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Riyaj’s release takes unexpected turn: AG summons CID Chief

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…SLPP Parliamentary Group flays police

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Asimmering controversy over the recent releasing of Riyaj Bathiudeen, arrested over his alleged involvement with those responsible for 2019 Easter Sunday carnage, has taken an unexpected turn with Attorney General Dappula de Livera PC summoning Deputy inspector General in charge of the CID S.P. Ranasinghe and its Chief Investigative Officer.

Ranasinghe took over the CID after the government removed DIG Nuwan Wedisinghe, who had been the senior officer in charge at the time Riyaj arrested five months ago under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) was released. Wedisinghe thereupon received appointment as the Acting DIG Western Province (North).

The AG took that decision after more than hundred ruling party members of parliament, including ministers, in a letter to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa demanded a thorough inquiry and Riyaj Bathiudeen be re-arrested.

Wedisinghe received appointment as DIG, CID in late Dec 2019 following the presidential election.

Among those who had signed the petition demanding the re-arrest of Riyaj Bathiudeen, a brother of Samagi Jana Balavegaya MP and the leader of the All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) Rishad Bathiudeen were many ministers. Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage has signed the petition first.

AG’s Coordinating Officer State Counsel Nishara Jayaratne told The Island that the DIG in charge of the CID now along with the Chief Investigative Officer were asked to bring what she called all investigative material relating to the Riyaj Bathiudeen case.

There hadn’t been a previous case of the CID being summoned by the AG over releasing of suspects taken under the PTA.

The government parliamentary group, in its letter dated Oct 9, pointed out to the President and the PM that Riyaj Bathiudeen arrested on April 14 had been set free on Sept 30 even without him ever being produced before a court. The SLPP group emphasized that the Police Spokesman attorney-at-law SSP Jaliya Senaratne revealed at a media briefing that Riyaj had been to a hotel with one of the Easter Sunday bombers in addition to having direct links with another suicide bomber. The SLPP group further pointed out that no less a person than former Army Commander Lt. Gen. Mahesh Senanayake told the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) on Oct 8 how Riyaj facilitated Easter Sunday mastermind Zahran Hashim fleeing to India in 2018 by sea. Police headquarters also removed SSP Senaratne.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in a statement issued recently denied any deal with Rishad Bathiudeen in the wake of Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, archbishop of Colombo strongly protesting the suspect’s release. The Cardinal called a media briefing close on the heels of Internal Security Minister Chamal Rajapaksa shaking hands with Bathiudeen in Vavuniya.

In addition to investigations conducted regarding Riyaj Bathiudeen’s alleged involvement, the CID also recorded Rishad Bathiudeen’s statement regarding favours granted to a copper factory at Wellampitiya owned by one of the suicide bombers, 36-year-old Inshaf Ahamed, who carried out the attack on

Cinnamon Grand Hotel. Former police spokesman Senaratne is on record as having said that part of the profits of the company had been used to fund the Easter Sunday attacks. Inshaf Ahamed’s elder brother, Illham Ibrahim, 38 carried out attacks on Shangri-La along with Zahran Hashim. Their father, spice tycoon Y.M. Ibrahim, who had been on the JVP National List at the 2015 parliamentary election, was taken into custody just hours after the Easter attacks from his palatial Dematagoda house where his daughter-in-law triggered multiple blasts causing several deaths, including police officers.

Sources said that the SLPP parliamentary group wrote to the President amidst intense speculation of an influential section of the government seeking an understanding with Bathiudeen’s party to enable them to vote for the proposed 20th Amendment to the Constitution. The ACMC secured four seats on the SJB ticket. Baithiudeen first entered parliament in 2001 on the UNP ticket and re-elected on the same ticket in 2004. He was an SLMC nominee. After the UNP’s defeat at the general election in April 2004, Bathiudeen switched allegiance to the UPFA. ACMC contested the 2010 general election on the UPFA ticket. Bathiudeen switched allegiance to the UNP at the 2015 presidential election and contested on the UNP ticket at the 2015 general election. At the last election, he contested on the SJB ticket.

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Majority of 300 luxury vehicles to be released

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… some shipped in without opening LCs, EU wants restrictions abolished

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The majority of the luxury vehicles imported by special permit holders in contravention of the import ban imposed by the government in view of precarious economic situation caused by corona first wave are likely to be released subject to penalties.

Well informed sources said that those vehicles shipped in without even opening LCs would be released. Among the violators were many government servants.

Sources said that vehicles brought in without opening LCs were likely to be confiscated.

“We have categorised over 300 vehicles, including BMWs, Mercedes-Benz and Audis into two groups. Customs are now in the process of evaluating individual cases,” a high ranking state official said.

The government announced a ban on vehicle imports to arrest the depletion of foreign reserves. Sources acknowledged that at the time the vehicles

arrived in Sri Lanka the second corona wave hadn’t erupted. The situation was far worse now and further deteriorating, they said, adding that the Customs were being inundated with requests for releasing vehicles on sympathetic grounds.

Controversy surrounds the failure on the part of the government to strictly implement the import ban in view of the sharp drop in state revenue due to the pandemic.

Recently, the EU demanded that Sri Lanka immediately lift import ban or face the consequences. The EU issued the warning in talks with government representatives. Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena explained the circumstances that compelled the government to impose import restrictions. The EU sought an explanation as to when the ban would be lifted. The Foreign Ministry quoted Foreign Minister Gunawardena as having explained to the EU the challenges Sri Lanka economy was facing amidst the dwindling foreign currency reserve situation due to the significant reduction in remittances and tourism revenue induced by the COVID-19 global pandemic. The minister said that the import restrictions were being reviewed.

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Nearly 74,000 persons under home quarantine

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Close to 74,000 people belonging to 27,974 families had been placed under home quarantine, Police Spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said on Wednesday (25).

He said that the number of cases from the Minuwangoda and Peliyagoda clusters had increased to 17,436 with 458 persons had tested positive for the virus on Tuesday.

Two wards of the Kethumathi Maternity Hospital, Panadura were temporarily closed on Wednesday after two pregnant women admitted there tested COVID-19 positive.

The two women are from Atalugama, which has been declared an isolated area. During the last few days close to half of the COVID-19 patients detected in Colombo District are from Atalugama.

The two women have been sent to Neville Fernando Hospital, Malabe. The patients and staff in Wards 3 and 4 at the Kethumathi Maternity Hospital are now under quarantine. Their family members too have been asked to undergone self-quarantine.

The Police had arrested 61 persons who had violated quarantine laws within the 24 hours that ended at 8 am yesterday, Police spokesman, DIG Ajith Rohana said, adding that they had been arrested for not wearing masks or for not maintaining physical distancing. With those altogether 688 persons had been arrested for violating quarantine laws from October 30, he said.

Commissioner General of Prisons Thushara Upuldeniya said that apart from Welikada, the spread of COVID-19 had been controlled at other prisons. COVID-19 cases had been reported from six prisons, he added.

“We are conducting PCR tests and hope that the situation in Welikada too would be brought under control. Twenty four new cases were detected from prisons on November 24 and from October 04, we have identified 708 cases within the prison system.”

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Severity of impact of second wave on economy could be far worse than anticipated – CBSL

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By Shyam Nuwan Ganewatte

The impact of the second wave of COVID-19 could be severer on the economic growth than previously anticipated, Director of Economic Research at the Central Bank Dr. Chandranath Amarasekara said yesterday (26).

Dr. Amarasekera said so responding to a query by The Island at a CBSL media briefing. The top official said that an assessment couldn’t be made yet as the second wave was continuing.

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