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NTJ threatened Chief Incumbent of Nelligala IBC



by Rathindra Kuruwita

National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) had sent a threatening letter to Chief Incumbent of the Nelligala International Buddhist Centre (NIBC), Ven. Wathurukumbure Dhammaratana Thera, a few weeks after the Easter Sunday attacks, the Thera told on Saturday to the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) investigating the Easter Sunday attacks.

The Thera said that Zahran had come to see him on several occasions. On 4 February, 2014, a group of Muslims had come with a local businessman where the NIBC is currently located. It was about an unused state land and the Muslims had begun the construction of a place of worship without the necessary approval.

The Thera was informed of this development by the villagers and on 5 February, he visited the site with some youth and demolished the unauthorised construction. He had then acquired the same land, following the proper process, on a 30-year lease and the construction of the NIBC had commenced with the approval of Department of Buddhist Affairs and other relevant institutions in August, 2014. The witness said that several lands adjoining the site had been purchased and the facilities of the NIBC upgraded.

Asked by a Senior State Counsel (SSC) whether any incident had taken place during the construction of a building in the NIBC premises in June 2016, the witness said that a group of five persons had come and said that they hoped to purchase a plot of land nearby. The witness said that Zahran Hashim, the leader of NTJ had been among the group.

Zaharan had inquired from the witness whether he had any objections to them purchasing the nearby land for the construction of a ‘Centre’, which would not be a Mosque.

“I informed them that I did not like such a development as that would lead to unwanted issues in the future. Zahran spoke Sinhala fluently, better than any ordinary Muslim. Zahran told me that they and we could work together and I realised that he really wanted to buy a land near by Nelligala.”

The witness said that Zahran had returned to the NIBC in March 2017, in a bus with around 50 youth. The Thera said that the youth were dressed in identical clothes and it looked like that they were undergoing a training at some institution.

“Zahran requested some tea saying he and his team had travelled a long distances and I then offered them some tea,” the witness said, adding that Zahran had discussed Buddhism, Catholicism and Islam with him.

“It became clear to me that he was a fundamentalist. He spoke very critically about ordinary Muslims and said that if the estate workers had supported Prabhakaran, they would not have suffered. In August 2017, Zahran again came to the NIBC and discussed various issues with me. He was highly critical of ordinary Muslims, their beliefs, the Maulavis and the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama (ACJU). He also criticised certain rituals by Muslims such as worshipping tombstones at Mosques.”

According to the witness, during another meeting Zaharan had blamed Muslims for the clashes between the Sinhalese and the Muslims in Digana area. Zahran had also found fault with the Thera for intervening and conciliating.

“From what he said, I felt that Zahran liked these clashes. It allowed him to attract Muslim youth to his extremist activities,” the Thera said.

He said that he had also recorded discussions with Tawfiq Ahmed of the Sri Lanka Thowheed Jama’at (SLTJ) and Abdul Razik, General Secretary of the Ceylon Thowheed Jama’at (CTJ) about Islamist extremist activities and those had been circulating on social media. The witness said Zahran had phoned him and threatened him to remove those videos from social media platforms.

Zahran also blamed Razik since he was critical of Sharia law, Islamic banking and the burqa during the discussions with him, the Thera said.

Although Zahran had never visited the NIBC premises after that meeting, the NTJ leader had spoken to him on the phone on several occasions, the witness said. Zaharan had told him that he was in areas like Mawanella, Nuwara-Eliya and Kattankudi during those conversations, the Thera said.

Asked by the Attorney General’s Department representative when he had last received a telephone call from Zahran, the Thera said the last call from Zahran had come on 23 February, 2019.

“On that day, he spoke in a very aggressive manner and told me that I had no right to comment on matters such as Arabisation.

The witness said Zahran had told him, “You are not like Gnanasara Thera. You are a very cunning man and acquiring Muslims’ lands.”

The Thera said that and event related to the traditional New Year had been organised at the NIBC premises on 21 April, 2019 and he had been shocked about the Easter Sunday attacks and Zahran’s involvement in it. He had also taken steps to remove nearly 2,000 devotees who were at the premises within 20 minutes.

Thereafter, he had informed the then Chief of Staff of the Sri Lankan Army General Shavendra Silva, the Army Commander General Mahesh Senanayake and the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Pujith Jayasundara that Zaharan had visited the NIBC on several occasions and after eight military personnel had been assigned to protect the NIBC.

The Thera said that a few weeks after the bombings, on 14 May, 2019, he received an anonymous letter on a NTJ letterhead warning that he would be assassinated. Certain things that Zahran had told him over the phone had also included in the letter, the witness said.

“Copies of the letter were handed over to the then Army Commander and the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence. Relevant institutions, however, did not pay due attention to it. They did not record a statement from me or conduct an inquiry into the matter.”

The Thera also submitted a set of proposals on actions to be taken in order to eradicate extremist activities to the PCoI.

Noting that Ven. Dhammaratana Thera’s life could be in danger due to the testimony, the PCoI ordered the National Authority for the Protection of Victims of Crime and Witnesses (NAPVCW) to provide him with adequate security.

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Foreign qualified medical students protest



A group of foreign medical degree holders protested opposite the Presidential Secretariat yesterday (23) requesting that tangible measures be taken to conduct the Examination for Registration to Practice Medicine (ERPM) without further delay.

They alleged that over 1,500 students had been deprived of the opportunity to sit the examination due to the fault of the Sri Lanka Medical Council, which is now under investigation by a committee, appointed by Health Minister Pavitra Wanniarachchi.

Photo: A section of the protesting students (pic by Thushara Atapattu)

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SJB insists referendum necessary besides 2/3 majority in Parliament



Supreme Court moved against 20A

By Chitra Weerarathne

General Secretary of the Samagi Jana Balavegaya Ranjith Madduma Bandara, MP, yesterday (23) filed a petition in the Supreme Court stating that the proposed 20th Amendment (20A) to the Constitution was inconsistent with the Constitution. It requires a two-thirds majority in Parliament and approval by people at a referendum for passage, the SJV has argued.

The SJB says 20A violates people’s sovereignty and franchise enshrined in Article (3) and (4) of the Constitution.

The petitioner has argued that the provisions in clause 55 of the Bill are inconsistent with the public trust doctrine and the principle of checks and balances and would prejudicially affect public finance.

 The clause 54 of the Bill seeks to repeal Article 156 A of the Constitution, which provides constitutional recognition to the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or corruption, the petition says.

 The petition says 20A seeks to repeal the prohibition on dual citizens being elected to Parliament and to the post of President.

The power of the Auditor General to audit the state institutions has been curtailed, the petition says, arguing that it could be detrimental to the economy.

It will be detrimental to the country if the Constitutional Council is replaced by a Parliamentary Council, the SJB General Secretary’s has contended in his petition.

Clause 20 (2) of the proposed 20A has restricted the powers of the Election Commission as regards the conduct of elections, the petitioner has argued.

The 20A states that an omission by the President could no longer be challenged through a fundamental rights violation petitions in the Supreme Court, the petitioner has said, adding that the Bill seeks to further enhance the powers of the President by allowing him to unilaterally remove the Prime Minister. The President would not be accountable to Parliament, the petition says.

The 20A would repeal Article 70/ (1) of the Constitution and enable the President to dissolve Parliament even immediately after a general election, the SJB General Secretary argues.

The respondent to the petition is the Attorney General.

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Lawyer Hijaz’s foundation received funds from banned foreign outfit – CID tells court



By A.J.A.A beynayake and Kasuni Rebecca

The CID yesterday informed the Colombo Fort Magistrate Priyantha Liyanage that Save the Pearls Trust run by lawyer Hijaz Hisbullah, now in custody for allegedly aiding and abetting one of the Easter Sunday bombers, had received Rs.13 million from a banned organisation named the Caliphate of Qatar.

The CID told court that according to the bank accounts of the trust the money had been received by it during the last few years and the police had launched an investigation to ascertain whether the funds had been used for terrorist activities.

The CID told court the investigation had been launched under the Money Laundering Act and a psychologist’s opinion had been sought on the book titled “Navarasam” found in a madrasa (school teaching Islam) run by Save the Pearls Trust in Puttalam.

The Magistrate order the CID to submit to court a Sinhala translation of the book and examine whether the contents of the book promoted terrorism.

The case will be taken up again on October 7.

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