Former Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen testifying before the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) probing the Easter Sunday attacks, said on Friday (28) that the allegations being made by some opposition lawmakers linking him to the extremist terrorist group that carried out the Easter Sunday suicide bomb attacks, emerged from the fact that he refused to support the October political coup.
Bathiudeen giving evidence before the PSC said two Opposition MPs S.B. Dissanayake and Wimal Weerawansa attempted to brand him as a terrorist as he refused to support the 52-day illegal government formed in October last year.
The former Minister said these two Opposition MPs who were making baseless allegations against him were the ones who pleaded with him to join the illegal Government they set up in October.
Former Minister Bathiudeen told the Committee that he had lodged a complaint against MPs S.B. Dissanayake and Wimal Weerawansa with the Police regarding the allegations made against him. He said he has asked the two MPs to complain to the Police if they had any evidence to prove that he had links to any terrorist group.
“Therefore, I lodged a complaint against them, and the Police have asked me to come to record a statement.”
Bathiudeen said that he decided to appear before the PSC voluntarily to respond to the allegations levelled against him by some Opposition lawmakers as well as the No-Confidence Motion presented against him by the Joint Opposition.
“I had never seen Zahran Hashim. I have no connection whatsoever with any extremist terrorist group. After the disaster, Muslim Parliamentarians met Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith and conveyed our condolences. We told the Cardinal that we would extend our fullest support to punish all those who had links with that terrorist group. Those extremist terrorists had Islamic names, but we don’t recognise them as Muslims. Islam doesn’t preach or advocate bombing and killing people. Everybody should join hands to eradicate this vicious ISIS terrorism from our country.”
PSC member MP Dr. Nalinda Jayatissa questioned Bathiudeen on the allegation that he tried to interfere with investigations into April 21 terror attacks and he had even called the Army Commander.
Responding to the MP’s query, Bathiudeen said that he called the Army Commander on April 25. That was after a person named Mohideen who was a former Advisor to the Muslim Affairs Ministry called him and said that his son, Ishan Ahmed, had been taken away by an unidentified group.
“He had been to the Police in the area to inquire whether his son was in their custody, but the Officer-in-Charge had told him that his son was not with the Police. He had lodged a complaint with the Police regarding it. Therefore, he wanted me to check whether his son was alive. He did not want to have his son released if the latter was in custody. He said the son should be punished if he had been involved in any kind of terror act. He wanted only to know whether his son was alive. So, I called the Army Commander and asked whether a person by that name was in the Army custody. He told me that he would check and let me know. So, I called him again but he had not inquired about the matter then. I called him for the 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 TID. After that I did not call the Army Commander again on the same matter.”
Minister Ravi Karunanayake told Bathiudeen that there is an allegation against him that he permitted the Sathosa vehicles to be used for terrorist activities. Bathiudeen said, “When I took over Sathosa, it had around 300 stalls.
“I increased it to over 400. I was asked by some Opposition MPs to join the Government they set up in October last year. Some opposition members made allegations against me due to my refusal to join that illegal Government. Though they made these allegations, they never complained to the Police about it.”
Bathiudeen told the PSC that former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, former Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake and former Ministers Piyasena Gamage and Prof. G.L. Peiris had links with Yusuf Mohamed Ibrahim, the father of the two suicide bombers who carried out the Easter Sunday attacks. To prove their association, Bathiudeen submitted to the PSC evidence containing pictures of Ibrahim with Rajapaksa, Wicramanayake, Gamage and Prof Peiris. He said Ibrahim was the Chairman of the Colombo Traders’ Association.
“I was the Trade Minister at that time. So I knew Ibrahim. Whenever there was a problem with traders, he came to me with them to discuss it. He or his sons never held any positions in my Ministry. Ibrahim was known not only to me but also to many other politicians.”
Minister Rajitha Senaratne said continuous publication of fabricated news in the media to tarnish the image of Muslim political leaders and brand them as those who have links with terrorism has paved the way for the Sinhala extremists to damage the property owned by Muslim businessmen. Certain sections attempt to portray that all Muslims are responsible for this situation.
Bathiudeen said there are some MPs who deliberately make statements to create hatred and tension among communities. There are a few Buddhist monks who have undertaken a ‘contract’ to make hate speeches via media which resulted in damaging 457 houses of Muslims in Nikaweratiya, Panduwasnuwara, Wariyapola, Kuliyapitiya, Bingiriya, Chilaw, Demodara and Minuwangoda. In addition, 198 business establishments and 70 vehicles of Muslims had been destroyed. Seven Muslims had been injured due to these incidents occurred within about 36 hours.
M.H. Fahim, General Manager of Bank of Ceylon Senerath Bandara, Director General of Board of Investments C.P. Malalgoda and Secretary to the National Police Commission D.M. Samansiri Dissanayake also testified on Friday. As requested by MP M.H. A Haleem, Fahim testified on evidence given by Azath Salley before the PSC earlier. General Manager of BoC Senerath Bandara had been summoned before the PSC to give evidence regarding the financial transactions of the Batticaloa Campus Pvt Ltd. Director General of the Board of Investments Malalgoda had been summoned to give evidence on approval for the Batticaloa Campus pvt Ltd project and signing of the agreement, while National Police Commission Secretary Dissanayake had been summoned regarding the transfer of IP Nishantha Silva attached to the Criminal Investigation Department.
Army Commander Lt General Mahesh Senanayake on Wednesday (26) testifying before the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) rejected the claim that Minister Rishard Bathuideen had influenced him to release some terror suspects and added that no one had influenced him to release anybody under custody over the terrorism charges after the Easter Sunday attacks.
However, Deputy Speaker and PSC Chairman Ananda Kumarasiri asked the Army Commander whether Minister Bathiudeen enquired from him about some terror suspects. Lt Gen Senanayake admitted that Bathiudeen called him thrice to inquire about a suspect by the name of Ahmed.
“Soon after the Easter Sunday attacks, the Minister called me and asked whether we had in our custody a suspect by that name. I told him that I had no information but I could check and let him know. When he called the second time too I did not have the information. Third time, I had the information and I confirmed that there was a terror suspect by that name and taken into custody from Dehiwala and also told him to make further inquiries if necessary only one and a half years later.
PSC member Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka questioned the Army Commander as to how he knew that the person in custody had links with extremists. The Army Commander said that they had information about them. Fonseka asked the Army Commander as to how he was so exact about one and a half years’ time.
Lt Gen Senanayake said when a particular suspect was taken into custody under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, he had to be handed over to the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) within 24 hours. The suspect could be retained for one and a half years but the period has since been reduced to one year.
Responding to a query by Minister Ravi Karunanayake about the current security situation, the Army Commander said it is not practical or correct to say that this problem is virtually over.
“We have made arrangements to coordinate our security forces and intelligence officers to ensure security. We have received the support of intelligence communities of the neighbouring countries as well. We are coordinating with every one responsible to ensure that there would be no such incidents.”
Army Commander Senanayake said there is still room for attacks similar to the Easter Sunday carnage. There is the possibility of the ‘Lone Wolf Attacks’ too. Next time, it might not be explosives and guns. They could use vehicles, knives, water or fire to cause disaster and kill people. Therefore, the threat is still there.
Fonseka said the terrorists do not want trained cadres but only one highly motivated person to carry out such a mission. Army Commander Senanayake endorsed the point raised by Fonseka and said that the nature of the Lone Wolf Attacks is to inflict maximum damage and destruction.