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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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Six nabbed with over 100 kg of ‘Ice’

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By Norman Palihawadane and Ifham Nizam

The Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) yesterday arrested six suspects in the Sapugaskanda Rathgahawatta area with more than 100 kilos of Crystal Methamphetamine also known as Ice.

Police Media Spokesman, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Ajith Rohana told the media that the PNB sleuths, acting on information elicited from a suspect in custody had found 91 packets of Ice.

A man in possession of 100 kilos of heroin was arrested in Modera during the weekend and revealed that a haul of Ice had been packed in plastic boxes.

The PNB seized more than 114 kilos of Ice from the possession of a single drug network.

According to the information elicited from the suspects, more than 100 kilos of Ice were found.

The PNB also arrested six persons including two women with 13 kilos of Ice, during an operation carried out in the Niwandama area in Ja-Ela on Sunday.

DIG Rohana said the ice had been packed in small plastic boxes and hidden in two school bags.

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PM intervenes to iron out differences among coalition partners

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By Norman Palihawadane

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday said that he was confident that differences among the constituents of the SLPP coalition as regards the May Day celebrations and the next Provincial Council elections could be ironed out soon.

Leaders of all SLPP allied parties have been invited to a special meeting to be held at Temple Trees with the PM presiding on April 19.

Prime Minister Rajapaksa said it was natural for members of a political alliance to have their own standpoints and views on matters of national importance. “This is due to the different political ideologies and identities. It is not something new when it comes to political alliances world over. In a way, it shows that there is internal democracy within our alliance.

The PM said: “As a result of that the allied parties may express their own views on issues, but that does not mean there is a threat to the unity of the alliance. An alliance is more vibrant and stronger not when all the parties think on the same lines but when the member parties have different ideologies.”

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Thilo Hoffman remembered

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A copy of the book “Politics of a Rainforest: Battles to save Sinharaja” was handed over to Dominik Furgler, the Swiss Ambassador in Sri Lanka by the author of the book, Dr. Prasanna Cooray at the Swiss Embassy in Colombo last Tuesday, to be sent to the family of the late Thilo Hoffman in Switzerland.

Hoffman, a Swiss national, who made Sri Lanka his second home for six decades, was a pioneering environmental activist who led the battles to save Sinharaja from the front in the early 1970s, abreast with the likes of Iranganie Serasinghe, Kamanie Vitharana, Lynn De Alwis and Nihal Fernando of the “Ruk Rekaganno” fame. That was the era when the trees of Sinharaja were felled for the production of plywood by the then government. Hoffman was also a livewire of the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS) for a long time. Hoffman died in 2014 at the age of 92.

The book includes a chapter on Thilo Hoffman.

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