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Lawyer Hizbulla, Madrasa principal remanded



By A. J. A. Abeynayake

Lawyer Hejaaz Hizbullah, accused of aiding and abetting the Easter Sunday bombers and engaging in activities deemed detrimental to the religious harmony, and Principal of Al-Zuhriya Arabic College in Puttalam, Mohommad Shakeel were remanded till 03 March by Fort Magistrate, Priyantha Liyanage.

Hizbullah was a board member of Shakeel’s school.Deputy Solicitor General Dileepa Peiris told the court that the suspects had lured 56 young boys from poor families by promising to make them moulavis; 26 of the children were from Colombo and its suburbs. The boys had been trained to become extremists in the mould of NTJ leader Zahran Hashim, the court was told.

Magistrate Liyanage remanded the two, based on the DSG’s statement.The Deputy Solicitor General told the court that the real intentions of the suspects had been revealed by the evidence given by the boys who studied at the madrasa. The boys were between the ages of five and 14. Sarah Jasmin, who fled the country after the attack, had also been involved in teaching extremism for the students, he said.Deputy Solicitor General told the court that a number of individuals who took part in the Easter Sunday attacks, including Zahran Hashim and his brother Rilwan had visited the school, brainwashed the boys and trained them as militants.The suicide bomber who blew himself up at Cinnamon Grand was a Treasurer of Save the Pearls Organization headed by Hizbullah. The suicide bomber had spent a large amount of money on the organisation and also bought it a land encompassing 108 perches at Madurankuliya, Peiris said.The Save the Pearls Organization had also received Rs. 27.6 million from a Qatar-based organization, linked to extremism, the Deputy Solicitor General said. A separate inquiry had already commenced under the Money Laundering Act, he said, adding that 16 boys who underwent military training and indoctrination classes at the school had already given statements to the court and investigation officers.Deputy Solicitor General added that an organised group had visited the majority of the children and taken affidavits claiming that their statements given to investigators had not been made voluntarily. He said that threats and inducements had been used to obtain the affidavits.

The AG had instructed investigators to arrest the suspects and produce them in court after studying over 1,200 pages of investigation documents, Peiris said. The AG also felt that a case could be charged against the suspects, Peiris said.Deputy Solicitor General said that attempting to create religious and ethnic animosity is a serious offense and urged the court to remand them.Attorney Niran Anketell who represented Hizbullah, denied the allegations leveled against his client and said that a magistrate has no power to give a verdict on suspects arrested under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) act. Anketell added that the detention order against Hizbullah is still valid and thus the magistrate could not remand him.Anketell said that the CID had recorded more than 50 statements from Hizbullah and nearly 116 persons were given statements about the operation of the Madrasa School.”The CID had only submitted selected statements to the Court and due to that matter, the Magistrate cannot give a fair conclusion about the remand order,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Magistrate said that the CID is obligated to submit everything related to the case and directed the CID to submit a summary containing every fact reported about the case on the next hearing date.

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Massive revenue loss: Eyebrows raised over delay in responding to House query



SLPP members say sugar deal black mark on govt.

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Many an eyebrow has been raised over the delay on the part of the Finance Ministry to respond to a Finance Committee (FC) request for a comprehensive report on an alleged fraud in the controversial sugar tax revision.

Chairman of the Finance Commission Anura Priyadarshana Yapa on January 5 issued instructions to the Finance Ministry in this regard when the FC considered several special gazette notifications pertaining to the Ministry of Finance issued since October 2020.

According to the Communication Department of Parliament, MP Yapa on Feb 25 told the FC that the report called by him hadn’t been received yet. Yapa said so when State Minister Vidura Wickramanayaka and SLPP MP Nalin Fernando alleged the revision of taxes pertaining to the import of sugar hadn’t benefitted the consumers at all and only caused loss of revenue to the State. Severe criticism of the revision of sugar taxes was nothing but a black mark on the government.

Asked whether the report had been received since the issue at hand was taken up on Feb 25, the former Minister said that the FC answered in the negative.

Yapa told the last FC meeting that the Department of Import Control should be able to submit analytical comments with data on the relevant gazette amendments. Having approved the regulations issued on that day in respect of the issuance of licenses for the import of brown sugar, the FC recommended that a full explanation be given on March 09 with the participation of all relevant Ministries and Institutions.

Parliament is scheduled to meet on March 9.

Yapa is on record as having told the FC on January 5 though the tax on imported sugar was revised downwards to 25 cents from Rs. 50.00 per kilogram through the Gazette Notification No. 2197/12 issued by the Ministry of Finance on 13th October 2020, the move did not benefit the consumers at all.

JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake lambasted the government over what he called a massive sugar scam that caused losses amounting to Rs 10 bn. In addition to the JVP, the SJB and UNP flayed the government over the corrupt deal. Dissanayake questioned the rationale in increasing the tax on sugar from Rs 33 to Rs 50 on May 23, 2020 and then bringing it down steeply to 25 cents on Oct 13, 2020. Dissanayake said that at that time the tax was brought down to 25 cents, there had been 90,000 metric tonnes of imported sugar in the country. Having reduced the sugar tax to 25 cents, the government directed that a kilo of sugar be sold at Rs 85, MP Dissanayake said.

The JVPer alleged that subsequently, when the government wanted to increase the sugar tax by Rs 40, Commerce Minister Bandula Gunawardena said that once imposed tax couldn’t be altered for a month, hence the decision to continue with 25 cents tax till Nov 13, 2020.

MP Dissanayake on Dec 12, 2020 named all those involved in the sugar scam.

Lawmaker Dissanayake said that the country suffered massive losses due to corrupt sugar deals. Those who suspended imports claiming the country faced severe foreign exchange crisis allowed massive corruption at the expense of the national economy.

Dissanayake said that last year alone at least 73,000 metric tonnes were imported at 25 cents tax.

He pointed out that the Treasury was responsible for facilitating sweet deals at the expense of the national economy. The revenue which should have been received by the government ended up with racketeers, Dissanayake lambasted the government for allowing its cronies to flourish.

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JVP expresses solidarity with Black Sunday campaign



The JVP-led NPP yesterday expressed solidarity with the Black Sunday campaign seeking justice for the Easter Sunday carnage victims.

A statement issued by the party said that the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Easter Sunday carnage had released its report but the general consensus was that the inquiry had failed to bring justice. The PCoI report had only made the matter complex by creating some more puzzles instead of identifying the masterminds of the terror strikes.

The JVP has said Sri Lankans will never forget the Easter Sunday terror attacks of 2019 where nearly 300 perished and more than 500 others were wounded and became disabled for the rest of their lives. It is no secret that it was the failure on the part of the previous government to prevent the attacks that led to the destruction of lives and properties. The appointment of the commissions to investigate the incident was the only response of the former and incumbent governments. It is now clear that the commission has failed to identify the masterminds, owing to political reasons. Demanding justice is a human right. The Catholic Church has called on people to mark the coming Sunday as a day of agitation, demanding justice. We, of the NPP, extend our fullest support for the campaign and urge the law enforcing agencies to take action without further delay to bring about the masterminds and offenders of the crime, the statement has said.

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Iranaitivu islanders protest against burying of coronavirus victims there



By Rathindra Kuruwita

Residents of Iranaitivu Island yesterday forcibly filled up the burial sites prepared for those who had died from COVID-19 and held a demonstration against burying coronavirus victims on the island.

The protesters claimed that the media had reported those who died from COVID-19 would be buried on the island and that some group had already prepared a burial site. However, the residents of the island had not been consulted, they said.

They claimed that even during the war they had fought for the right to live on the island and they were opposed to the decision taken by the government to bury COVID-19 victims on the island.

 The protesters claimed that it was a cunning plan by the government to drive in a wedge between Christians and Muslims in the area. The government should have earmarked a deserted island for that purpose, they said. The protest was led by Christian religious leaders and local politicians. 

Iranaitivu is situated 10 km from Mannar and can only be accessed by boat. Cabinet Spokesman, Minister Keheliya Rambukwelle said that it was not a political decision and that health experts had taken it after careful consideration. He added that a vehicle especially made for this would be used to transport bodies to the island. This vehicle would include a freezer and the driver would be isolated from the bodies. Two family members would also be allowed to attend the funeral.



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