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Rape of teenager: SJB alleges bid to suppress probe as nine suspects get bail

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Govt. insists inquiry on track, urges Opposition not to propagate lies

 

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Samagi Jana Balavegaya MP Rohini Kaviratne says an attempt is being made to suppress the ongoing investigations into the alleged rape of a 15-year-old girl.

The government had interfered in the inquiry following the arrest of an influential monk in connection with the high profile inquiry, the Matale District MP alleged.

“We are closely watching the situation,” MP Kaviratne said, adding that she intended to raise the issue at the next meeting of the Women Parliamentarians’ Caucus. “We’ll issue a strong statement on the plight of the teenager forced into prostitution and the failure on the part of those responsible to protect women and children,” MP Kaviratne said.

Answering another query, the former UNP MP urged the government to ensure an impartial and a speedy inquiry into the entire sordid case.

Referring to recent reports of law enforcement personnel sexually abusing women in police stations, MP Kavirtane said that among those who had been arrested over the rape of the teenager was a policeman. Media reports of she having had hundreds of clients in relatively a short period should prompt a thorough investigation, MP Kaviratne said, pointing out that the sex racket had taken place amidst all sorts of travel restrictions imposed in view of the raging Covid-19 epidemic.

The Island raised the issue at hand with Chairperson of Women Parliamentarians’ Caucus State Minister Sudarshini Fernandopulle, who assured they would certainly take up the matter.

Lawmaker Kaviratne said that the SJB would take up the issue both in and outside Parliament. “We’ll not keep quiet if those in authority intervene on behalf of the suspects,” she said.

The MP pointed out that the Deputy Chairman of the Mihintale Pradeshiya Sabha E.M.L. Edirisinge of Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) had been among those arrested; he was granted bail. She noted that the local government politician was not the only person who had received bail.

Responding to the SJB’s accusations, Public Security Minister Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera yesterday (12) told The Island there was absolutely no basis for criticism. He asked the Opposition to reveal who on behalf of the government or his Ministry interfered in the inquiry.

Referring to the arrest of a Navy cardiologist holding the rank of Lieutenant Commander, one-time Navy Chief of Staff Rear Admiral Weerasekera said that the police were conducting investigations. Minister Weerasekera urged the SJB not to play opportunistic politics with the issue at hand as it did with every other incident. He said the Children and Women Bureau conducted the investigation with the support of the CID.

Former IGP Chandra Fernando, speaking to The Island in his new capacity as the Chairman of the National Police Commission (NPC), emphasised that his outfit had not so far received complaints as regards shortcomings on the part of the police investigations or interventions to derail the probe. Fernando said that he had received a note from the National Child Protection Authority in that regard. The NPC could inquire into the status of the investigation, he said.

Director, Police Media, SSP Nihal Talduwa told The Island that the initial breakthrough had been made by HQI, Mount Lavinia Dileepa Perera following a tip-off received from the public. The police searched a place at Station Road where they found the girl with her brother and the two sons of her mother’s paramour. The 35-year-old man had advertised her online over the past several months without attracting the attention of regulatory authorities, SSP Talduwa said.

Among those who had been arrested so far in connection with the ongoing investigation are the girl’s mother and her paramour.

The Island raised the contentious issue of some of those who had been arrested in connection with the rape of a minor being granted bail before the completion of investigations, with Justice Ministry advisor and former President of the Sri Lanka Bar Association U.R. de Silva, PC. According to him, the Colombo Additional Magistrate Roshani Abeywickrema on July 9 had granted bail to four persons the Vice Chairman of the Mihintale Pradeshiya Saba, the Navy cardiologist and two leading businessmen after they were produced at identification parades. They were released on Rs. 25,000 cash bail and two sureties of Rs. 2.5 million each. The former BASL President emphasized that once suspects appeared before identification parades, they could be released. “There cannot be any issue over that,” De Silva said. Earlier, the court granted bail to the girl’s mother.

The Police Children and Women’s Bureau Director declined to comment on the investigation. Asked whether at least she could shed light on some of those arrested receiving bail under controversial circumstances, she said that the media should contact Senior DIG Ajith Rohana.

Senior DIG Rohana said altogether nine persons had so far been granted bail. Granting bail was the prerogative of courts, he added.



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Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi premises becomes a net zero carbon emission zone

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President Ranil Wickremesinghe announced plans to implement a program aimed at transforming Anuradhapura, once a major trade and economic center, into a globally renowned city. He emphasized the need to highlight Anuradhapura’s cultural, educational, commercial, and economic values and to initiate archaeological research to bring its significance to the world stage. While cities like Tanjore, Madras, and Sanchipuram receive global attention, Anuradhapura has yet to be developed to the same extent.

The President mentioned that he would discuss these plans with the Director General of UNESCO, who is visiting Sri Lanka this week. Several universities worldwide have already expressed interest in supporting these initiatives.

President Wickremesinghe made these remarks during the ceremony to commission the 150-kilowatt solar power system installed by the LTL Group at the historic Jaya Sri Maha Bodhiya premises in Anuradhapura on Saturday (13) morning . He also stated that the government would support powering the Atamasthana and the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi premises.

During his visit to the Anuradhapura shrine, the President met with the Chief Incumbent of the Atamasthana in Anuradhapura and Chief Sanghanayake Thera of Nuwara Kalaviya Most Ven. Dr. Pallegama Hemarathana Nayake Thera and engaged in a brief discussion. After paying obeisance to the historic Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi and receiving blessings, he participated in the commissioning of the  solar power system.

Additionally, President Wickremesinghe interacted with the public gathered at the Anuradhapura sacred grounds, engaging in friendly conversations and gathering their input.

In a significant move towards the government’s national policy of reducing carbon emissions and achieving a zero-emission target, LTL Holdings has dedicated a 150-kilowatt solar power system to Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi. This marks the first phase of its net zero carbon emission plan.

This solar power system meets the entire power requirement of the Sri Maha Bodhiya precinct, making the premises of Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi a net zero carbon emission zone for the first time in history.

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Dispute over cobalt-rich seabed: FSP alleges India exploiting hapless Lanka

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Pubudu Jagoda

… Indian HC denies dispute

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Top spokesperson for Jana Aragala Sandhanaya, Pubudu Jagoda, yesterday (12) said that India was brazenly exploiting the continuing political and economic crisis here to secure rights to explore a cobalt-rich underwater mountain in the Indian Ocean, situated in an area staked by Sri Lanka in terms of Article 76 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Jagoda, who also represents the Peratugaami Pakshaya (Frontline Socialist Party), a breakaway faction of the JVP, said so when The Island sought further clarification after he discussed the developing situation with India, in an interview with Asoka Dias on Sirasa ‘Pathikada.’ telecast earlier in the day.

Jagoda told The Island that the unprecedented Indian move on Afanasy Nikitin seamount that lies entirely within an area, also claimed by Sri Lanka way back in 2009 as being within the boundaries of its continental shelf, should be a warning to both the government and the Opposition.

The former JVPer declared that Jana Aragala Sandhanaya would take up this issue vigorously in the run-up to the forthcoming presidential election. Jagoda emphasized that India took advantage of hapless Sri Lanka while frequently uttering like a mantra its self-proclaimed Neighbourhood First Policy and Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR). The Peratagaamis-led grouping recently pledged to contest both the Presidential and Parliamentary polls.

While asserting that political parties represented in Parliament, along with the government, lacked the courage to take up this issue with India, Jagoda therefore urged the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government to deal with it diplomatically at the highest level.

The Indian High Commission spokesperson said there was no dispute and asked The Island to refer to a statement dated July 08, 2024 issued by Sri Lanka Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Appearing on ‘Pathikada’, Jagoda questioned the failure on the part of the government to respond to the Indian move much earlier.

Pointing out that India sought the intervention of Kingston Jamaica-based International Seabed Authority (ISA) to secure approval for exploration of cobalt-rich ferromanganese crusts located at the Afanasy Nikitin seamount thereby undermined Sri Lanka’s efforts to win recognition of the outer limits of its continental shelf, Jagoda said that India seemed to be resorting once again to bullying tactics.

War-winning President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who always jealously guarded the country’s interests, made Sri Lanka’s claim on May 08, 2009, as ground forces were engaged in the last phase of operations on the Vanni east front. The war was brought to a successful conclusion 10 days later.

Jagoda explained how India unfairly pressured Sri Lanka over Chinese research ship visits, finally leading to the government to declare a ban on such stays during whole of this year. The FSP spokesman also expressed concerns over the Katchatheevu issue, massive Indian poaching and the recent death of a Special Boat Squadron (SBS) member as a result of aggressive maneuvers resorted to by an intercepted trawler off Kankesanthurai.

Jagoda alleged that poaching on such a scale couldn’t take place without India’s tacit approval. “They have a much bigger Navy and significant Coast Guard assets therefore there cannot be any excuse for not being able to effectively hinder crossing of the Indo-Lanka maritime boundary at will by their poachers,” Jagoda said. Declaring that destructive bottom trawling had been banned in Indian waters though the invading Indian fishing fleet freely adopted the highly harmful method in our waters, Jagoda alleged that New Delhi conveniently turned a blind eye to what was going on in the neighbour’s waters.

Referring to the dispute over the Indian claim contrary to that of Sri Lanka, the FSPer said the Indian media coverage of the issue indicated that they intended to go ahead with the exploration of the cobalt rich region. Reference was made to India reaching agreement with Taiwan to undertake the exploration amidst rising tensions between China and India.

Acknowledging that the two issues – Sri Lanka’s submission made in terms of UNCLOS in 2009 and India’s appeal to ISA this year – were before the UN as declared by Sri Lanka Foreign Ministry, Jagoda said that the government should discuss the contentious matters with India without further delay.

Jagoda said that no political party represented in Parliament so far commented on the developing situation.

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Another FR petition to stay Presidential Poll at 11th hour

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Another fundamental rights petition was filed in the Supreme Court yesterday (12), requesting the court to prevent the Election Commission from declaring the next presidential election.The petitioner, a lawyer by profession, has argued that the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which reduced the President’s tenure to five years from six, was not passed properly.

He has argued that the 19A must be approved by the people at a referendum and holding a presidential election, as per the aforementioned amendment, is a violation of the Constitution.

The members of the Elections Commission, the Secretary General of the Parliament and the AG were named as respondents.

The petition says that the 19th Amendment strips the President of the power to dissolve Parliament a year after it was elected. The Supreme Court at that time said the provision had to be approved by the people at a referendum for it to become law. A referendum was never held, and therefore 19A could not be considered law.

The petitioner has said the Elections Commission is planning to hold a presidential election this year based on 19A and that it is unconstitutional to hold the election until 19A is subjected to a referendum.

The petitioner has asked the Supreme Court to declare the holding a presidential election, five years into the term of the President, unconstitutional. He also urged the court to instruct the Secretary General of Parliament to subject 19A to a referendum.

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