending them for six months.

Addressing the media, at the Opposition Leader’s office in Colombo MP Kiriella said that the pandemic situation in the country was worsening by the day, and the health experts had issued warnings that Sri Lanka found find itself in the same predicament as India.

“Bodies are floating in the Ganges. The bodies are salvaged and dragged ashore using fishing nets there. We hope and pray that such a calamity may not befall this nation. We are ready to support the government to come out of this crisis and save the country from catastrophe. Yet, the government is not ready to listen. For example, our leader Sajith Premadasa who issued the first warning in Parliament and asked the government to take actions against the pandemic. The government did not listen to him but sough to ridicule us.

“We are telling the government to accelerate the inoculation process. That is the best way out. The government did not take the vaccination process seriously. Instead, it turned to alternatives such as throwing pots into the rivers, drinking herbal concoctions and ritualistic ceremonies such as Bali and Thovil. Even the Speaker in Parliament drank the Dhammika Peniya (syrup) in front of the media and recommended it as the medicine for the coronavirus. We must learn from such mistakes. We must expedite the procurement of vaccines. The government purchased only 500,000 doses. It received a donation of 900,000 vaccines. We have 22 million people. Suppose we use only the vaccines that require double doses, then we need 44 million vaccines. We still have only 1.3 million. The government should make purchases now. If it does not have funds, it should suspend the development projects for six months and use the funds so saved to buy vaccines. We know that the government has no funds. The same happened for the fertiliser relief. The government did not have funds to make purchases so it could not give the fertilisers to farmers and their solution was to ban chemical fertilisers and promote alternatives.

“We call on the government to permit the private sector to import vaccines under a regulated mechanism without letting the importers earn unreasonable profits capitalizing on the misery of people.

“At a discussion the President had with a group of villagers, he was requested to provide a PCR machine to their hospital. The president then said that the PCRs would not be needed as the vaccination had started and all people would be vaccinated. Now, three months have lapsed, and the people are without either a PCR machine or the vaccine. People in the Kandy District have not got the vaccine yet. There is only a single PCR for the entire Central Province – that is the one at the Kandy Hospital. We do not know what has been done with the funds allocated for the health sector procurement. We repeat that vaccination is the only solution.

“There was a presidential task force to formulate a strategy to tackle the pandemic. Its chief went overseas two days ago. Are these the examples set by the rulers to people? Now, it is said that he went abroad for treatment. What about the doctors in this country? What’s wrong with them? When Lalith Athulathmudali was wounded severely by a bomb attack the then government offered to take him to the US and made arrangements to treat him there. Yet, Lalith rejected that offer and said that he trusted Lankan doctors.”

Matale SJB MP Rohini Kaviratne also addressed the press.

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