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No eyewitnesses, but suspects in remand for three years – defence counsel



Attacks on Buddha statues case before Kegalle Trial at Bar

The accused in the case pertaining to attacks on some Buddha statues at Mawanella are completing three years in state custody, though there is not a single eyewitness who had seen any of the accused in this case attacking any of the Buddha statues. They are in remand custody without the availability of any judicial recourse to bail under the draconian provisions of the PTA, in violation of the principles laid down in the 2006 Supreme Court case of Sumanadasa and 205 others vs Attorney General.

President’s Counsel, M M Zuhair, made these submissions Thursday (23) before the three-member Kegalle Trial at Bar, before whom 16 accused stand indicted for causing damage to Buddha statues in Mawanella and other places. 45 suspects arrested in connection with the alleged attacks in Didulwatta, Mawanella on 26th December 2018, are in remand custody, 16 of whom have been indicted before the Trial-at-Bar hearing the case.

The Kegalle High Court Trial-at-Bar comprising H C Judges Jagath Kahandagamage (Chairman), Jayaki de Alwis and Indrika Kalingawansa heard submissions that the accused who are in State custody for nearly three years be enlarged on bail and to ensure a fair trial.

We have filed a record in this case, a list of 44 cases of attacks on objects of religious worship in the country, giving the names, places and dates of such attacks. Twenty of these attacks were in 2018, before the reprehensible Didulwatte attack. Of these 20 attacks 18 were against several Mosques, 1 against a Buddha Statue and 1 against a Hindu Kovil, all in 2018 prior to the Mawanella, Didulwatta attack in December 2018.

Zuhair PC asked how the Attorney General selected, out of a large number of similar incidents in the country involving accused mostly belonging to the majority community, only the case allegedly involving minority Muslims to be indicted under the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act in the High Court and that too at a Trial-at-Bar.

The list shows, he said, nearly 58 persons were arrested, all from the majority community for the attacks on the 18 Mosques and the Malmaduwa Buddha statue in Kegalle, all of which preceded the Didulwatte incident, but all 58 suspects were soon enlarged on bail, unlike in this case.

Similarly, the list filed with the written submissions for bail in this case shows 24 attacks in 2019 and 2020 on objects and places of religious worship. 118 suspects were arrested and all of them bailed. Two of these cases were referred by Courts to Mediation Boards and settled.

None of these attacks were investigated under the PTA or prosecuted under the PTA. It is disturbing, he said, that the Attorney General has not consented to bail under the PTA for these persons in custody for three years. This is a clear case of discrimination, unequal treatment before the law and unequal protection of the law contrary to Article 12(1) and 12(2) of the Constitution. How can there be then a ‘fair trial’, a fundamental right required to be ensured by this Court by Article 13 of the Constitution? This Court is obliged not to permit the violation of the fundamental rights of the accused. This Court is mandated by Article 4 of the Constitution to “respect, secure and advance” compliance with the fundamental rights of the citizens, Zuhair PC said.

The accused in this case are also in remand without a valid judicial order contrary to the judgment of the Supreme Court in Weerawansa vs Attorney General, the President’s Counsel submitted further.

Senior State Counsel Wasantha Perera submitted that this is a case in which the accused had been conspiring over a period of time at different places in the country and that the attack had been carried out in furtherance of that conspiracy and that he objects to the accused being granted bail as the trial dates have now been scheduled. The High Court Trial-at-Bar reserved order on the application for bail.

Sasika Perera for the 3rd, 4th and 14th Accused raised a preliminary objection to the Indictment that certain counts in the Indictment were not in conformity with the Code of Criminal Procedure Act as there were more than three incidents covering a period of more than one year and that the Indictment in the present form cannot be maintained in law. Court reserved order on the objection for 23/02/2022.

SSC Wasantha Perera with SC Harindra Jayasinghe, SC Udara Karunatilake and SC Sajin Bandara appeared for the prosecution.

M M Zuhair PC with M C M Muneer, M I M Naleem and Rizwan Uvais appeared for the 1st, 2nd, 5th, 12th, 13th and 16th Accused. Sashika Perera with M Mubeen appeared for the 3rd, 4th and 14th Accused. Sampath Hewapathirana with Avdan Singh appeared for the 15th accused. Gazzali Hussain with Thushari Warapitiya appeared for the 9th Accused.  Rushdhie Habeeb with M Imtiaz appeared for the 6th, 7th, 8th, 10th and 11th accused as Counsel assigned by the State.

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Now, CEB plans to ‘rationalise’ tariff



By Ifham Nizam

Plans are afoot to ‘rationalise’ the electricity tariff shortly, Ceylon Electricity Board Chairman M.M.C. Ferdinando said, adding that the 52-year-old system should be changed for the betterment of the electricity consumer.

CEB Chief told The Island the CEB tariffs need to be changed to better reflect the use and the income level of the consumer. Ferdinando added that he had already briefed President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on it.

Ferdinanado said that right now waste and corruption on CEB’s part had also been added to the consumers’ bill.

He said the CEB had received 1500 MT of fuel yesterday and would receive another shipment soon. However, thort-term power interruptions would continue in several areas until the operations at the Kelanitissa Power Station returns to normal.

“The power interruptions are an annoyance and we are looking for solutions. We too want to provide an uninterrupted power supply to our customers. Our hydro-power generation capacity is low as water levels in reservoirs are receding,” he said.

CEB’s Systems Control Department officials said that power outages might be experienced for one and a half hours due to problems at the Kelanitissa thermal plant complex.

CEB Media Spokesman, Additional General Manager Andrew Navamani said that the national grid had lost 282 MW due to the issues at Kelanitissa thermal plant. He said the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation had informed the CEB that necessary stocks of fuel for Kelanitissa power plant would be provided by yesterday night.

However, it would take several hours to start the generators, he said.

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Ranil calls on MPs to think anew to find solutions to problems engulfing country



By Saman Indrajith

Traditional politics did not have solutions to problems and the MPs should think anew to find solutions, UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe told Parliament yesterday.

Participating in the adjournment debate on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s policy statement, the UNP leader said: We have come to the end of politics. If we go by the words of Francis Fukuyama, it is a question of the end of politics. But that does not mean the end of parliament. We in parliament must think afresh. We must have the strength of finding a new way. We must discuss on bringing about long-term policies which could provide us with a new framework to find solutions for the problems of the people. Thereafter we can go for elections and ask people to decide who or which party could do better. Japan did so. Great Britain is doing so. India and Canada do the same. Why cannot we do it here? If we have common consensus here, we can plan to go for a new era. We must understand this reality.

“The President has commenced this new session at a time when the country is faced with the biggest economic and political crisis in 34 years. In his statement he mentioned only the foreign reserve crisis. The economic crisis we are facing is far more critical than that. We created a middle class with open economic policies. With the collapse of the open economy, the middle class too will collapse. There are a handful of companies and individuals who could earn profits while the entire economy is collapsing. We must decide whether we’ll perish or unite to work out a plan to survive,” Wickremesinghe said.

“We have come to the end of traditional politics. We may shout at each other and go out to shout slogans. None of them will be able to help us find solutions. The problems at hand cannot be solved without a policy framework and strong middle-term plan. What we are facing today is the end of traditional politics,” he said.

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Chandrika says Sirisena should be thrown out of SLFP



Former President Maithripala Sirisena should be thrown out of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) for making it a junior partner of Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga said on Wednesday night after appearing before the Special Presidential Commission of Inquiry (SPCoI) appointed to implement the recommendations of the final report of the PCoI into alleged Political Victimisation.

Both Sirisena and former President Mahinda Rajapaksa had destroyed the SLFP, she alleged.

The former President said that she had urged Sirisena not to join the SLPP as that would mark the end of the SLFP.

“I repeatedly told him this and in response Sirisena removed me from the party’s Central Committee and stripped me of my organiser’s post.

Now, Sirisena is saying the same things I said about the SLPP. Even during the war, I managed to get the economy up and running. Look at it now, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry,” she said.

Bandaranaike was also critical of the SPCoI, stating that she had not been summoned before the PCoI on Political Victimisation for her to respond to any allegations against her.

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