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Internal Security Minister says Rishad’s brother will be arrested again if there is fresh evidence

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by Saman Indrajith

The release of former minister Rishad Bathiudeen’s brother Riyaj arrested in connection with the Easter Sunday carnage did not mean that he had been cleared of all charges, Irrigation and State Minister of Internal Security, Home Affairs and Disaster Management Chamal Rajapaksa told Parliament yesterday.

The Minister said that the suspect would be taken into custody if new evidence linked to him surfaced.

Responding to a question raised by SJB Badulla District MP Chaminda Wijesiri, the minister said that Riyaj had been taken into custody on April 14, this year on suspicion of the latter’s connections with Insaf Ahmed, the terrorist who blew himself up at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel in Colombo during the Easter Sunday terror attacks. “There were 17 calls made by the suspect to the terrorist. The suspect had been detained under the provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act for three days for questioning and thereafter obtained the permission of courts twice for three months each. The investigators have found that the suspect and the terrorists had no terror links. The calls had been made for business purposes. There is no evidence to prove that the suspect aided and abetted the terrorist to carry out the attacks, and, therefore he was released on Sept 29, 2020. The last call was three months prior to the attacks. However, if there is new evidence, he will be arrested again,” the Minister said

MP Wijesiri said that when the suspect was nabbed, the police spokesman stated that the police had evidence to prove that the suspect aided and abetted the terrorists by transporting explosives. The MP said, “Now, after a couple of months, the same police spokesman says that there is no evidence. Which statement are we to believe? Imagine the plight of the person who was under custody if he is innocent and the ordeal he had undergone. What action would the government take against the policeman whose double standard on the matter is exposed?”

Rajapaksa said that it was his opinion that the police spokesman should have waited till the investigations were over to make a statement. “The spokespersons are trying to put up media circuses so they state whatever is told to them.”

Minister Rajapaksa said that 130 employees in public institutions and statutory institutions had been interrogated as regards the Easter Sunday terror attack. After interrogations it had been found that some of them were innocent or that there was no evidence to prove those suspects had links to the terrorists. They had been released. Ten employees in public institutions and statutory institutions had been arrested on terror charges.

Minister Rajapaksa said: “Cases are pending before courts against some of them. Some have been released. With regard to some others in custody, the police have sought the Attorney General’s instructions. They will be dealt with in accordance with instructions of the Attorney General.”

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Special COVID-19 probe crippled by infections among CCD sleuths: AG calls for new police team

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Brandix Apparel Limited yesterday (29) said that the company would fully cooperate with relevant authorities in the investigation ordered by the Attorney General (AG). A spokesperson for the company said so when The Island sought a clarification with regard to AG Dappula de Livera, PC, directing the police to launch a criminal investigation into the alleged lapses on the part of the company as well as those officials leading to the devastating COVID-19 outbreak.

The Minuwangoda eruption, which happened in the first week of October is widely believed to be the cause of the fast expanding Peliyagoda cluster.

Asked whether the police had contacted the Brandix management as regards the investigation and sought access to Brandix management and workers at its Minuwangoda apparel manufacturing facility as well as records at the Minuwangoda facility, the spokesperson said: “We will work with the relevant authorities in this regard”.

The Colombo Crime Division (CCD) tasked with the probe has suffered a serious setback due to a section of its officers being tested positive for COVID-19. Authoritative sources said that the CCD lacked sufficient strength to carry out the investigation.

AG de Livera early this week told DIG Ajith Rohana that a progress report should be submitted to him by or before Nov. 13.

Sources said that the badly depleted CCD was not in a position to conduct the high-profile investigation, in addition to other ongoing inquiries. The AG has directed the Acting IGP to constitute a special team of law enforcement officers to conduct the investigation. Sources acknowledged the urgent need for a thorough inquiry into the far worse second corona wave. Sources said that the AG issued fresh instructions in that regard after the crisis in the CCD was brought to his notice.

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Most garment workers under self-quarantine left to fend for themselves

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

A large number of garment workers who were undergoing self-quarantine in Minuwangoda did not receive any assistance, Chamila Thushari of the Dabindu Collective, a labour organisation that works with garment workers, told The Island yesterday.

She said that those who were under self-quarantine did not have money to purchase food and even those who were willing to help could not reach them.

“Some of them have received food parcels from their work places but that is not adequate. Most others have not received any assistance. Matters will only get worse after curfew is imposed throughout the Western Province,” Thushari said.

Most of these workers are undergoing self-quarantine at their boarding places, which also house individuals who still work in garment factories. “Although there is a curfew, they can go to work. These are perfect incubators for the virus,” she said.

Thushari said that every day between 20-30 workers under self-quarantine, tested positive for COVID-19.

There were no public health inspectors to monitor the boarding houses of garment workers to ensure that COVID-19 prevention measures were being followed, she said.

“Not even Grama Niladaris visit them,” Chamila said.

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SJB requests separate seats for its dissidents

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Chief Opposition Whip and Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella has written to Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena requesting him to make arrangements to provide separate seats to the nine MPs who had voted with the government for the 20th Amendment to the Constitution recently.

The letter dated yesterday said that the SJB parliamentary group had decided to expel MPs Diana Gamage, A. Aravind Kumar, Ishak Rahuman, Faisal Cassim, H. M. M. Haris, M.S. Thowfeeq, Nazeer Ahmed, A.A.S.M. Raheem and S.M.M. Musharaf and it requests the Speaker to make separate seating arrangements for these MPs in the Chamber.

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