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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The Additional Solicitor General Sarath Jayamanna, PC, told the Court of Appeal that on September 19, 2020, Riyaj had withdrawn his fundamental rights violation petition against state officials.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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Domestic debt restructuring will cripple EPF, ETF – JVP

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By Sirimatha Rathnasekera

The Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) and Employees’ Trust Fund (ETF) will lose about 600 billion rupees during the proposed domestic debt structuring, Co-Convener of the JVP affiliated National Trade Union Centre (NTUC) Wasantha Samarasinghe claimed.

Samarasinghe is of the opinion that the government is planning not to pay 20 to 25 percent of the loans it has taken from domestic sources. Successive governments have borrowed significantly from the EPF and ETF, he said.

Samarasinghe said that due to the depreciation of the rupee, the real value of EPF and ETF funds had decreased by half. “In such a context, can these institutions take a 20 percent haircut? This might be a big problem to the workers,” he said.

The NTUC Co-Convener said that a number of domestic banks, too, had lent to the government and domestic debt restructuring might lead to a collapse in the banking system.

However, Central Bank Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe says that they are confident of reaching debt sustainability without re-structuring domestic debt, which would lead to problems in the banking sector.

“There have been concerns among domestic bond investors about rupee debt/internal debt to be restructured following comments made by President Ranil Wickremesinghe to the effect that financial advisors were looking at domestic debt. However, there has been no request to restructure domestic debt. We are confident that we can make debt sustainable without restructuring domestic debt,” Dr. Weerasinghe told the media at the CBSL’s 6th Review of the Monetary Policy stance for this year, at the CBSL head office auditorium, in Colombo, on Thursday.

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Powerful CEBEU says yes to restructuring but on its terms

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Sri Lanka will experience periodic power cuts until 2027 if the government did not take steps to increase electricity production, the Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers Union (CEBEU) said yesterday.Due to electricity shortages, the Norochcholai Power Plant had been operational non-stop, sometimes even without scheduled maintenance, CEBEU President, Saumya Kumarawadu said.

“A generator is down. We will get it back online within 14 days. We had started maintenance on another plant in June and it was to be back online in September. But it has been delayed till November,” he said.

Kumarawadu said there would be 10-hour power cuts without Norochcholai. However, the power cuts could be reduced in two weeks when the generator was restored, he said.

He added that while they support restructuring of the CEB, they oppose de-bundling and selling the CEB to various private actors.

“Power cuts might have to go on till 2026 or 2027 unless new plants come up. A proposal to build an LNG power plant is still languishing in the Cabinet,” he said.

The CEBEU President also said that the electricity tariff was last increased in 2012. In 2014, the tariff was reduced. Without increasing electricity tariffs, the CEB will have to get increasing amounts of money from the treasury.

“The government should have increased the tariff at regular intervals. We haven’t increased in a decade and suddenly we have increased by a large amount.That’s why it has come as a shock to people,” he said.

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SJB opposes blanket privatisations

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… questions logic of selling cash cows like Telecom and Insurance

The SJB was opposed to the privatisation of profit-making government entities, Chief Opposition Whip, MP Lakshman Kiriella, said yesterday, in Colombo.Kiriella said that President Ranil Wickremesinghe had told The Economist magazine that they are thinking of privatising Sri Lanka Telecom and Sri Lanka Insurance.

“These are two institutions that make a profit. What is the point in privatising these?” he asked.

MP Kiriella said that they are not opposed to privatizing SriLankan Airlines, which has been making losses for years.

“We can talk about these things in Parliament. Even when we privatize loss making entities we have to take a number of things into consideration. What will happen to the workers? How will we compensate them? How will we re-skill them? We have to talk about these things openly before doing anything,” he said.

The Chief Opposition Whip said that one of the main reasons why people oppose privatization is because everything is done in secrecy.

“People wonder why things are hidden from them. We need to be open and transparent when we restructure,” he said.

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