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Sara’s mother tells PCoL: ‘Zahran’s wife must be aware where my daughter is’ Easter Sunday carnage probe:

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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.



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UNDP: Rs 600 bn tax cut a huge mistake

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Director of the Sustainable Finance Hub of the UNDP Marcos Neto has called the decision to do away with a range of taxes here a fundamental mistake committed by Sri Lanka.The comment was made at the Parliament complex during an interactive dialogue on ‘Revenue Generation as a Pathway to Sri Lanka’s Economic Recovery’ on Tuesday (09). It was organised on a request by Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, former Chairman of the Committee on Public Finance to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The Opposition as well as several other parties alleged that the government had lost as much as Rs 600 bn due to the controversial decision to do away with a range of taxes including PAYE, NBT (Nation Building Tax), Withholding tax, Capital Gain tax imposed on the Colombo Stock Exchange, Bank Debit tax and unprecedented reduction of VAT (Value Added Tax). The 15% VAT and the 2% NBT which amounted to 17% imposed on all goods and services were unified and reduced to 8%, effective from the first of December 2019.

The decision was taken at the first Cabinet meeting of the Gotabaya Rajapaksa government on 27 Nov. 2019.Governor of the Central Bank Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe is on record as having said that the powers that be ignored the IMF warning not to do so and also the immediate need to restructure Sri Lanka’s debt (SF)

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Debate on power tariff hike on 29 Aug.

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Party leaders have decided to debate the electricity tariff hikes in parliament on 29 August.The date was fixed for the debate following a request by the main opposition SJB.The debate will be held from 9.30 am to 4.30 pm on 29 August.

Chief Opposition Whip Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella told Parliament on Wednesday (10) that as per the proposed tariff hike the monthly electricity bill of domestic consumers would increase by 75 percent to 125 percent. “This is unbearable. This is like sending the people to an electric chair while they are struggling to make ends meet amidst a massive increase in cost of living.

How does this government expect people would be able to pay such an exorbitant price for electricity? We demand a debate in parliament before this proposed tariff hike is implemented,” Kiriella said.

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British national to be deported

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Department of Immigration and Emigration has ordered Kayleigh Fraser, a British national whose passport has been taken into custody after she posted on social media anti-government protests, for violating her visa conditions, to leave the country by 15 August. The Department has already cancelled her visa.

Earlier this month Immigration and Emigration officials visited Fraser at her home and took her passport into custody. The Department said Fraser had been in Sri Lanka for medical reasons since 2019. She had returned home several times, it said.

The Immigration and Emigration officers told her to visit them within the next seven days.Fraser on 02 August said that a group of immigration officers had visited her and asked for her travel document. She said that officials told her that they would return her passport when she visited the Department of Immigration and Emigration.

Fraser added that she had received an anonymous call asking her to leave Sri Lanka as soon as possible before facing ‘big problems.’ Immigration officials visited her house a few days after the call.

Fraser has shared a number of photographs and videos from the ‘Gota Go Gama’ site. Human Rights groups and activists have accused the Sri Lankan government of using Emergency regulations to harass and arbitrarily detain activists seeking political reform and accountability for the country’s economic crisis.

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