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NTJ threatened Chief Incumbent of Nelligala IBC

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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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HRCSL: No prisoners were used in 09 May attacks on protesters

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AG, CJ asked to take action against lawyer for triggering violence

The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) has declared that a false allegation by President of the Committee for Protecting Rights of Prisoners (CPRP) Attorney-at-Law Senaka Perera that some prisoners were used to attack anti-government protesters outside Temple Trees and at Galle Face on 09 May triggered violence in many parts of the country.

The HRCSL also faulted Sudesh Nadimal Silva also of the same organisation for propagating unsubstantiated allegations.

Justice (ret.) Rohini Marasinghe, in her capacity as the Chairperson of the HRCSL, said that both Senaka Perera and Sudesh Nandimal had failed to substantiate their allegations made at the Galle Face protest site on 10 May.

The HRCSL, in a statement issued yesterday (29) quoted Justice Marasinghe as having said: “False propaganda as well as misinformation of the alleged use of Prisoners to have attacked the innocent protesters is both a diabolical lie and a deceitful action.”

The HRCSL has recommended that Attorney General Sanjaya Rajaratnam conduct a further investigations into allegations made by Senaka Perera and take necessary action

The HRCSL has requested Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya, PC, to take note of the detrimental statements made by Attorney-at-Law Senaka Perera and take due action.

The HRCSL consists of Ven. Kalupahana Piyarathana Thera, Dr. M.H. Nimal Karunasiri, Dr. Vijitha Nanayakkara and Ms. Anusuya Shanmuganathan.

The HRCSL dealt with the issue in a statement titled ‘The HRCSL condemns the false media broadcast made by the President of the Committee for Protecting Rights of Prisoners’.

The HRCSL issued the statement after the conclusion of a special investigation by an appointed committee of investigators (Col).

CoI consisted of Sanjeewa Weerawickrama, Attorney -at- Law, Miss. lmasha Senadeera, Attorney-at-Law and Dr. Dilshani Bogollagama.

Referring to allegation that prisoners had been used to attack protesters at protest sites at Galle Face and Temple Trees, the HRCSL said that the CoI determined that no prisoners had been used in perpetrating any attack on the peaceful protesters.

The HRCSL asserted that the unsubstantiated allegations caused an irreversible damage to the country.

The HRCSL said that a group of prisoners had been seriously assaulted and subjected to mental and physical torture by an unidentified group on 09 May.

The HRCSL stated: “The unprecedented ruthless nature of the attack on prisoners and officials resulted in injuries and hospitalization of many inmates.” Since the incidents, eight prisoners hadn’t been accounted for so far, it has said.

The prisoners had been made available to the private sector enterprises in terms of an agreement endorsed by the Cabinet of Ministers in Oct 2021. On the day of the incidents, a group of prisoners had been taken to a designated work place and were on their way back when gangs intercepted them.

“Attorney at Law Mr. Senaka Perera, the convener of the conference identified himself as a Human Rights Activist. The COI provided the CPRP president Mr. Senaka Perera with the opportunity to justify his statements that caused an outrage in both Sri Lanka and the World at large. For the purpose of submission of any evidence, in either oral statements or picture documentation in support of his statements, Mr. Perera was extended a justifiable time period. However, he expressly affirmed before the Committee that at the time of the statement or even thereafter he did not have any tangible evidence in favor of his expressed views in regard to the alleged incident. Mr. Sudesh Nadimal Silva was also summoned to give evidence before the COl. The Committee explaining the paramount importance of the maintenance of professional ethics provided Mr. Sudesh Nadimal Silva with the opportunity to provide a justifiable explanation for his expressed allegations. However, he was unable to provide any acceptable evidence in support of his statements.

The COI observed that the press conference which was chaired by M. Senaka Perera had dispensed totally false statements without any sustantive evidence.

“Following the above-mentioned facts, the COI has identified the grave consequences of the negligent attitude of making unfounded statements. Inciting agitation in the general public against state departments and personnel has inadvertently led to disruptions to the law and order of the Country.

“The COI further observed that these inaccurate declarations conveyed by the above speakers directly contributed to the series of violent activities and right violations, reported island wide. The combined result of the atrocities that occurred within a mere 48 hours resulted in the loss of 12 human lives with several hundred injured casualties. In addition, intentional damage and arson to both public and private properties surmount to the loss of billions of rupees.

“After a thorough and diligent inquiry, the COI has arrived at the following conclusions. The highly irresponsible misconduct by the Attorney-of-Law Senaka Perera, with his speculative allegations with no substantiated evidence, resulted in disastrous consequences.

“Hence, it is of paramount importance that members of professional bodies need to be guided by the code of conduct or the professional ethics as set out by the respective professional bodies for the due conduct of the members. These conditions of misconduct from individuals of representation and influence should be held accountable by the respective professional bodies.

It is the view of the COI that national media institutions must consciously adhere to responsible reporting and promote journalism with integrity, especially during this volatile period of both political and economic instability. This tantamount to avoidance of direct reporting of incidence without due assessment of this veracity and credibility. The Committee further advocates promotion of investigative journalist practices with the objective of strengthening the democratic fabric of the Country.”

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IMF end-of-mission report highlights ‘corruption vulnerabilities’ in Sri Lanka

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By Sanath Nanayakkare

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) personnel that remained in Sri Lanka for ten days from 20-30 June to study the exact reasons for the current economic crisis in the country and design a comprehensive economic programme have stressed the need to reduce ‘corruption vulnerabilities’ in Sri Lanka.

The need for tackling corruption has been listed right below the IMF’s concerns about containing rising levels of inflation and addressing severe balance of payments (BOP) pressures of the country.

Anne-Marie Gulde-Wolf, Deputy Director of the IMF’s Asia and Pacific Department, participated in policy discussions. At the end of the mission, Messrs. Breuer and Nozaki issued the following statement:

“Sri Lanka is going through a severe economic crisis.

The economy is expected to contract significantly in 2022, while inflation is high and rising. The critically low-level of foreign reserves has hampered the import of essential goods. During the in-person visit, the team witnessed some of the hardships currently faced by the Sri Lankan people, especially the poor and vulnerable who are affected disproportionately by the crisis. We reaffirm our commitment to support Sri Lanka at this difficult time in line with the IMF’s policies.

“The authorities’ monetary, fiscal policy and other actions since early April were important first steps to address the crisis. The team had constructive and productive discussions with the Sri Lankan authorities on economic policies and reforms to be supported by an IMF Extended Fund Facility (EFF) arrangement. The staff team and the authorities made significant progress on defining a macroeconomic and structural policy package. The discussions will continue virtually with a view to reaching a staff-level agreement on the EFF arrangement in the near term. Because public debt is assessed as unsustainable, Executive Board approval would require adequate financing assurances from Sri Lanka’s creditors that debt sustainability will be restored.

“The authorities have made considerable progress in formulating their economic reform programme and we are looking forward to continuing the dialogue with them.”

The IMF team held meetings with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Prime Minister and Finance Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Central Bank of Sri Lanka Governor Dr. P. Nandalal Weerasinghe, Secretary to the Treasury K M Mahinda Siriwardana, and other senior government and CBSL officials. It also met with MPs, representatives from the private sector, civil society organisations and development partners.

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JVP Leader talks of final solution with people drawn to the streets

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By Saman Indrajith

JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake says that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has accomplished the mission of saving the Rajapaksas.

Speaking at a JVP rally in Matara on Wednesday, Dissanayake said people had thought Wickremesinghe was a man accepted by the international community and he could resolve the crisis in next to no time.

“Nothing of the sort has happened. The crisis has worsened. In the meantime, the Rajapaksas have been enabled to come out from their hiding places. Wickremesinghe brought Mahinda Rajapaksa from Trincomalee to Colombo and then to Parliament. Wickremesinghe saved Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who was contemplating his resignation. Namal Rajapaksa was not to be seen at all. There were public protests demanding the confiscation of property belonging to Namal Rajapaksa, but Wickremesinghe after becoming the Prime Minister enabled Namal to come out of hiding and go to parliament. Today, Namal is seen with the Energy Minister at meetings to discuss solutions for the oil shortage. When the crisis was brewing Yoshitha Rajapaksa left the country for Australia. Lankans in Australia started searching for him in hotels there. After Wickremesinghe became the prime minister, Yoshitha came back. Basil Rajapaksa, whose name is now mentioned in a case report as Mr Ten Percent, too, is still active in politics. Wickremesinghe has achieved his mission of saving the Rajapaksas. Did he do anything to save the people from the crisis? No, he only served as the spokesman of the crisis,” Dissanayake said.

People were dying in queues and they suffered that plight without any of their party affiliations, Dissanayake. “Today, all are in queues. There are UNP, SLFP, JVP and Communist Party members in the queues and languish together. It shows that we all have to come out together against the rulers responsible for our plight. We must sink our political differences and come together to get rid of the corrupt rulers. We must take to the streets, but before that we must have a clear understanding of how we are going to take back the stolen wealth of the people. Simple change of power would not ensure their recovery. We must fight with a clear vision. We soon will announce a day and call upon people to suspend whatever they are doing and come to the street to join the final push to send them home,” the JVP leader said.

NPP Matara District Ex Co Member Saroja Savithri Paulraj and former Kalutara District JVP MP Dr Nalinda Jayatissa also addressed the meeting which was the third in a series of the party’s countrywide rallies started from Anuradhapura last Sunday.

 

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