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President Rajapaksa had no hand in revoking detention of Riyaj- Counsel

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Easter carnage

By Chitra Weerarathne

President’s Counsel Sanjeewa Jayawardena, yesterday, told the Court of Appeal that the President had never had any hand in revoking any detention order issued against Riyaj Bathiudeen, the brother of Rishad Bathiudeen.

At the outset Faiz Mustapha PC, who appeared for the petitioner Riyaj Bathiudeen told the Court of Appeal that the petitioner had not been involved in terrorist activity, according to investigation reports of recent times. Petitioner was entitled to resist wrongful arrest. It was not a case of hiding. It was avoiding wrongful arrest. There was no responsible suspicion for the arrest of Riyaj. There was no basis to arrest him originally or now. The only basis was a telephone conversation with an Islamic extremist who had attempted to bomb the Cinnamon Grand Hotel. The calls had been business oriented and nothing else. The mobile phone used by Riyaj, had been linked to so many other phones on miscellaneous deals.

Riyaj had received telephone calls on the export of copper, which was a business deal. No basis at all for the arrest of Riyaj Bathiudeen. Attempts should not be made to arrest Riyaj on incomplete investigations, the Counsel said.

Sanjeewa Jayawardena, PC appeared for the intervention against the writ application by Riyaj Bathiudeen. One is by the Reverend Father Lawrence Ramanayke and the other by another concerned party counsel.

The President had assured that at no time he had said that he had a hand in the revoking of any detention order against Riyaj, Counsel explained. Riyaj Bathiudeen has had several phone calls with the brother of the person who attempted to bomb the Hotel, in 2019. The counsel said hundred members of Parliament in September 2020 complained to the President that the Investigations against Riyaj had not been properly conducted. They said any detention order against him should not be revoked. The security of the People was vital.

There were photographs of Riyaj sitting together with Zahran, the NTJ Leader, counsel added.

The Additional Solicitor General Sarath Jayamanna, PC, told the Court of Appeal that on September 19, 2020, Riyaj had withdrawn his fundamental rights violation petition against state officials. On September 22, Riyaj withdrew his Habeas Corpus application against state officials. Hence no litigation remained over any type of harassment. The bombings were the most deadly act committed on April 21, 2019, which killed so many persons, all over the country. When evidence surfaced people had to be arrested, the ASG said.

The ASG explained that the family had acquired assets by money laundering. The accounts of Riyaj and his wife were huge and unbelievable.

The arrest would be completed at the end of the on-going investigation. The writ application, at this stage was premature, he added. The Attorney General had only ordered that investigations be conducted where necessary, ASG Jayamanne added.

Riyaj Bathiudeen had filed a writ application in the Court of Appeal, requesting the Court to prevent his likely arrest by the CID. He had said it was baseless to arrest him. Rev. Father Lawrence Ramanayake, of ‘Sethsevana’ Archbishop’s House, Borella, Colombo had filed an Intervention, objecting to the writ application by Riyaj Bathiudeen. The priest has said that Riyaj was a suspect as regards the Easter Sunday attacks of April 21, 2019. Those suicide blasts killed 256 persons and injured 500 others.

Sanjeewa Jayawardena, PC, appeared with Rukshan Senadheera and Maneesha Dissanayake, instructed by Sanjay Fonseka for the intervenient.

The bench comprised Justice Mahinda Samayawardene and Justice Arjuna Obeysekera. The Court of Appeal reserved the order on whether to issue notice on the respondent police officers and to grant interim relief for Riyaj Bathiudeen for October 21, 2020.



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Cabraal: Prez appoints members to Port City Economic Commission

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By Shyam Nuwan Ganewatta

The President of the country would always appoint members to the Colombo Port City Economic Commission, entrusted with running of that city under the proposed CPCEC Bill, State Minister of Money & Capital Market and State Enterprise Reforms, Ajith Nivard Cabraal, yesterday, told the media, in Colombo.

State Minister Cabraal said that most critics of the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill had not even read it.

“Sri Lankans don’t need to obtain a visa to enter the Port City as some claim. The Port City will be administered by the Colombo Port City Economic Commission and the Bill we have presented details how the area will be governed,” Cabraal said responding to a question posed by a journalist.

The State Minister said that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had asked him to counter the misinformation and fake news that was being spread about the Bill. Once people have read and understood the Bill, most who criticise it would have to change their tune, the Minister said.

 

Journalists also questioned the State Minister on the allegations levelled by MP Wijeyadasa Rajapakse. The State Minister said that Rajapakse had not even asked a question about the Bill during the Parliamentary Group meetings.

“As I said earlier, the Port City will be administered by Colombo Port City Economic Commission. All members are appointed by the President. The Chairman of the Commission too is appointed by the President. The President can get rid of them anytime he wants,” Cabraal said.

The State Minister added that no one would be allowed to withdraw money or assets from Sri Lanka and invest in the Port City. “This is a special economic zone. We need to attract foreign direct investments. We need to have ease of doing business in this zone and we have to make it an important financial hub in the region.”

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Two hotels to be built obstructing elephant corridor in Sinharaja – MONLAR

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Forest land being cleared for the construction of a hotel

By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Bowitiyatenna elephant corridor, used by elephants in Sinharaja to travel to Dellawa – Walankanda forest had been obstructed by two businessmen by clearing a section of the forest to build hotels, Sajeeewa Chamikara of the Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) said.

“One hotel is being constructed in the Dolekanda Grama Niladari area after clearing seven acres of forest land. The Kalawana Divisional Secretariat has approved the construction of the hotel ignoring environmental regulations. Right now, forests are being cleared, land is being prepared and buildings are being constructed using heavy equipment.”

Another hotel was being built at the Bowitiyatenna Elephant Corridor, situated in Godakawela Divisional Secretariat area by a businessman from Godakawela. He has cleared around eight acres of forest land, the environmentalist said.

The two hotels were obstructing the elephant corridors used by the remaining two elephants in the Sinharaja Forest Reserve. Now, the the people of Rambuka, Thanawela, Ellagama, Handiyekade, Kajugaswatte, Pothupitiya, Kopikella and Cypresswatte would have the elephans marauding their villages, the environmentalist said, adding that the residents of those villages would lose property and lives due to the hotels being constructed by obstructing the elephant corridors.

“Most of the forest areas surrounding the Sinharaja are to be annexed to the Forest Reserve because they are an important part of the forest network. These unscrupulous businessmen and politicians supporting them are attempting to carve out as much land as possible before these areas receive protected status. They are also doing their best to delay the declaration of these lands as protected areas.”

Chamikara said that the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) had the power to take action against those who carried out such illegal activities.

According to Section 23 (a.) (a.) of the National Environmental Act, when a project is carried out without environmental clearance, the CEA can produce such people before a magistrate’s court. If found guilty, a person can be fined up to Rs. 15,000 or imprisoned up to two years or subjected to both.

Chamikara said: “According to Article 27(14) of Chapter VI of the Sri Lankan constitution the state shall protect, preserve and improve the environment for the benefit of the community.” However, the CEA seems to have no interest in taking action against those who are building these hotels illegally. This is CEA’s attitude to almost all major environmental destruction that seems to be taking place these days.

“The government is silent when the Sinharaja forest is degraded and elephant corridors are closed by businessmen. The right to land seems to be a right reserved only for businessmen. We have the right to oppose these under article 28. (f) of the Constitution which states that we have a fundamental duty ‘to protect nature and conserve its riches.’ Article 28. (e) states that we also have a fundamental duty ‘to respect the rights and freedoms of others.’ Thus, we, the citizens have the right to oppose the illegal use of natural resources by powerful businessmen. If we do not oppose these moves as citizens, powerful businessmen will take over all our natural assets like they are doing at Sinharaja.”

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RDHS predicts Coronavirus spike in Jaffna over the weekend

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By Dinasena Ratugamage

There might be a spike in COVID-19 cases in Jaffna this weekend, A.

Kethiswaran, Regional Director Health Services told the media yesterday. Dr. Kethiswaran made the prediction after 26 new cases were detected in Jaffna.

A large number of COVID-19 cases had been reported from Jaffna in the past few weeks. Thus, the people should adhere to health guidelines. If people did not follow the guidelines, there would be a spike in cases and then some places would have to be locked down, he said.

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