By Rathindra Kuruwita
Pulasthini Rajendran aka Sarah Jesmine, wife of Atchchi Muhammadu Hastun, who detonated the suicide bomb at St. Sebastian’s Church at Katuwapitiya, Negombo had been with the wife of NTJ leader Zaharan Hashim, Abdul Cader Fatima, from February to 26 April, 2019 and the authorities could find out what happened to Sarah from Fatima, Rajaratnam Kavitha, the mother of Pulasthini, on Saturday, told the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) investigating the Easter Sunday attacks.
The witness said that Pulasthini had been converted to Islam in 2015 by General Secretary of the Sri Lanka Thowheed Jama’at (SLTJ), Abdul Razik. Her daughter, born in 1996, had obtained 8 As and 1 B at the GCE O/L examination, and had decided to study biology; she used to travel to Kalmunai to attend private tuition classes and the witness was working in Abu Dhabi at that time.
The witness said that on 29 July, 2015, her mother had informed her, over the phone, that Pulasthini had gone missing. Kavitha had instructed her mother to lodge a complaint with the Kaluwanchikudy Police. Razik had called Kavitha’s brother informing him that Pulasthini was with them.
Kavitha said that she returned from Abu Dhabi and visited Razik’s office at Maligawatte. “I saw Pulasthini dressed like a Muslim woman. There were three men including Razik and a woman. Razik and two other men there were listening while I was talking to Pulasthini.”
Asked by the Attorney General’s (AG’s) department representative who was leading the evidence what she had done after talking to Pulasthini on that day, the witness said that she had lodged a complaint with the Maligawatte police station.
The witness said: “Abdul Razik came to the police station with Pulasthini. Police officers told me to take her home for 15 days and that I could keep her with me if she decided to follow Hinduism. However, if she decided to follow Islam, she should be allowed to join Razik. The Police officers also warned me that I would be arrested if I didn’t act accordingly.”
Commissioners asked Kavitha if she was aware that a mother had the right to a child, regardless of religion, and if so, whether she had explained that to the policemen. The witness said that she was aware of that and when the point was raised, the Police officers had told her that Pulasthini was over 18 years old and that she could do as she wished.
Kavitha also said that the Police officers had got her to signe a three-page document. She added that she could not understand the contents as it had been in Sinhala.
“Razik’s aim was to convert Hindus to Islam. When I first went to the Maligawatte Police station I told them that, but the Police did not pay any attention to it and only listened to Razik,” she added.
Kavitha said that after returning home with her, Pulasthini had removed the Abaya and practiced Hindu rituals. However, after 15 days, Razik had demanded that Pulasthini be returned to them. Razik had warned he knew how to change Pulasthini’s mind. On September 24, 2015 she went to hospital with Pulasthini, who went missing. She lodged a complaint with the Batticaloa Police.
The following day, Razik had called her and informed her that Pulasthini had got married to Hastun, the witness said. “I went to Maligawatte with my brother, aunt and son. However, Razik did not show her any evidence that the marriage had taken place.
“The Maligawatte Police were informed of this but they said there was nothing they could do because both Pulasthini and Hastun were over 18 years. I learned that my daughter’s name had been changed to Sarah Jasmine after the marriage.”
However, Pulasthini came to Abu Dhabi on 6 January, 2016 to join her mother because she didn’t want to live with Hastun. Pulasthini was in Abu Dhabi for almost four months ; she worked there as a cashier.
“After about four months, Pulasthini told me that she wanted to continue her studies and went back to Sri Lanka. She promised me that she would not go back to Hastun again. Meanwhile, Hastun had lodged a complaint with the Kattankudy Police station that we had kept his wife away from him forcibly. The complaint was investigated at the Kattankudy Police station. Representatives of a Muslim federation and the Police handed over my daughter to Hastun.”
Commissioners paid special attention to the fact that Hastun had lodged a complaint with the Kattankudy Police although Pulasthini was a resident of the Kaluwanchikudy Police division. They were also concerned by the revelation that outsiders had come and intervened during the investigation of the complaint.
The witness said that after sometime she had come to know that Zaharan’s wife had taken her daughter to a house in Narammala and the last time she spoke to Pulasthini was on the phone on 19 February, 2019, around 12.30 p.m.
“I heard a lot of people talking around her when she spoke that day, and she said she would give her phone to be repaired and, therefore, she would not call me for about a week. I haven’t heard from her sincee.”
Kavitha said that she had returned to Sri Lanka by that time and lodged a complaint with the Narammala Police on 6 April, 2019, as she had not heard from Pulasthini for two months. On 7 April, a CID officer Roshan had visited her and informed her that he has come with some information from Razik. Roshan had told the witness that Pulasthini was with Zaharan’s wife and gave her a contact number to inform him in case Pulasthini called her.
“Two days later, I went to the Kaluwanchikudy Police station to lodge a complaint about Pulasthini but they did not accept the complaint. They told me to go to Kattankudy Police station. Even though I went to Kattankudy Police, they also did not accept the complaint.”
Since both the Kaluwanchikudy and Kattankudy Police stations had not accepted complaints, Kavitha had then gone to the Human Rights Commission’s regional office in Batticaloa.
“I informed an officer there that I had found out that my daughter was with Zaharan. At that moment he said he knew Zaharan and that there was nothing to be scared of since Zaharan was a normal person. He also said there was no need to lodge a complaint and that he would look into the matter,” Kavitha said.
Members of the PCoI asked Kavitha about recent revelations that Pulasthini had not been killed during a shootout with the security forces in Sainthamaruthu on 26 April, 2019. Kavitha said that she had come to know about such a matter through the media but she has not heard from her daughter since February 2019. She also requested the security forces to conduct another DNA test.
The witness said that the Police had shown her photographs of jewelleries found in the house of Sainthamaruthu after the explosion and that her daughter’s jewellery was not there.
When the commission inquired whether the witness had seen Pulasthini in September 2019, she said that she had not even spoken to her over the phone since February 2019, and if she had known her daughter’s whereabouts, she would definitely have informed the security forces.
“I request the security forces to find out if my daughter is alive. If my daughter has done something wrong, punish her. But if she is alive, give me a chance to see her at least once,” she said.
Concluding that Kavitha’s life was likely to be in danger due to testimonies that she gave before the Commission, the PCoI ordered the National Authority for the Protection of Victims of Crime and Witnesses to ensure her security and to submit a written report to the PCoI within a week on the action taken in that regard.
Six nabbed with over 100 kg of ‘Ice’
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.
PM intervenes to iron out differences among coalition partners
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.”
Thilo Hoffman remembered
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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