By Saman Indrajith
Former Minister of Industry Rishad Bathiudeen told Parliamentary Select Committee probing the Easter Sunday carnage yesterday that former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, former Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake, former Minister of Industry Piyasena Gamage and former Minister Prof GL Peiris had known Yusuf Mohamed Ibrahim, the father of two suicide bombers who carried out attacks. Ibrahim is currently in custody.
To prove his claim Bathiudeen submitted to the PSC pictures of Ibrahim with Rajapaksa, Wicramanayake, Gamage and Prof Peiris. Testifying before the PSC, Bathiudeen said that he had called Army Commander Lt. General Mahesh Senanayake following a request from the father of a person named Ishan Ahmed to make sure that Ahmed had been arrested by the Police or the Army, not by an unidentified group.
The PSC yesterday comprised Chairman Deputy Speaker Ananda Kumarasiri, Ministers Dr. Rajitha Senaratne and Ravi Karunanayake, MPs Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, Prof. Ashu Marasinghe, Rauff Hakeem and Dr. Nalinda Jayatissa. MPs M.A. Sumanthiran and Dr. Jayampathy Wickramaratna did not participate in the PSC sitting.
Dr Jayatissa: There is an allegation that you tried to interfere with investigations into April 21 terror attacks. You have even called the Army Commander.
Bathiudeen: I called the Army Commander on April 25. That was after (name of the father) called me and said that his son had been taken away by an unidentified group. He had gone to Police in the area to inquire about whether his son was in their custody. But the Officer in Charge had told him that his son was not with the Police. The father lodged a complaint with Police. I can show you that complaint (shows a document to the PSC). So the father wanted me to check whether his son was alive. He did not want to release the son if the latter was in custody. He said the son should be punished if he had been involved with any kind of terrorist act. Only he wanted to know whether his son was alive. At that time many Muslims had been arrested by the Police and Army. There was a possibility of unidentified group taking suspects away. So I called the Army Commander and asked whether a person in that name was in the custody of Army. He told me that he would check and let me know. So I called another time. He had not inquired about the matter then. I called him third time on April 28 and he confirmed that the person was in Army custody. He told me that he would hand him over to the Police. I did not call the Army Commander again on the same matter.
Dr Jayartissa: Did you know Army Commander before? Did you call him again after your third call?
Bathiudeen: I got to know about him when he was appointed as the Army Commander. I called him again because I got a request from a Muslim religious leader to inform the authorities to provide additional security to the area and mosques on the day in which mass funeral of Easter Sunday attack victims took place. Following that request I called President Maithripala Sirisena, State Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardene and the Army Commander. I have not called him after that.
I came before the PSC voluntarily to respond to the allegations that I had helped terrorism. I haven’t seen Zahran Hashim. I saw him by photos published by media after terror attacks. The terrorists should be punished. After the incident Muslim MPs met the Cardinal and conveyed our condolences. Terrorists had Islamic names. But we don’t consider them as Muslims. Islam doesn’t preach or advocate bombing other people.
Minister Karunanayake: The IS was born within Islam, isn’t it?
Bathiudeen: Quran says taking one’s life is equal to killing whole mankind. Quran doesn’t tell anyone to kill people of other faiths. IS should be banned in Sri Lanka.
Minister Karunanayake: There is an allegation that you permitted the use of Sathosa vehicles for terrorist work?
Bathiudeen: When I accepted the portfolio Sathosa had around 300 stalls. I increased the number to over 400. I was asked by the Opposition to join them when they set up a government October last year. Following my refusal to comply, some Opposition members spread that allegation. But they never complained to the police. They should have done that if their complaint was genuine. But I went to Police and complained against them. I lodged complaints against S.B Dissanayake and Wimal Weerawansa.
Prof Marasinghe: Do you know Ibrahim?
Bathiudeen: He was the Chairman of Colombo Traders’ Association. I was the trade minister then. So I knew him. Whenever there was a problem for merchants he came with other traders to discuss it. He or his sons never had any positions in my ministry. He never came alone to meet me. He came with other members of his organization. Ibrahim was known not only to me but to many other politicians. He was known to former President, former Prime Minister, former Minister of Industry and Minister Prof GL Peiris. I can submit photos they took together.
Prof Marasinghe: Do you know his sons?
Bathiudeen: I knew his son-in-law Alawdeen.
Prof Marasinghe: Was he an employee of your ministry?