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Police chasing some vital leads into Dutch monk’s death to ‘clear some doubts’

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by Suresh Perera

Police investigators are pursuing some important leads to figure out the circumstances which led to the death of the Dutch monk at the Dodanduwa Polgasduwa forest monastery, a high-ranking police official in the region said on Friday.

“Though preliminary investigations suggest the possibility of suicide, we are working on some vital clues to clear some doubts that have emerged”, says Senior DIG Rohan Silva in charge of the Southern province.

“We are probing the case with an open mind”, he noted, while declining to divulge more information on the leads police sleuths are chasing as it will hamper ongoing investigations.

The body of Ven. Olande Jinawansa thera was found floating in the Ratgama lagoon on December 8. At the time the body was fished out, two stones were found tied to the 59-year-old monk’s legs.

The police and the STF searched the island, where the monastery is situated, plus an adjoining island, but nothing suspicious was found, the senior police official said.

Asked about social media reports that the monk had opposed the construction of a hotel in a near-by island as it disturbed the serenity of the monastery, and this may have led to his untimely death, he explained that there was no such hotel being built in the locality.

The Dutch monk was, however, not in favor of a Dharma Salawa that was being built within the precincts of the monastery as he believed there was no need for such a facility as devotees in large numbers did not visit the Aramaya, the senior DIG Silva said.

“He had protested that the din caused by the construction disturbed the meditating monks. Apart from that, there was no hotel being built in the vicinity for the bhikku to have opposed it”, he added.

Earlier, there was a move to build a bridge to link the island but the idea was dropped as it didn’t find favor with the monks at the monastery, he further said.

“We also inspected the monk’s kutiya (small hut), where he meditated, but there was nothing amiss”, he continued.

The Government Analyst visited the scene and also examined the knots on the rope with which the stones were found tied to the monk’s legs.

The autopsy revealed that there was no water or sand in the prelate’s lungs, which indicated that he had been alive at the time he was in the lagoon. This raised the possibility of the monk taking his own life, he said.

An open verdict was returned at the magisterial inquiry into his death.

Senior DIG Silva said that body parts have been sent to the Government Analyst for examination to ascertain, amongst other factors, whether the monk was poisoned.

He said the Dutch monk, who settled in Sri Lanka 12 years ago, was basically a loner. He kept to himself and went on pindapatha alone. As a lover of animals, he set aside a part of the alms he received to feed them. He even reared a young injured animal in his Kutiya.

Asked whether any arrests have been made or are imminent, the senior police official replied, “it depends on the outcome of the continuing investigations. We need to clear some existing doubts surrounding the prelate’s death”.

Meanwhile, a close associate, who now lives in New Zealand, said the Dutch monk was residing in northern Thailand and left for Sri Lanka in 2008.

“I was very close to Ven. Tone Jinawamso thera, as he was known there”, he said.

Requesting anonymity, he told The Sunday Island from Auckland that as a well established monk, who had even translated a Thai Buddhist publication into English, he didn’t see any reason why the prelate should commit suicide.

“As a bhikku very close to me, I can assure you that he was content with the simple, uncomplicated life he led and would have never contemplated suicide”, he asserted.

The Dutch monk’s death is suspicious, he claimed. “The police should get to the bottom of it”.

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Covid-19 vaccination programme: MPs not in priority group; President, armed forces chiefs in ‘third category’ 

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

State Minister for Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID Disease Control, Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle yesterday (25) said that members of Parliament were not among those categorised as priority groups expected to be vaccinated against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr. Fernandopulle said so in response to The Island query whether parliamentarians would receive the vaccine scheduled to be delivered by India this week. Asked to explain, Dr. Fernandopulle said that health workers, armed forces and law enforcement personnel engaged in Covid-19 prevention operations would be given priority.

“Lawmakers haven’t been listed under priority groups. However, some members may get the vaccine if they are accommodated in the over 60 years category and those suffering from diabetes, heart disease, cancer et al,” the State minister said.

In addition to State Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera, several lawmakers, representing both the government and the Opposition had been afflicted over the past several weeks. SLPP lawmaker Wasantha Yapa Bandara (Kandy district) is the latest victim. Health minister Pavitradevi Wanniarachchi was among over half a dozen lawmakers tested positive.

Army Commander General Shavendra Silva told Derana yesterday morning Sri Lanka would receive approximately 500,000 to 600,000 doses from India. Responding to a spate of questions from Derana anchor Sanka Amarjith, Gen. Silva explained the measures taken by the government to ensure a smooth vaccination programme. The Army Chief who also functions as the Chief of Defence Staff revealed India had paid for the consignment obtained from the UK.

Later in the day, The Island sought an explanation from the Army Chief regarding the President, Service Commanders, Secretary Defence given the vaccination along with frontline health workers et al, the celebrated battlefield commander said: “Will be in third priority group.”

Asked whether the student population would be accommodated at an early stage of the vaccination programme, Dr. Fernandopulle said that those under 18 years of age, pregnant and lactating mothers wouldn’t be included at all as such groups hadn’t been subjected to trials. Education Secretary Prof. Kapila Perera wasn’t available for comment.

Dr. Fernandopulle emphasized the pivotal importance of following health guidelines strictly in spite of the launch of the vaccination programme. “We shouldn’t lower our guard under any circumstances,” Dr. Fernandopulle said, urging the population to be mindful of those unable to receive the vaccination due to no fault of theirs. As those under 18 years of age had been left out of the vaccination programme, a substantial section of the population would be denied the protection, the State Minister said.

Sri Lanka is also expected to procure vaccines from China and Russia in addition to the doses from India. Health Secretary Maj. Gen. Sanjeewa Munasinghe wasn’t available for comment.

Sri Lanka launches the vaccination programme with the total number of positive cases nearing 60,000 with nearly 50,000 recoveries. The government recently re-opened the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) following a pilot programme that brought over 1,200 Ukrainians in dozen flights through the Mattala International Airport.

Dr. Fernandopulle said that the government was ready to launch the vaccination programme as soon as the first consignment arrived from India.

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Tennis balls filled with drugs thrown into Kandakadu Covid-19 treatment centre

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By Norman Palihawadane

Two tennis balls filled with drugs had been thrown into the Covid-19 treatment centre at Kandakadu, Police Spokesperson DIG Ajith Rohana said.

The contraband was found on Saturday by the Army officers attached to the facility.

DIG Rohana said the two tennis balls containing cannabis, heroin and tobacco, had been handed over to the Welikanda Police.

A special investigation has been launched into the incident, the Police Spokesperson said. Such incidents had been previously reported from Welikada, Negombo and other prisons, but it was the first time contraband containing narcotics had been thrown into a Covid-19 treatment centre, he added.

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All cargo clearances at Colombo port now through electronic payments

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The Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) has introduced a system where payment for imports could be made via the Internet. This allows port users to make payments from their homes or offices to clear goods from the Port of Colombo.

The SLPA has said in a media statement that the new special facility will enable port users to make their port payments easily without hassle.

At present, all terminals of the Port of Colombo are run according to a strategic crisis management plan.

 

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