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Editorial

Kings, cops and cat on rock

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Monday 12th October, 2020

Some of the present-day leaders seem to believe that they are the reincarnations of ancient warrior kings. A few moons ago, they unveiled a plan to establish that King Ravana was the world’s first aviator and trace his aviation routes. Mythical King Ravana has been ‘more sinned against than sinning’ and, therefore, researchers may be justified in trying to prove that he existed and was in a league of his own as an inventor, and not a wicked monarch. Our leaders, however, have not realised that they have already proved, through their conduct, that another king, who is thought to be only a character in folk stories, actually lived in this country. They have also succeeded in establishing the survival of the royal bloodline; they are unarguably the descendants of King Kekille, who punished the innocent and released the guilty in the cases he heard.

SSP Jaliya Senaratne, who was removed from the post of Police Spokesman, the other day, over his statements about former Minister Rishad Bathiudeen’s brother, Riyaj, who was arrested, detained, and released, has been transferred to Kankesanthurai, reportedly on disciplinary grounds, or, in other words, he has been given a punishment transfer. Interestingly, when the police arrested Bathiudeen’s brother, they insisted that he had associated with one of the Easter Sunday bombers. SSP Senaratne only announced their findings. Ex-Army Chief General Mahesh Senanayake, under whose command, the army crushed the National Thowheed Jamaath terror outfit, in the immediate aftermath of the Easter Sunday attacks, has recently told the Presidential Commission of Inquiry probing the Easter Sunday carnage that Riyaj helped Zahran flee the country, in 2018. One hundred SLPP MPs have written to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, protesting against the release of Riyaj. Attorney General (AG) Dappula de Livera has summoned the CID chief over the release of Riyaj, and they are scheduled to meet today. SSP Senaratne, who made a U-turn recently in a bid to help the government avoid a damaging loss of face, has been given a punishment transfer obviously at the behest of King Kekille’s descendants! Other police officers ought to learn from what has befallen their colleague, and refrain from offering their services as ventriloquists’ dummies to their political masters who do not hesitate to sacrifice them.

SLPP MP and former Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, PC has recently told the media that some invisible forces are controlling the police. He has cited the release of Bathiudeen’s brother as an example. The SLPP MPs who have signed the aforesaid letter to the PM are engaged in an exercise in damage control. They would have the public believe that the police, on their own, released Bathiudeen’s brother. But an Opposition politician or his brother taken into custody over his alleged involvement in terrorism never gets released without the blessings of the government leaders, who are notorious for political deals. It is up to the AG to find out who actually ordered the release of Bathiudeen’s brother. (A senior police officer nearing retirement may be able to take the blame and get appointed as an ambassador.)

The President’s Media Division (PMD) thinks Riyaj’s release has been given a media twist. (Two-thirds of the government MPs—100 out of 150—believe his release was wrong!) It has taken exception to views expressed in our editorial, Lajja, on 06 Oct. An official attached to the PMD says, in a letter published on the opposite page, today, that MP Bathiudeen has not expressed his support for 20A; he has only said certain clauses therein are unacceptable to his party, and a final decision thereon will be taken on the day of voting in Parliament. Bathiudeen is too smart to declare, in public, he will vote for 20A and, thereby, make it obvious that he has struck a deal with the government. One may recall that the government has undertaken, before the Supreme Court, to effect changes to 20A, at the committee stage, in Parliament, and Bathiudeen can say that the amended version of 20A is acceptable to his party and vote for it. We will see this happen when 20A is put to the vote in Parliament. Government leaders and Bathiudeen, as we said in an editorial, know more than one way to shoe a horse.

True, the SLPP has won elections without the help of Bathiudeen, as the PMD official says, but the fact remains that it tried its best to secure his support in Parliament, in 2018, to muster a simple majority in the House, having forcibly formed a government. Today, the SLPP is desperate for numbers in Parliament, again, to have its 20A passed with a two-thirds majority. It will have to engineer several crossovers, and Bathiudeen with five MPs is an easy target.

Following the release of Bathidueen’s brother, thanks to the intervention of invisible forces, as Dr. Rajapakshe has said, the government finds itself in the same predicament as the proverbial cat, which defecated on a rock and did its darndest to cover it up without any success. Let the government propagandists who are trying to defend the indefensible by trying to justify the release of Bathiudeen’s brother and claiming that it has nothing to do with a deal between Bathiudeen and the government be told that what they are doing is like giving a helping hand to the struggling cat on the rock. They cannot dupe the discerning public.



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Editorial

A tall tale told by cops

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Saturday 10th April, 2021

Thousands of military personnel who died in the line of duty to make this country safe would turn in their graves if they knew the way the state is treating their loved ones. Their widows and mothers were seen recently staging street protests in a bid to have some grievances redressed. On Thursday, while they were conducting a peaceful march from the Fort Railway station to the Presidential Secretariat, demanding that they be paid their spouses’ salaries instead of pensions until the time when their husbands would have reached the retirement age. Ven. Jamurewela Chandrarathana, described as the chief organiser of the event, and another person were arrested and subsequently granted police bail. The police claimed that the arrests had been made over a stone attack on two of their vehicles. This, we believe, is a tall tale.

No one in his proper senses dares to hurl stones at a police vehicle in full view of heavily armed cops, and run the risk of having to keep staring at the ceiling of an orthopaedic ward for weeks, if not months. There have been instances where even protesting students had their limbs broken and skulls cracked at the hands of the police riot squads. So, only agents provocateurs working for the government will carry out a stone attack on the police.

Two stone throwers, caught by some members of the public and handed over to the police, on Thursday, vanished while in police custody, only Chandrarathana Thera and another person were taken to a nearby police station, according to the organisers of the protest. This is a very serious allegation, which must not go uninvestigated. One of the attackers is seen in the CCTV footage of the incident, and the bold manner in which he threw stones in a place swarming with police personnel in uniform and civvies suggests that he was confident he would not have to face the consequences of his action. If the police cannot do their job properly, they must, at least, learn how to lie convincingly!

The government says it has sorted out the issue over which the widows of the slain military personnel took to the streets, and a gazette to that effect has been put out. If it is telling the truth, then the protesters had not been informed of what it had done. Why didn’t the defence top brass invite the protesters to a discussion and inform them that their problems had been solved? In fact, the government should have solved the salary issue much earlier.

The leaders of the incumbent dispensation never miss an opportunity to boast of having ended the country’s war on terror. They, no doubt, provided unwavering political leadership for the war effort, but the fact remains that it is the military, the police including the STF, and the Civil Defence Force that made the defeat of terrorism possible. One of the main election pledges of the present government was to look after the interests of the armed forces and police personnel. Its leaders, during their Opposition days, shed copious tears for the military and the police, the slain armed forces personnel and their families and gained a lot of political mileage. They, therefore, must not wait until the family members of the late military personnel stage protests, to act, and, most of all, ensure that the latter are treated with respect.

The government claims its political opponents were behind Thursday’s protest. This claim may be true. There is hardly any issue that does not get politicised in this country. Didn’t the SLPP politicise and exploit the Easter Sunday attacks to win elections? The problem of a bunch of bankrupt politicians and publicity-crazy elements including some priests exploiting the grievances of the family members of the slain warriors to compass their selfish ends would not have arisen if the government had cared to give the protesters a patient hearing instead of unleashing the police on them.

Damaging police vehicles is a serious offence, and the duo responsible for Thursday’s stone-throwing incident can be charged under the Offences against Public Property Act and denied bail. An investigation is called for to find out why the police allowed them to escape, as alleged by the protesters.

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Editorial

Dogs, donkeys, fools and lunatics

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Friday 9th April, 2021

A heated argument between SJB MP Sarath Fonseka and Minister Chamal Rajapaksa, yesterday, plunged Parliament into turmoil with the government and Opposition MPs freely trading insults and threats across the well of the house.

All hell broke loose while the SJB was staging a protest against the unseating of its MP Ranjan Ramanayake, who is currently serving a jail term. Protests will not be of any help to Ramanayake, who is languishing in prison. Only a presidential pardon could save him. Not that everybody has welcomed his sentence, but that is the way the cookie crumbles in courts. His colleagues should have asked him to act with restraint. He kept on tearing into the judiciary unnecessarily and asked for trouble. If the SJB actually believes that Ramanayake has not ceased to be an MP, can it allow anyone else from its Gampaha list to fill the vacancy created by his removal?

The MPs of both sides, yesterday, indulged in insulting some animals as well. They were heard calling each other dog, donkey, fool and lunatic, etc. Politicians may be called fools and lunatics, but why should poor animals be insulted in this manner? Animal lovers must be at a loss to understand why some MPs flew into a rage on being called dogs and donkeys, and even threatened their rivals.

Dogs and donkeys are far superior to politicians, in many respects, so much so that one cannot but wish all people’s representatives in this country behaved in such a way as to deserve to be called dogs and donkeys.

The dog is a wonderful creature. It is known for its courage, intelligence, faithfulness, gratitude and readiness to protect its master even risking its own life. What a nice place this country would be if our representatives also had these canine traits. Blessed is a country that has courageous, faithful and grateful politicians who fiercely protect the citizenry like guard dogs. If our MPs were as faithful as canines, they would never switch their allegiance for pecuniary benefits; the problem of crossovers would cease to be.

In this country, there have been several unfortunate incidents, where some wicked humans threw their aged parents into kennels and other such places, and sniffer dogs in their twilight years, needing special care, were thrown out of the police kennels, where they were auctioned instead of being looked after in appreciation of their outstanding contribution to crimebusting. Such shocking incidents come about as humans lack canine qualities; dogs never desert those who look after them.

Sri Lankan politics is characterised by a huge trust deficit. The trustworthiness of canines has never been in question. This must have been the reason why King Matthias of Hungary (1443-1490), trusted his dogs more than his palace guards. Historians tell us that the wise monarch, troubled by intrigue and treachery in his court, which was full of greedy, unfaithful noblemen, surrounded himself with some guard dogs.

The donkey is intelligent and has an incredible memory despite popular misconceptions, according to scientists. They are also known for their ability to carry heavy loads. They coexist with other creatures. So, why should politicians with shallow minds and deep pockets and are averse to shouldering the burden of serving the taxpaying public, who maintains them, be called donkeys that carry heavy loads, expecting nothing in return?

Will our honourable representatives be so considerate as to desist from insulting dogs, donkeys and other such critters?

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Editorial

The strange case of Naufer

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Thursday 8th April, 2021

Public Security Minister, Rear Admiral (retd.) Sarath Weerasekera, would have the public believe that the Easter Sunday terror mastermind has been identified. He has said ‘Naufer Moulavi’, who masterminded the attacks, is in custody. Interestingly, not even the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI), which probed the Easter Sunday carnage, for months on end, was able to find the mastermind behind the savage terror attacks!

How can the government say with certainty that Naufer masterminded the terror attacks? True, he was the theoretician of the National Thowheed Jamaath (NTJ) led by Zahran Hashim, and played a key role in indoctrinating the NTJ cadres. He also wielded some influence on Zahran, but there were occasions when they had disagreements. Naufer was only the second in command of the NTJ, according to Chapter 16 (Profiles of Key Individuals) in the PCoI report. It is doubtful whether the NTJ theoretician would have been able to carry out a serious task like planning terror attacks. One may recall that Anton Balasingham was the theoretician of the LTTE, but Prabhakaran did not allow him to get involved in planning any terror strikes. Is it that Naufer has sought to put investigators off the scent by claiming to be the mastermind so that the real mastermind/s will be safe?

Even if it is true that Naufer masterminded the Easter Sunday attacks, it needs to be found out whether he, too, had a handler, local or foreign.

Naufer was not the only source of inspiration for Zahran, who had foreign connections. The PCoI report (page 218) quotes the then State Intelligence Service Director SDIG Nilantha Jayawardena as having said that an Indian named Abu Hind may have triggered the attacks. It says, “He [Jayawardena] went on to imply that the intelligence agencies that provided him with the intelligence on 4th, 20th and 21st April 2019 may have had a hand in the attack.” It then quotes an international expert on terrorism: “According to his [the expert’s] testimony, Abu Hind was a character created by a section of a provincial Indian intelligence apparatus. The intelligence that the Director SIS received on 4th, 20th and 21st April 2019 was from this operation, and the intelligence operative pretending to be one Abu Hind. Operatives of this outfit operate in social media pretending to be Islamic State figures. They are trained to run virtual persona …. Zahran believed Abu Hind was the Islamic State regional representative. Abu Hind was in touch with both Zahran and his brother Rilwan and had spoken to Naufer. This part of evidence is confirmed by Hadiya [Zahran’s wife].” The PCoI, however, says in its report that it has not found any foreign link as regards the Easter Sunday attacks; it has, however, recommended that ‘certain identified parties’ be further investigated. Has any such investigation been conducted?

The PCoI has sought to justify its conclusion that there was no foreign involvement in the Easter Sunday attacks in the light of the fact that none of the key witnesses who said they suspected a foreign link failed to furnish credible evidence to support their claims. The PCoI, therefore, has dismissed their assertions as mere ipse dixits. For reasons best known to itself, it chose to stop at that.

According to the PCoI report, the witnesses who either expressly or impliedly said there had been a foreign link were Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, former President Maithripala Sirisena, former Minister Rauff Hakeem, former Minister Rishad Bathiudeen, MP Mujibur Rahuman, former Governor Asath Salley, former Director SIS SDIG Nilantha Jayawardena, former STF Commandant SDIG (retd.) M. R. Latiff, former Chief of Defence Staff Admiral (retd.) Ravindra Wijegunaratne, DIG/CID (retd.) Ravi Seneviratne and former CID Director Shani Abeysekera. They may not have made irresponsible statements before the PCoI. So, the need for a thorough probe into the NTJ’s foreign links to find out whether there was an external hand in the Easter Sunday attacks cannot be overemphasied.

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