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Probe X-Press Pearl disaster against backdrop of Port City and Selendiva  projects – Church spokesperson

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Catholic Church was quite concerned about the long-term impact of the sinking of the container carrier X-Press Pearl off the Colombo port, Rev. Father Cyril Gamini Fernando said yesterday.

The ecological disaster the ill-fated ship had caused couldn’t be compensated for with a one-off payment, Rev Father Fernando said, urging the government to set the record straight.

Responding to The Island queries, the parish priest of Kurana St Anne’s Church said that he had raised the possibility of a conspiracy to deprive the fishing community of their livelihood when he addressed the media last week at the Archbishop’s House alongside the Archbishop of Colombo Rt. Rev. Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith.

The arrival of the ill-fated vessel in Sri Lankan waters on May 19 and its sinking two weeks later underscored the need for a comprehensive inquiry, Rev Fernando said.

According to the former Spokesperson for the Catholic Church, the X-Press Pearl disaster should be examined, also taking into consideration the recent passage of the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill in Parliament and the Cabinet approval for Selendiva Investments Ltd. to facilitate foreign investments in Colombo and its suburbs.

Noting the concerns raised by the Opposition and the government’s assurance that properties wouldn’t be sold to external parties, Rev Fernando said that the people should watch the direction the SLPP government was moving in. Government intervention in Muthurajawela wetlands, too, was a matter of serious concern, Rev Fernando said, calling for a public discussion on high profile government projects.

Selendiva has taken over three ventures—Hotel Developers (Lanka) PLC, which is the owning company of Hilton Colombo, Canwill Holdings Ltd., owners of the proposed Grand Hyatt Colombo and residences that are under construction and Grand Oriental Hotel (GOH). Accordingly, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, in his capacity as the Minister of Urban Development and Housing  has secured cabinet approval to move ahead with three investment portfolios—’Colombo Fort Heritage Square’, ‘Immovable Property Development’, and ‘The Government — Owned Hospitality Sector’, under Selendiva Investments.  Former UDA Chairman Nimal Perera heads Selendiva Investments.

Successive governments had advanced their own agendas at the expense of national interest, Rev Fernando said, urging the proponents of such current projects to explain whether the previous exercises had benefited the country.  “The Covid-19 prevention programme is obviously in turmoil,” Rev Fernando said, dismissing claims that the Church caused unnecessary friction by taking a public stand on the issues at hand.

Rev Fernando said that the Church couldn’t keep quiet when the livelihood of thousands of fisher families already struggling to make ends meet due to Covid-19 fallout were deprived of an opportunity to resume fishing. Inclement weather had affected more people with over 200,000 displaced and caused over a dozen deaths, Rev Fernando said.

He said the public appreciated the stand taken up by the Church as regards several contentious issues ranging from inordinate delay in punishing those who masterminded the Easter Sunday massacre and denial of the sole livelihood of fisher families.



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MP’s wife, father-in-law among three detained

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Rishad held under PTA to be questioned

16-year-old girl’s death:

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Police investigating the death of 16-year-old Ishalini, the domestic servant at All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) leader Rishad Bathiudeen’s Baudhaloka Mawatha residence have arrested Ayesha Shiabdeen, 46, the wife of the former minister.

Police also took into custody Rishad’s father-in-law Mohammed Shiabdeen, 70, and Ponnaiah Pandaram alias Shankar, 64, a resident of Dayagama.

Police Spokesman Senior DIG Ajith Rohana said that Shankar had brought Ilashini from Dayagama to the Baudhaloka Mawatha residence of Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) Vanni District lawmaker late last year.

Having studied the post postmortem report, they were taken into custody in terms of Section 360 C and Section 308 B of the Penal Code that dealt with human trafficking and cruelty to children, the top police officer said. According to him, so far 20 statements had been recorded.

Asked whether MP Bathiudeen, too, had been among the questioned, Senior DIG Rohana said the parliamentarian detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) over 2019 Easter Sunday carnage, too, would be interrogated in that regard.

The ACMC contested the last general election on the SJB ticket. It switched its allegiance to the SJB ahead of 2020 general election after having represented the cabinet in UNP led yahapalana administration. Rishad has also served President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s cabinet during his second term.

Having suffered serious burn injuries on July 3 at the MP’s residence and admitted to the National Hospital, Illashini succumbed to her injuries on July 15th. Medical examination revealed that she had been raped over a period of time.

The police spokesman said that they intended to secure court approval to detain the suspects for 72 hours. A Superintendent of Police could obtain such approval on the strength of a B report submitted to the court in respect of offenses on children.

Although, the police indicated earlier in the day they would be produced in Colombo Magistrate court they weren’t brought in.

Meanwhile, the SJB said that interested parties were making a despicable attempt to politicize the incident. The police should be allowed to conduct the investigation without interference, a spokesman for the main Opposition party said.

 

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Women’s organisations in North conduct protests demanding justice for Ilashini

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A section of those engaged in Jaffna protests

 

By Dinasena Ratugamage

Women’s organisations in the North yesterday held a number of demonstrations in Vavuniya, Mannar, Kilinochchi and Jaffna against the death of J. Ilashini, the 16 -year-old girl who died while working at SJB MP Rishad Bathiudeen’s residence.

The protesters urged authorities to ensure that investigations into the death are conducted in a transparent manner. The family of the victim should be compensated and those guilty punished, they said.

Representatives of the organisations said that if justice was not done, they would hold a massive demonstration in Tarapuram, Mannar, which Bathiudeen represents in Parliament.

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Dancer lodges complaint with police over FB post 

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Police headquarters yesterday (23) said that dancer Anusha Damayanthi had lodged a complaint with the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) over a Facebook post alleging that she was running a brothel.

Police headquarters said that Damayanthi, while denying the accusation, had also brought to the CID’s notice that a minister was being accused of lambasting the Walana anti-crime strike force for carrying out the raid. Police said that an investigation was underway.

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