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Prosecutions over Easter Sunday carnage: GL urges AG to initiate legal action

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By Saman Indrajith

Education Minister Prof GL Peiris yesterday called on the Attorney General to initiate the process of prosecuting those responsible for the Easter Sunday carnage on the basis of the investigations that had already been concluded.

Participating in the adjournment debate on the report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry on Easter Sunday terror attacks, the Minister said that 36 investigations had been completed and their files sent to the AG for legal action.

The Minister said: The Presidential Commission of Inquiry is not a court of law that decides who the offenders or wrongdoers are and impose punishments. A commission has no police powers to conduct investigations.  However, the PCoI remaining within its mandate and terms of reference has done an outstanding job. The government is duty bound to implement the recommendations of the PCoI and there is no doubt about it. That is certain. There are some wrong wrong opinions being expressed about the Cabinet subcommittee chaired by Minister Chamal Rajapaksa. There was no independent probe by that subcommittee. It was entrusted with a separate task. The final report of the PCoI into the Easter Sunday attack contains many recommendations in hundreds of pages. That report is very complex. The government needed to decide which recommendations should be implemented on a priority basis.

“The Subcommittee was expected to instruct the government on the implementation of the PCoI report’s recommendations. There are some recommendations that could be implemented at once.

“If the Mawanella incident, where several Buddha statues were damaged, in my opinion had been properly investigated, the Easter Sunday catastrophe could have been averted. in the aftermath of that incident several persons were taken into custody. Unfortunately, they were released. We can apprehend the policemen who released them and take action against them. In addition, we can find who ordered the release of the suspects and take action against them.

“Regarding the Easter Sunday carnage affair, we must first ascertain the different tasks to be completed by the government, the Attorney General and courts. When these three are mixed there is confusion in the public mind. The government acts through the Police – the CID and the TID. In that regard a heavy load of work has been completed. Around 99 have been arrested for their involvements in the incidents and events that have links to the Easter Sunday carnage. Thirty-six investigations have been completed.

“I studied this report and observed that there are clear indications and details about the incidents and persons. Those are not general statements but very specific ones.

“Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith went before the court asking for an investigation into a suspected hoard of 6,000 swords and knives and to obtain a court order to ascertain the truth. The police could do the same even without a court order. The IGP has issued orders to detail two teams of policemen for the purpose. These weapons pose a threat. Therefore, they must be found, and the threat removed. They have been imported. Then who was involved in getting them released from the Customs. It is not an easy task to get a stock of 6,000 swords and knives through the Customs. There should have been a political involvement and the police are conducting investigations.

“The next issue is the suspected foreign involvement. Not even the LTTE had been able to carry out eight bomb attacks from Colombo to Batticaloa within two three hours. Who funded that process? Who facilitated them? Who aided and abetted them? To find answers for those questions the government is not only investigating the local persons but also people abroad to find their links. We have discussed the matter with foreign governments. Up to this point, we have made 54 arrests in five countries and got around 50 of them extradited to Sri Lanka. There is a process of getting the remaining persons extradited. There is a reference in the report to an incident in Qatar in October 2020, following which several persons were arrested. Some of them are not Sri Lankan citizens. Some of them who had links with them have gone to Australia, but they too have been traced and investigated. So, the government has performed well in the investigations to find those responsible for the crime as well as to ensure that there would be no recurrence of such incident.

“Then there are questions about the money trail of this affair. There is a question whether there had been pumping of funds from abroad for this attack and its preparations. There are important recommendations and a mentioning that a Turkish organization by the name of FETO sent funds to Sri Lanka. FETO is an armed insurgency organization against the Turkish government. The PCoI report mentions that organization too has channeled funds to those involved in the Easter Sunday attacks. This shows that the government has done its work, and nothing has been left behind.

“Thirty-six files of completed investigations have been sent to the Attorney General for further actions. Thereafter it is up to the Attorney General to proceed with prosecutions. The government and police have completed their investigations. The Attorney General should make an independent decision as to whether the available evidence is enough to institute legal actions. We as the government would ensure that the process would be cleared of politics so that no innocent person would be targeted, or no responsible person would be exculpated because of his rank or powers. The process is impartial. We do not instruct the Attorney General. We have no powers or need for that. It is not possible to file all those 36 cases at once. There are religious leaders demanding justice. We call on the Attorney General to act fast regarding the matters for which the cases could be filed in courts.

“The report also contains recommendations regarding the Madrasa schools. In this regard the Ministry of Education has a special responsibility. I think that there are around 365 registered Madrasas in the country. In addition, there are separate institutes under various names. There is a need to regulate them. Those who are under the age of 16 cannot go to such unregulated and unregistered institutes. That is illegal. We must find what is being taught there, who is giving funds to them and who is maintaining them.

“The government hopes to bring new laws regarding money laundering, extradition, terrorist funding etc., because the extant laws are not enough to address the complex challenges in the present times.”  

 

 

 

 



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BASL calls for independent and impartial probe into killing of ’Uru Juwa’ & ’Kosgoda Tharaka’

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‘Such deaths are an affront to the Rule of Law’

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) condemned the killing of Melon Mabula alias ‘Uru Juwa’ and Tharaka Perera Wijesekera alias ‘Kosgoda Tharaka’, who were taken into police custody.

The State and the Police should have a duty to ensure the safety and security of persons in their custody, irrespective of the character of such persons and the seriousness of the nature of the allegations against such person, the BASL said in a statement.

“These deaths have all the hallmarks of extra-judicial killings and we call upon the State to ensure the safety and security persons in their custody, it said.

The statement further said: “On May 12, 2021, an Attorney-at-Law representing Tharaka Perera Wijesekera informed the BASL by e-mail that his client had been suddenly transferred from the custody of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) to a special police Unit at Peliyagoda and that he fears that his client will be killed in custody.

“Acting on the complaint of the Attorney-at-Law, between 2000 and 2100 hours, the President of the BASL informed the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Chandana Wickremeratne via email to igp@police.lk and also by text message and WhatsApp the apprehensions of the said Attorney-at-Law and reminded the IGP that the Police and the State have a duty to protect persons in their custody.

“The IGP was reminded that the Supreme Court in many decisions has re-iterated the duty and responsibility cast on the State to ensure the safety and security of persons in its custody.

“The Attorney-at-Law concerned had also informed the IGP, the Director CID and the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka of his concerns.

“Despite the said notifications by the BASL on behalf of an Attorney-at-Law representing his client, the news media reported that Tharaka Wijesekera has been killed while being detained by the Peliyagoda Special Crimes Division, allegedly “when he tried to attack police while recovering some weapons”. This happened at a time when the Police including the IGP had been notified of the same.

“On May 11, 2021 another suspect named Melon Mabula alias ‘Uru Juwa’ had met his death in a similar manner. We are informed that representations were made to the police as regards his safety, prior to his death.

“The State and the Police have a duty to ensure the safety and security of persons in their custody, irrespective of the character of such persons and the seriousness of the nature of the allegations against such persons.

“Such deaths are an affront to the Rule of Law and will tarnish the image of Sri Lanka. It is an imperative requirement of criminal justice that persons accused of serious crimes including murder are tried by a Court of law and punished for their crimes and that the networks that aided and abetted such activities are prosecuted and dismantled. This requirement is defeated by the failure of police officers to control the unarmed suspect purportedly accompanied by them without the use of lethal force.

“It is incomprehensible how on several occasions the Police have been unable to protect unarmed suspects in their custody.

“The Executive Committee of the BASL expresses its grave and serious concern and condemns the failure of the Police including the IGP to protect persons in their custody.

“The BASL calls upon His Excellency the President and the Government to take serious note of these incidents and to take action to prevent such occurrences.

“The BASL also requests the authorities to conduct an independent and impartial investigation into these incidents. As far back as 2013 the BASL highlighted the issue of the killing of suspects in the custody of Police and will use all means at its disposal to prevent similar acts of omission and commission on the part of the State authorities in the future.

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Korean Ambassador meets with WFP Representative and Country Director

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Korean Ambassador Santhush Woonjin JEONG met with Abdur Rahim Siddiqui, the newly-appointed United Nations World Food Program (WFP) Sri Lanka Country Director and Representative, at the Korean Embassy last week.

They had a productive discussion about the progress of the ongoing projects on the resilience building and strengthening sustainable livelihoods of communities in Sri Lanka.

The Ambassador said he is pleased about the recent project initiated in March 2021, by the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) and the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) to support the Government of Sri Lanka with funding worth USD 600,000 (LKR 117 million) to procure maize for the production of Thriposha amid COVID-19.

The Ambassador extended his warm congratulations to Siddiqui for his latest appointment and took the opportunity to renew the partnership between the Republic of Korea and the World Food Program (WFP) in Sri Lanka.

Santush Woonjin JEONG also expressed his confidence that Siddiqui will lead the World Food Program in Sri Lanka to greater heights with his previous experience of over 30 years in the field of nutrition and food security. The government of the Republic of Korea would like to restate its commitment to the global efforts to achieve WFP priorities at all levels. The Republic of Korea and WFP will work together to promote better outcomes in Sri Lanka and globally in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Siddiqui commended the staunch efforts by the government of Korea for the agricultural and economic development in Sri Lanka especially with reference to the continued investment of Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) in building resilience and ensuring food security in Sri Lanka under the ongoing projects.

The Country Director appreciated the Korean government for its projects in Sri Lanka; funding worth $ 600,000 (Rs. 117 million) to procure maize for the production of “Thriposha” and for continuing the existing partnership to build resilience against recurrent natural shocks by rehabilitation of irrigation schemes in Moneragala, Matale, Mullaitivu, Mannar and Batticaloa districts.

Ambassador Santhush said the Republic of Korea is committed to jointly work with international organisations to achieve the sustainable development goals. The Korean government is working closely with the government of Sri Lanka to achieve our common goals in line with the national objectives through Korean government institutes such as Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), Korea Program on International Agriculture (KOPIA), Export-Import Bank of Korea (Eximbank) and Saemaul Globalization Foundation in Sri Lanka.

Siddiqui further assured that the World Food Program (WFP) is geared to achieve the targets set for 2021 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, the country director appreciated the concessional loan of USD 500 million provided by the Korean government under the Framework Arrangement of Economic Development Cooperation Fund (EDCF) which is timely as the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all countries including Sri Lanka.

The World Food Program will stand in solidarity with the “Stay Strong Campaign”, the anti-COVID19 initiative launched by the Korean Embassy in Sri Lanka.

The Ambassador further expressed his admiration towards the invaluable role The United Nations World Food Program plays in providing global food security and building resilience among vulnerable communities which contributed to the great achievement of becoming the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.

The Ambassador also invited the Country Director to join the “#Live Together Campaign” which was launched by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea with UNESCO, to raise awareness of and to end discrimination experienced globally during the pandemic.

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18 jumbos felled in Assam’s Nagaon district probably due to lightning

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By Utpal Parashar

Eighteen wild elephants have been killed, most probably due to lightning, in Assam’s Nagaon district, officials informed on Thursday.

“The incident took place at Bamuni area of Barhampur on Wednesday. Our officials got to know about it on Thursday. Teams of forest and veterinary officials are at the spot to take stock of the tragedy,” Nagaon, deputy commissioner Kavitha Padmanabham said.

The deaths took place in an area with small hillocks and forests. Officials suspect the elephants, which were part of a herd, were staying close to each other when lightning struck. While four bodies were found at the bottom of a hillock, 14 others were found at the top.

“Preliminary investigation of the spot suggests lightning could be the reason for the deaths. All the elephants killed were adults and sub-adults,” Vasanthan, divisional forest officer (Nagaon), said.

“We are trying to recover all the bodies and conduct post-mortems. The exact cause of the deaths would be known only after the results are out, most likely by Friday,” he added.

Wildlife experts confirmed that the incident was the single largest instance of deaths of wild elephants in one go. They also suspected that there could be other reasons as well for the deaths.

Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has expressed shock and anguish at the deaths of the elephants and directed forest and environment minister Parimal Suklabaidya to visit the spot immediately.

“A tragedy of such scale is unheard of in Assam. It is a big loss. While lightning has been suspected to be the cause, mass poisoning of the pachyderms shouldn’t be ruled out,” said Bibhab Talukdar, noted elephant expert and CEO of Aaranyak, a Guwahati-based wildlife NGO.

“Assam has witnessed poisonings of wild elephants in the past, though not on such a large scale. I hope a thorough probe is done to know the exact cause behind the deaths,” he added.

According to a 2017 census, Assam (5719) has the second highest number of elephants in India after Karnataka (6049). Every year, several elephants are killed in man-animal conflict due to electrocution, poisonings etc. In 2019, the number of such deaths was nearly 80.

(Hindustan Times)

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