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



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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Economic crisis: 100,000 families already starving



Govt. to provide monthly assistance package – official

By Ifham Nizam 

Plans are underway to assist an average needy family of  four with a monthly package of Rs. 15,000, a senior adviser to President Ranil Wickremesinghe said yesterday, adding that the move was expected to help ameliorate the plight of nearly 65,000 families.

Food Security Committee Chairman Dr. Suren Batagoda told The Island yesterday that at present some 100,000 families across the country were starving.

He said financial assistance would be provided to those families for three months. Within three months, the government would design a package in the form of food stamps, etc.

Dr. Batagoda said the World Food Programme, UNICEF, the World Bank, and state agencies would also team up to strengthen food security, focusing especially on needy pregnant mothers and pre-school children.

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GR govt. ignored Chinese lenders’ request for debt restructuring



By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Gotabaya Rajapaksa government had ignored suggestions by Chinese lending institutions that Sri Lanka to restructure the debt in 2021, Prof. Samitha Hettige said yesterday.

“The Rajapaksa government started talking of debt restructuring earlier this year. The Opposition had been asking for this before,” he said.  By 2021, before the Gotabaya Rajapaksa administration decided on debt restructuring, the Chinese institutions that had given Sri Lanka loans suggested that a restructuring process should start since Sri Lanka would have trouble repaying the loans, the Strategic Studies scholar said.

However, the request had gone unheeded, and if the government had started discussions then, Sri Lanka would not have been in crisis, Prof. Hettige said.

The Sri Lankan foreign policy, in the last few years, had also been misguided, Prof. Hettige said. A number of Indian and Chinese companies faced unnecessary issues by the behaviour of the government, he said.

Prof. Hettige said that the government must focus on establishing free trade ports and reducing negative lists for investments.

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SJB dissociates itself from SF’s call for protest



By Chaminda Silva

MP Sarath Fonseka’s call for people to join anti-government protests was not a decision taken by the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), party MP J.C Alawathuwala said.

The SJB believed that they had to help President Ranil Wickremesinghe stabilise the country, economically and politically, he said.

MP Alawathuwala said the President must be given some time to solve the problems faced by the people and that the SJB was holding discussions with the government to guide it on a people-friendly path.

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