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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The Additional Solicitor General Sarath Jayamanna, PC, told the Court of Appeal that on September 19, 2020, Riyaj had withdrawn his fundamental rights violation petition against state officials.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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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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