The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Wednesday detained a Facebook friend of Zahran Hashim, the mastermind of the Easter attacks in Sri Lanka, along with five others in Coimbatore.
NIA alleged that the prime suspect Mohammed Azharudheen, 32, and his associates were “propagating the ideology of proscribed terrorist organization Islamic State on social media with the intention of recruiting vulnerable youth for carrying out terrorist attacks in South India especially in Kerala and Tamil Nadu.”
NIA claimed Azharudheen was highly radicalised and was running a Facebook page called “Khilafah GFX.”
“We do not know if Azharudheen’s acquaintance with Hashim was only limited to interactions on Facebook or went beyond it. We are questioning him but have named him and five others in the FIR. His online activities were under watch for few months now,” said an NIA official. The residence and offices of the suspects were searched on Wednesday.
( This is the text of a media release issued by the office of the Leader of the Opposition. It is a Translation of a speech made by the Leader of the Opposition Hon. Mahinda Rajapaksa on Tuesday, 11 June 2019 at his official residence on Wijerama Mawatha Colombo.)
Venerable members of the Maha Sangha, clergymen of all other faiths, citizens of Sri Lanka and friends,
The terrorist attack that took place on the 21st of April is a watershed in the history of this country. Today, a fear of terrorists who murder those who do not subscribe to their religious ideology, has spread throughout the country. Economic activities have been adversely affected. As was the case during the war, parents are once again guarding schools. Today, religious observances have to be performed under tight security – a situation that we did not experience even during the war. We are unable to celebrate Vesak and Poson as we used to. Devotees are searched before being allowed to enter places of worship.
There is now mutual mistrust between the Muslim community and the followers of other religions. This mistrust is now developing in a dangerous direction due to the allegation that a Muslim medical specialist attached to the Kurunegala hospital had due to extremist religious ideology, rendered women belonging to other religions infertile. At a time like this, the leaders of the country and of the Muslim community, should act in a very responsible and circumspect manner.
Two or three weeks after the bomb attacks, we saw organised groups of people attacking Muslim owned business establishements in certain areas obviously with a view to igniting a countrywide riot. But those incidents ceased almost as quickly as they started due to resolute opposition from the general public. There was strong opposition to these acts of violence in the social media as well. We saw similar incidents taking place around 2014 in the run up to the 2015 presidential election. On the 9th January 2019, we found that both the perpetrators and victims of those incidents, were with the common candidate. This time too they seem to have been aiming at a similar stunt, but their attempt failed.
All of us should understand that everything that we see happenning now, is directly connected to the presidentail election that is due to be held in a few months. The present government is seeking to retain for the next presidential election as well, the Muslim vote base that they organised around themselves using various stratagems before 2015. Opposition MPs tabled a no-confidence motion against one Cabinet minister on the grounds that he had connections with the terrorists responsible for the Easter Sunday attacks. No confidence motions are an integral part of the parliamentary tradition and a right exercised by the parliamentary opposition.
The historic Catholic shrine dedicated to St. Anthony of Padua in Colombo, Kochchikade, will celebrate the 185th feast of the Saint on Thursday at 10 a.m., with a trilingual festive High Mass offered at the Shrine. Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith will be the officiating prelate.
This Shrine coming down from the times of the Dutch Rule, was one of the targets of the string of bomb attacks across the island nation. The severe and chilling terrorist attack was unheard of before the Easter Sunday of this year.
This Shrine will be consecrated once again on Wednesday at 5 p.m. by the Cardinal, the chief shepherd of the Sri Lanka Catholic Church and the Archbishop of Colombo Metropolitan diocese.
The re-consecration of the Shrine is needed because of the unholy attack by the terrorists. It was a violation of what is sacred and holy. It was in fact, an act of sacrilege. Hence re-consecration is deemed necessary, after the completion of the reconstruction of the Shrine, damaged by violence.
Former Governor of the Western province Azath Salley yesterday told the Parliamentary Select Committee probing the Easter Sunday carnage that former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa had worked closely with Sri Lanka Thowheed Jamaath, which was one of the organisations responsible for the April 21 attacks.
Testifying before the PSC, which met yesterday for the fourth time, the former Governor said that Rajapakasa, as the Secretary Defence, had maintained links with the SLTJ.
Salley said that the SLTJ had around 10,000 active supporters throughout the country.
He said that while he was the Governor, he had warned three times of the possible threats from the Thowheed Jamaath.
President of the Federation of Kanthankudi Mosques and Muslim Institutions, Abdul Uvaiz, yesterday, told the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) probing the Easter Sunday carnage that people of Kaththankudy had stood up to the Zahran’s terror group but the law enforcement and defence authorities had failed to take timely action.
Giving evidence before the PSC, Uvaiz said that if the security authorities had acted swiftly on information they got from the people of Kathankudy, the Easter Sunday carnage could have been avoided.
Zahran should have been arrested while he was propagating extremism and investigations conducted years ago, Uvaiz said.
President of the All Ceylon Jamiathul Ullama Moulavi Mohammed Rizwi, yesterday, told the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) probing the Easter Sunday carnage that his organisation had been warning relevant authorities since 2014 of the dangers posed by Muslim extremists.
Giving evidence before the PSC, the Moulavi said that he and Azath Salley had met the then Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando on January 3, 2019 and informed him of Zahran Hashim’s subversive activities.
Sri Lanka’s parliament Tuesday defied President Maithripala Sirisena and resumed investigations into security lapses surrounding the Easter suicide bombings that killed 258 people, officials said, as a political crisis in the country deepened.
The Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) began hearing testimony from Muslim leaders who claimed they repeatedly alerted the authorities to dangerous radicalisation, a parliamentary official said.
In what appeared to be a tit-for-tat move, Sirisena did not call the routine weekly cabinet meeting to discuss the day-to-day running of the administration.
The opposition Sri Lanka People’s Front said the standoff between the president and the cabinet, controlled by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s party, meant the government was at a standstill.
By: Danesh Thirukumaran
Here comes Toronto. The recent success of the Toronto Raptors has put the city’s passion for basketball in the spotlight, as many followers, old and new, begin to rejoice as the team reaches its first NBA Finals in team history. “Dr. James Naismith of Almonte, Ontario, probably never imagined how the sport would rally Canadians this spring when he invented it over 125 years ago,” as said by the Library and Archives Canada.
Former POTUS, President Barack Obama attended Raptors Game #2 in Toronto, on June 2
“Give peace within her borders, ‘twixt man and man goodwill,
The love all unsuspicious, the love that works no ill1. ” – W.S. Senior
Real stories-real racism
A Colombo taxi driver informed a customer that he was a Muslim. It sounded like an apology. His two previous hires had been cancelled after his cultural identity had been guessed.
In the hill-country, a group of persons got into a heated argument with a woman who had accompanied her daughter to an interview. One of them called the police and the woman was taken in for questioning. It had nothing to do with the petty quarrel. She had a scarf draped over her head.
In the deep-south a Muslim family was asked to leave a private bus. The conductor was barely out of his teens. None of the other passengers objected. The difference it would have made to the humiliated family did not seem to matter.
In several places around the country an unofficial boycott of Muslim shops and businesses is in place. This gets worse when non-Muslims who step into Muslim shops are intimidated as they step out, and Muslims who step into non-Muslim shops are turned away.
This shameful trend took a painful turn in an act of self-infliction at Kekirawa. The destruction of a mosque by some Muslims was a desperate attempt for survival. The ‘perceived enemy’ seemed to be pointing at the ‘real enemy’ so that social anger would be directed elsewhere. The act nevertheless amounted to a criminal breach of the peace. No matter the cheering squads, those who picked up sledge hammers and took the law into their own hands should be prosecuted.
Any credible evidence of sedition being planned or fanned at the demolished Mosque should have been passed on to state authorities. Intra-Muslim violence brings neither credit nor credibility to anyone. It only spreads what it expects to stop. Already judged by their own, the ‘enemy’ Muslims have overnight become targets.
The gay abandon with which Sri Lanka’s politicians and public servants at the highest level act as if they are beyond even the slightest hint of accountability boggles our perpetually astonished imagination. This is exemplified by their behaviour in relation to first, ignoring all impending warnings of the Easter Sunday attacks by Islamist jihadists and second, by casually waving away responsibilities after the event on one ground or another, notwithstanding monumentally devastating consequences.
Iceberg of political lies, prevarications and obfuscation
Indeed, the ongoing proceedings before the Parliamentary Select Committee now inquiring into the Easter Sunday demonstrates that fact in frightening detail.
As an appalled public listened to the startling testimony given by the former Inspector General of Police (IGP), the former Defence Secretary and heads of intelligence agencies this week scarcely believing what they heard, it is clear that this is the proverbial tip of a gigantic iceberg of political lies, prevarications and obfuscation.
For a few interested in and used to confirmation hearings or congressional sessions into individual or institutional activities in the US, the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) hearings in Sri Lanka, at first broadcast live, is something of a novelty.
Videos featuring Kamala Harris or Mazie Hirono questioning Brett Kavanaugh, Dianne Feinstein questioning Willian Barr or the now more frequent clips of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez questioning federal employees including high-ranking FBI officials and CEOs have gone viral even in Sri Lankafor a variety of reasons. One, it is an entirely alien political culture for us. Even with a puerile, offensive Commander in Chief and Executive Branch, other sections of government in the US hold accountable public institutions and public officials in ways we don’t even have constitutional provisions for, or the political imagination to construct and enact.
There is something ennobling about the proceedings – of public officials and industry giants being questioned on policies and practices. We are unused to this scrutiny and questioning, given a political culture unaccountable to voters once in power and Parliament. Two Cs – commissions and committees – defying both decency and democracy, define and draw outrageous political impunity in Sri Lanka, for decades. The most egregious abuse of power, negligence of public duty, corruption and nepotism, carry on with impunity even after very public announcements into their investigation through mechanisms that invariably fade into oblivion.
Dare we hope to believe that the PSC in to the Easter Sunday terrorism marks a change from this?
The national poll for the election of the next President is required to be held between November 8th and December 8th this year. Since the incumbent President has now indicated that he might not be seeking re-election, Sri Lanka’s next President will assume that office as soon as the result of that election is declared by the Commissioner of Elections. Several potential candidates have already emerged. In fact, any elector who has attained the age of 35 years, is not a citizen of any other country, has not been twice elected to the office of President by the People, and is not disqualified from being elected to Parliament, is eligible to be a candidate provided he/she is nominated by a recognized political party or, if he/she has been an elected member of Parliament, by any other political party or by an elector.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena during a meeting in Colombo on June 9, 2019. Twitter/@MaithripalaS
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena during a meeting in Colombo on June 9, 2019. Twitter/@MaithripalaS
India, Sri Lanka call for collective and focussed action to counter it
In a visit spanning barely five hours, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held discussions with Sri Lanka’s top leadership – both in government and Opposition in a string of short meetings in Colombo on Sunday. The focus in most of the interactions, sources said, was cooperation in economic initiatives, in countering terrorism.
Even as he wound up his ‘solidarity visit’, Mr. Modi tweeted that he had a “short but immensely fruitful” visit to the island.
Mr. Modi, who was here on President Maithripala Sirisena’s invitation, is the first foreign head of state to visit the island, after the ghastly Easter terror attacks that killed over 250 people.
(This article appeared in the Asia section of “The Economist” print edition under the headline “Fighting hatred with hatred”)
The charges sound silly but the consequences are not. One Muslim lady’s crime was to wear a shirt printed with a ship’s helm. Her accusers said it looked like the wheel of dharma, so she must be mocking Buddhism, the religion of the majority
A young Muslim man was nabbed for having three sim cards in his pocket, and a broken memory card. True, he worked in a phone shop, but police insisted he must have snapped the memory card to hide nefarious contents.
A rich Muslim doctor was accused of having secretly sterilised 4,000 women by pinching their Fallopian tubes. More than 700 of the supposed victims have complained, enraged by rumours of a fertility “jihad” against non-Muslims.
The K section of the historic Bogambara prison in Kandy is now informally called something else by jailers: The ISIS ward.
It is here that Muslims detained in those regions after the Easter Sunday bombings await their fate as the justice system trundles along. Their visitors often tarry hours at a time to see them. And when they are called forward, these outsiders are also occasionally called “ISIS”.
Predictably, not all those locked up have connections with the bombers or their network. In the struggle to compose an accurate profile of this new breed of terrorists in Sri Lanka, the policy has been one of “arrest first, ask later”. As some Muslims have discovered, a single phone call by a suspicious bystander could land them in prison. And this has had a chilling effect on the community.
An official gazette notification was issued by the Presidential Secretariat on Friday on the resignations of nine Muslim Ministers, state ministers and deputy ministers, who voluntarily quit their portfolios.
Nine Muslim politicians — four Cabinet ministers, four state ministers and one deputy minister — tendered their resignation letters effective from Monday, June 3.
The names of the ministers and their portfolios are as follows:
Power and Energy Minister Ravi Karunanayake has ordered the Ministry Secretary and the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) to appoint 27 of his personal nominees as “project coordinators” for a spate of power plants, including some which are not yet in operation.
In a letter to Ministry Secretary B.M.S. Batagoda and CEB General Manager S.D.W. Gunawardana, the minister has said, “please initiate necessary action to expedite the process of appointing project coordinators, in view of prevailing security situation of the country”.
It is not explained how nearly 30 new project coordinators could help the prevailing security situation. Their salaries are likely to be supported by the CEB.
Muslim Parliamentarians who have resigned their ministerial positions have begun lobbying nation-level stakeholders as well as a range of international bodies to press their cause of freeing the Muslim community from the current spate of racial hatred and harassment, ex-Minister and powerful Muslim politician Rishad Bathiudeen announced yesterday.
He was briefing news media after visiting Police Headquarters to file complaints against parliamentarians S.B. Dissanayaka and Wimal Weerawansa for making false statements against him.
Bathiudeen, who heads the All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC), said they would shortly be meeting the United Nations (UN) Resident Representative in Sri Lanka and also the powerful Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)–world’s second largest inter-governmental organization after the UN.
President Maithripala Sirisena on Friday said that he conveyed to the Speaker earlier this week that the ongoing probe into the Easter attacks by a parliamentary panel could hinder court proceedings in the criminal investigations of the bombings.
On Thursday, however, the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) — which was informed of the President’s note — told the Speaker that sittings would continue. In a letter to the Speaker, PSC members said the Parliament is the sole judge of its powers and privileges, and had exclusive jurisdiction over its own proceedings, The Hindu has learnt, from top sources familiar with the correspondence.
In a rushed special Cabinet meeting lasting over an hour yesterday, President Maithripala Sirisena strongly opposed the Parliament Select Committee on the Easter Sunday attacks continuing its hearings, calling it a political witch hunt against him.
An angry Sirisena accused some of the members of the PSC, Parliamentarians Dr. Jayampathy Wickramaratne, Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, Prof. Ashu Marasinghe, and M. A. Sumanthiran, of having political motives to destroy his image, sources privy to the meeting told Daily FT.
President Maithripala Sirisena yesterday said he disapproved of bringing in top officials, including intelligence officers, before the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) appointed to investigate into the Easter Sunday attacks, and said he will not allow serving officers to be called for testimony.
The President expressed these views during the monthly meeting with top Police officials held at the Presidential Secretariat. During the meeting, he noted only retired officials have been summoned before the PSC so far, but President Sirisena said he will not allow active officers to be summoned before the PSC, and that he will take full responsibility over the decision.
The country that revoked the Criminal Defamation Law in 2002 is moving under the shadow of the Easter Sunday tragedy and the politics of ethnic and religious hatred, to bring in special amendments to the Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code to restore the anti-democratic features of Criminal Defamation legislation.
The Criminal Defamation Law was revoked in 2002 by the Ranil Wickremesinghe-led UNP Government. It came after the increasing protests at the use of this law by the Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga government to curb, curtail, threaten and punish journalists and the media. The UNP that brought this change is not a political party that had a good record on media freedom and the rights of journalists. It was seeking popularity by attacking the political opponents.
The Easter Sunday bombing could not be averted due to systemic failures within the security establishment, caused by lack of communication and coordination between different agencies tasked with national security, as well as a lackadaisical attitude towards security by the political leadership, two top officials told a Parliamentary Committee yesterday.
The officials, Inspector General of Police (IGP) Pujith Jayasundera and former Defence Ministry Secretary Hemasiri Fernando, who appeared before the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) looking into the attacks, painted a picture of national security being heavily compromised, with the IGP kept out of National Security Council (NSC) meetings for nearly six months, and Council meetings held erratically at the whim and fancy of the President.
The IGP, in his evidence, said he had been excluded from the NSC meetings since October last year, over a trust issue that had come up over the transfer of a Police inspector.
“I was informed by the then Secretary to the Ministry of Defence Kapila Waidyaratne that there was no necessity for me to attend the NSC meetings around the end of October. I was told the President had said there was no need for me to attend,” the IGP said.
The former Defence Ministry Secretary, in his evidence, disclosed that between November 2018 and April 2019, the NSC had only met four times, and that too at short notice, with both the IGP and the Prime Minister kept out of them.
IGP Pujith Jayasundara, yesterday, told the Parliamentary Select Committee probing the Easter Sunday carnage that he had been excluded from the National Security Council since Oct 23, 2018 by President Maithripala Sirisena over a misunderstanding as regards a police inspector’s transfer.
Giving evidence before the PSC, Jayasundera said that he had been informed by then Secretary to the Ministry of Defence Kapila Waidyaratne that he didn’t have to attend the NSC meetings.
Asked on what grounds he had been excluded by the Secretary Defence, the IGP responded that the President did not want his presence at the NSC meetings.
Even as families of victims of the Easter Sunday terror gradually pick up the pieces of their lives, and attempt to make sense of that dastardly act, a more insidious campaign is taking hold of the country.
Anti-Muslim rhetoric is not new in Sri Lanka, but the Easter Sunday bomb blasts carried out by members of extremist National Thowheed Jama’ath (NTJ) has given it a new breath of life.
The move to stifle Muslim owned businesses has been around for more than a decade, but it is gathering momentum now. There is no end to social media posts that lists various businesses that must be boycotted. As well, the anti-halal issue has been revived.
Along with the call to boycott Muslim owned businesses comes the Islamaphobic posts in the form of videos of years old speeches and protests carried out by Muslims both here and abroad.
One such video doing the rounds on Monday, just after the release of Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero from jail, was of a protest carried out much earlier against the proposed reforms to the Muslim marriage and divorce Act. In that protest a speaker is seen berating the Thero. That video has in turn roused up viewers who believe the protests were held recently.
A couple of weeks after the Easter Sunday attacks another video of a protest by Muslims based in the UK was posted on social media. That was from 2014 soon after the anti-Muslim riots in Aluthgama. Again, most people erroneously believed the protest by the Muslims against the government was a result of the Easter Sunday massacre.
What is interesting this time around is the support such actions, primarily carried out by Sinhala Buddhists, is receiving from the Tamil and Christian communities.
(Text of Editorial Appearing in “The Hindu” of June 6th 2018 Under the heading “The healing touch: on Muslim Ministers resigning in Sri Lanka”)
The mass resignation of two Muslim governors and nine Ministers in Sri Lanka deepens a new fault line that has emerged in the island nation after the Easter Sunday blasts perpetrated by a fanatical Islamist group. Sinhala Buddhist hardliners had demanded that the Governors, Azath Salley and M.L.A.M. Hizbullah, and Cabinet Minister Rishad Bathiudeen, be removed for allegedly backing the terrorist group and interfering with the investigation. Stung by the aggressive demand at a time when investigators had not found any evidence implicating the three, all Muslim Ministers resigned in an act of solidarity.
For as long as Sri Lanka has been an independent and sovereign nation, our people have been torn between two opposing political forces. This is the battle between the politics of unity and politics of division. To unite peoples across religious, ethnic and geographical lines requires moral courage and national vision. Unfortunately, many who have aspired to leadership roles in politics, the clergy and business have, far too often, taken the short cut of trying to gain or retain their power and influence by seeking to divide our people.
Some like the LTTE have tried to carve our country in two among ethnic and geographical lines. More recently, the radical Islamic cult of Zahran Hashim and ISIS sought to set the country on fire by igniting themselves, hundreds of innocent civilians and communities. All Sri Lankans condemn this unspeakable brutality. Our country owes the victims of these attacks an incalculable debt. Their grief is eternal, and the UNP will stand with them until the end of time.
Sadly, these terrorists are not the only forces who have succumbed to the temptation to lead Sri Lankans by dividing and not uniting. In 1983, several national leaders were guilty of, at minimum, turning a blind eye to heinous persecution of innocent Tamil civilians who were made to pay the price for crimes committed by the LTTE. During the 1989 insurrection, extremists ruthlessly killed civilians of all faiths and ethnicities. The government’s crackdown on their brutality was so heinous that none other than Mahinda Rajapaksa went to Geneva to seek international intervention to protect the human rights of Sri Lankan citizens.
In recent years, Sri Lankans have made many strides towards a more united country. For every step forward we take, the stark reality is that there will always be those whose political survival depends on dragging the country backwards and trying to divide us along sectarian lines.
It cannot be said too many times that most Tamils had nothing to do with the LTTE, most Sinhalese did not support the JVP insurrections, most Muslims abhor and denounce radicalization of their Islam, and most Catholics and other Christians are disgusted by the attempts of a few to legitimize a racist and religiously motivated witch hunt.
Leader of the House and Public Enterprise Minister Lakshman Kiriella yesterday told Parliament the Easter Sunday bomber Zahran Hashim was on the Government’s payroll during the Government of Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Raising the issue of making payments from State accounts, Minister Kiriella said: “The previous Government paid salaries from State accounts to 30 members of the Thowheed Jamaath.
President Maithripala Sirisena has told the Cabinet of Ministers he has no plans of contesting in the upcoming Presidential Elections and will also not support Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa
President Sirisena, who discussed the current political climate with the Ministers of the United National Front (UNF) after the Cabinet meeting concluded, had reportedly told those present that he had no plans of running for office again, informed sources told Daily FT.
The Terrorism Investigation Division (TID) obtained an open warrant from the Colombo Magistrate’s Court as well a blue notice from Interpol in July 2018 in order to apprehend Mohamed Zahran, the Leader of the National Thowheed Jamaath (NTJ) who masterminded the Easter day bombings, the former Head of the TID told a Parliamentary Committee yesterday.
This followed months of extensive surveillance of Zahran’s social media activity, former DIG Nalaka Silva told the Parliamentary Select Committee appointed to look into and report on the terrorist attacks that took place on 21 April.
“After the Digana (anti-Muslim riots) incidents in 2018, his actions started moving towards violent extremism. There was a surge in his social media activities and we saw he was moving from extremism to violent extremism. He was using Facebook and websites to incite Muslim youth towards extremism,” Silva disclosed.
The former DIG said that he found that Zahran was becoming increasing dangerous and trying to attack Muslim youth and even suggested that his group be proscribed as part of the activity to crack down on him.
Zahran had also begun to endorse the activities of ISIS and was promoting ISIS videos through his Facebook and websites even though there was no evidence to show that he had any direct links with ISIS.
The alleged sterilization charges against Dr. Seigu Shihabdeen Mohamed Shafi from the Teaching Hospital, Kurunegala have become the main topic in the country at present. It has created a huge controversy which is taking new turns and spreading its flames in the country.
His wife Dr. M.N.F. Imara, holding an MBBS degree from the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, is working in the Nephrology Unit at the Teaching Hospital in Kurunegala. Their three children are attending popular national schools in Kurunegala.
In an interview with the Daily Mirror, Dr. Imara said that everything that happened before and after the arrest of her husband has made her to believe that proceedings have been well-planned to victimize Dr. Shafi. “But, I cannot imagine the secrecy behind all these manipulations,” she said.
Dr. Shafi graduated from the University of Sri Jayewardenepura as an MBBS Doctor in 2003. Since then, he has served the Government Health sector for more than 14 years in the following capacities: Internship at Teaching Hospital Kurunegala – 12/8/2004 to 12/8/2005, Released House Officer of Teaching Hospital Kurunegala 13/08/2005 to 11/04/2006, Medical Officer, District Hospital – Galewela -12/4/2006 to 18/4/2007, Senior House Officer of Gynaecology & Obstetrics at Teaching Hospital Kurunegala – 20/07/2007 to 25/02/2013 and as the Medical Officer of Gynecology & Obstetrics Base Hospital, Dambulla – 26/2/2013 to 26/2/2017
He resigned from the Government sector in July, 2015 to contest the General Elections in 2015. He contested as a UNP candidate and polled nearly 54,000 votes. However, he could not enter parliament, as the UNP secured only 7 places, and he was 8th in the list.
Professor Hemantha Senanayake, Head of the Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo and Former Chairperson of Sri Lanka College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists speaking to the Daily Mirror said despite allegations still being levelled, the “sterilisation story is highly unlikely” because usually, in the presence of other medical officers, it isn’t an easy task to carry out thousands of “wrong C-section deliveries”.
He added that the Fallopian tubes are not usually seen at cesarean section, unless it is manipulated into the wound by inserting the hand into the abdomen.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has decided not to fill the Cabinet vacancies arising from the resignation of four Muslim ministers, a reliable government source said yesterday.
City Planning, Water Supply and Higher Education Minister Rauff Hakeem, Highways, Road Development and Petroleum Resources Development Minister Kabir Hashim and Industry, Commerce, Resettlement, Protracted Displaced Persons, Cooperative Development, Vocational Training and Resettlement Minister Rishad Bathiudeen and Postal and Muslim Religious Affairs Minister Abdul Haleem submitted their resignations on Monday.
Parliamentary party leaders yesterday decided to withdraw the No-Confidence Motion (NCM) against United National Front (UNF) MP and Minister Rishad Bathiudeen from the Order Paper following the latter’s resignation from his Cabinet ministerial post.
The NCM debate against Bathiudeen was scheduled to be taken up on June 18 and 19.
Acts like the fast-unto-death campaign launched by Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thera could push the moderate Muslims in the country towards extremism, Ven. Galagodaaththe Gnanasara Thera said yesterday.
Addressing the media in Colombo, the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) General Secretary Ven. Gnanasara Thera pointed out that more than the Sinhala people it was the moderate Muslims who had helped curb extremist acts by the followers of terrorist leader Zaharan after the Easter Sunday bombing.
“Acts like the Ven. Rathana Thera’s fast-unto-death campaign will only push such moderate Muslims towards extremism” he stressed.
Ven. Gnanasara Thera went on to say that Ven. Rathana Thera’s act could have been justified if he had held the protest at least within a week after the Easter Sunday attacks.
The Thera also questioned why Ven. Rathana Thera was protesting against three individuals when there were so many others behind the Easter Sunday carnage.
Ven. Gnanasara Thera said the requirement today was for a national agenda to defeat extremism and not individual acts like Rathana Thera’s fast-unto-death campaign.
Nava Sama Samaja Party Leader Dr. Vickramabahu Karunaratne yesterday (4) said Athuraliye Rathana Thera should be arrested for creating political unrest in the country by fasting unto death demanding the removal two governors and a Minister.
“According to the law, nobody has the right to take one’s life, when one does and survives the attempt, the individual is arrested and hospitalised.This should have been the case with Rathana Thera.
Ambassadors and High Commissioners of countries which are members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) have in a statement issued on Tuesday said that the Communal violence targeting Muslims in Sri Lanka has regional and global security implications.
The developing situation over the past few days has been extremely worrying with regards to the safety and protection of the Sri Lankan Muslim community, including some foreign Muslim refugees.
The lives and livelihoods of Muslims, including their local stores and large business establishments, are threatened by the prevailing conditions with unforeseen, dangerous consequences.
Police yesterday appointed a three-member committee to collect complaints against former Western Province Governor Azath Salley, former Eastern Province Governor M.L.A. Hizbullah and former Industry and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen.
Issuing a recorded statement, Police Spokesman SP Ruwan Gunasekara said two Superintendents of Police had been appointed to the committee and it would be headed by a Senior Superintendent of Police. The committee has been established at Police Headquarters.
Complaints can be handed over to the Police Headquarters from Tuesday to 12 June between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Eight Muslim members of the Government, including three Cabinet Ministers, resigned from their posts yesterday, along with Industry and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen, whose removal was demanded to enable impartial investigations on the Easter Sunday terror attacks.
Along with Industry and Commerce, Resettlement of Protracted Displaced Persons, Co-operative Development and Vocational Training and Skills Development Minister Rishad Bathiudeen, four State Ministers and one Deputy Minister also resigned, giving the Criminal investigations Department (CID) one month to complete investigations on any allegations against any of them.
The Muslim leaders, expressing disappointment in the way the Government has handled the recent communal tensions, emphasised they were “sacrificing” their portfolios to make way for “a proper investigation.”
Rauff Hakeem, who held the City Planning, Water Supply and Higher Education Ministry, making a statement at Temple Trees immediately after resigning, said that they expect the investigations to culminate in completely “vindicating” them all.
“We’re sacrificing our posts to create an environment to facilitate peace and coexistence,” the former Minister said.
There is a very strong possibility of all Muslim Parliamentarians from the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) and All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) resigning their ministerial positions in the Government informed Muslim sources said.
A key decision to this effect is likely to be arrived at on Monday June 3rd 2019 when most if not all Muslim MP’s in the present Parliament are expected to meet at the residence of veteran Muslim leader AHM Fowzie.
It is learnt that the meeting has been convened in view of the prevailing political climate where immense pressure is being exerted on ACMC Leader and cabinet minister Rishad Bathiudeen to resign from the Government.
The situation has been further exacerbated by an orchestrated campaign by Sinhala Buddhist hawkish elements demanding the dismissal of Eastern Province Governor MLAM Hizbullah and Western Province Governor Azath Salley along with cabinet minister Bathiudeen.
Two Muslim Provincial Governors and all nine Muslim members of the Sri Lankan Council of Ministers resigned on Monday following a sharp deterioration of the politico-communal situation in the island nation.
Those who resigned were the Western Province Governor Azath Salley, Eastern Province Governor MLAM Hisbullah, Cabinet Ministers Kabir Hashim, Rauff Hakeem, Rishad Bathiudeen and MHA Haleem; State Ministers Faisal Cassim, HMM Harees, Amir Ali and Ali Zaheer Mowlana; and Deputy Minister MAM Maharoof.
Meeting the media in the Prime Minister’s Office, the ministers said that despite the Muslim community’s unstinted cooperation in the investigations into the multiple suicide attacks in Colombo and other towns on April 21 by a bunch of Muslim terrorists, the Muslim community as a whole is being persecuted, nay, “tortured” with impunity.
Minister of Public Enterprise, Kandyan Heritage and Kandy Development Minister Lakshman Kiriella said yesterday that the live telecast of last weeks Parliamentary Select Committee inquiry into the April 21st Easter Sunday suicide bomb blasts at three churches and three luxury hotels, had been sabotaged by a person who had pulled out one of the plugs in the broadcasting system.
Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera has called on the Vatican and Pope Francis to take note of Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith visiting MP Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thera in Kandy yesterday, while he was engaged in a fast demanding the resignation of Minister Rishad Bathiudeen and Provincial Governors M.L.A.M. Hisbullah and Azath Salley.
Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith who visited MP Ven. Athuraliye Ratana Thera during his fast unto death said the problem would not have blown out of proportion today if President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had acted against those who discreetly aided and abetted the terrorist attacks.
“People have given a mandate to the President, the Prime Minister and the Cabinet to govern the country for five years. They had not been given a lifetime right to be in office. They have not been given the country on freehold basis. The country belongs to people, not to its rulers. The rulers should be mindful of it. The time has come to take a decision on the President and the Prime Minister,” he said.
Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thera called off his hunger strike around 2.45 pm, yesterday, after learning that Governors Azath Salley and M. L. A.M. Hizbullah had resigned from their posts.
Rathana Thera launched his fast in front of the Sri Dalada Maligawa in Kandy on May 31, demanding the removal of Minister Rishad Bathiudeen, and PC Governors Hizbulla and Salley from their posts.
Earlier yesterday, Salley and Hizbullah submitted their letters of resignation to President Maithripala Sirisena. Central Province Governor Maithri Gunaratne arrived at the Mahamaluwa where the protest was in progress and informed Rathana Thera of the resignations.
Thereafter the Thera broke fast and was taken to the Kandy General Hospital in an ambulance for treatment.
Eastern Province Governor M.L.A.M. Hizbullah and Western Province Governor Azath Salley had tendered their letters of resignation to President Maithripala Sirisena yesterday, the President’s Media Division stated.
Accordingly, the President had accepted the resignation letters of the governors.
He is known to most as a supportive colleague. They remember him to be generous, and always available when anyone needs his help. He was polite and greeted everyone as he went about his work at the hospital. As he associated everyone closely, he had no enemies while the patients recall him as friendly and warmhearted.
How did this gynaecologist and obstetrician’s life turn upside down following a newspaper article?
The tornado of allegations levelled against Dr. Seigu Siyabdeen Mohammed Safi, ignited after the newspaper article accused him of sterilizing 4,000 mothers without their consent.
The doctor – attached to the Kurunegala Teaching Hospital (KTH) – was arrested shortly afterwards, on May 24, over charges of amassing a large amount of wealth and assets. Soon, the authorities called the public to come forward with complaints if any, against him on sterilisation accusations.
Even though the Rajapaksa top guns baptised Gotabaya in March as the family’s chosen seed to contest the presidency, former president and elder sibling Mahinda Rajapaksa is still to officially christen him as the Pohottuwa Party’s official candidate.
And emerging from the Bellanwila Temple after being head-massaged with oil at the traditional New Year ceremony, he told the media that the party was still to decide on the candidate.
He said, “We will make a decision with the input and consent of all allies. The one who can definitely win will be fielded as the candidate.”
In the week that followed the Easter carnage, though Gotabaya rushed to stake his claim and imply that he is the anointed one to lead the nation from weakness to strength and destroy the Islamic extremists threat, he still must wait to be given the sacramental oil of approval from his elder all powerful charismatic brother.
Last fortnight, in a voice clip to the media, Mahinda Rajapaksa refused to grant him his blessing, saying, “It’s a part decision and we will have to wait and see.” When further questioned by the media as to when the party will decide, he said no date had yet been fixed to decide on the matter and it would be announced in due course.
The nation knows only too well that though G L Peiris is the front man as chairman of the Sri Lankan Podu Peramuna, the power behind the chair is Mahinda and no one else. Without Mahinda, there will be no SLPP. It goes without saying that what Mahinda says goes. So what makes the elder still withhold his blessings to his younger sibling?
The Colombo High Court was yesterday informed that an appeal petition filed by the Attorney General (AG) challenging the Colombo High Court’s decision to acquit Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) General Secretary Ven. Galagoda Atte Gnanasara Thera and 12 others from 11 charges including for attacking a church in Thalahena had been withdrawn by the Attorney General.
On April 2, 2014, the Colombo High Court had acquitted all the accused from 11 charges following a trial. Accordingly, the judgement to acquit all accused including Ven.Gnanasara Thera will be effective since there is no any legal impediment.
Sri Lanka’s police chief Pujith Jayasundera, now on compulsory leave, following Easter Sunday bomb attacks, has petitioned the Supreme Court alleging he was kept out of national security council meetings after October 2018, and he was offered a diplomatic post if he resigned.
A Deputy Inspector General who was head of State Intelligence was not repoting to him but the President, the police terrorist investigations deprtment had been asked to stop investigations into Islamist extremists and he did not have full information to take action, he had said.
National Security Council
In the fundamental rights petition, he alleged that on the instructions of the president he was excluded from National Security Council meetings since early October.
Nilantha Jayawardena, Senior Deputy Inspector General of Police as Director, State Intelligence Services (SIS) was reporting directly to the President, the IGP said.
“The Petitioner was only made privy to whatever information was sent to him from time to time, and was denied the ability to have full recourse to or participate in vital consideration of matters of national security,” the IGP pleaded.
“It is in this context, that the Petitioner did all he could on the basis of limited information given to him, subject to constraints imposed on him.”
The enormity of Sri Lanka’s Easter bombings was pretty clear by the end of day, April 21. At least 250 lives had been lost and the island was jolted into realising that its relative post-war peace was far from secure.
Over a month since, as Sri Lankans grapple with lingering fear and get used to heightened security all around, some worry that the attacks could have had an impact deeper than apparent.
For those pushing for accountability in cases of war-time disappearances and murders, the prospect of justice has further paled.
Human Rights Commission writes to BASL President, AG, about discriminatory practices, racially charged social media posts:
The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) in a series of communications to the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL), various public officials, and to the Attorney General has sought to flag serious concerns about professionals and public officials using their social media accounts to propagate racially charged material and commentary and racially discriminatory practices.
The series of communications from the HRCSL come in the wake of a decision by the Judicial Service Commission to interdict an Embilipitiya District Court judge for posting political content on his Facebook page.
Former Inspector General of Police (IGP) Pujith Jayasundara has revealed in his petition to the Supreme Court that the State Intelligence Service (SIS), (although informed of a possible security threat), never highlighted the urgency of it nor any immediate action that should be taken.
The SIS, according to Jayasundara, directly reports to the President in all intelligence related matters, and neither he, (nor any officer who was privy to the intelligence operation and investigation that was underway), were requested to take any action, and, furthermore, he was only notified on the night of the 20 April, of an imminent attack.
Last week, former IGP Jayasundara petitioned the Supreme Court seeking a declaration that the executive decision to send him on compulsory leave consequent to the Easter Sunday attacks, was an infringement of his Fundamental Rights guaranteed under articles 12 and 14 of the Constitution. Several suicide attacks (on three churches and three hotels in and around Colombo) took place on April 21, 2019 targeting people who had gathered to celebrate Easter Sunday. It shook the country and exposed major lapses in the security system.
The former IGP and the former secretary of Defence (Hemasiri Fernando), were asked to resign on account of security failures.Although the defence secretary tendered his resignation, Jayasundara refused to do so,and was subsequently sent on compulsory leave.
Back home in Ratmalana, I have around 10 years worth of National Geographic magazines stacked on a bookshelf. My father subscribed to the magazine when I was in school. I haven’t yet asked him what drove him to do this, but I am grateful. Every year, the magazine sent subscribers a world map. The beautifully printed Mercator projection distorted size, but opened exciting new geographic possibilities to a kid who had never travelled out of Sri Lanka.
Here I could see boundaries I hadn’t realised existed, as they mysteriously snaked their way across continents – sometimes following terrain and topography, but at most times an arbitrary logic no different to an unthinking scribble. I didn’t understand then and don’t fully understand now how these borders all came to be made. But long before the vagaries of politics entered consciousness, the size of the map in relation to myself at the time gave a sense of how big the world beyond my room was. It isn’t a feeling digital media consumed on lap or palm is able to fully recreate now. Capitols, rivers, mountains, seas, cities, countries, roads and routes, harbours and hinterlands all came alive through a cartographic precision the magazine staked its reputation on.
And then there was the photography. Long before I started to appreciate photography as a medium or art, it was the message. The photographs in the National Geographic were, and still are, a visual feast. Critiques of this early, exoticising gaze or framing are now abundant and valid, but again, to a child of the 80s who had never set foot out of the country and whose only other visual teleportation device was a 21″ Sony Trinitron TV with two channels, the magazine’shigh-quality photos on glossy print were utterly captivating. From tribe to terrain, country to community, valley to village, each issue was a private portal into lands and landscapes I never thought I would see. Some of what I first saw on the magazine’s pages, I have now visited and witnessed in real life.
In the wake of Sri Lanka’s Easter Sunday attacks, we have one (Muslim) Minister confessing to calling the Army Commander to ‘inquire into’ the fate of a Muslim suspect arrested following the Easter Sunday attacks and another (Sinhala) Minister being so bold as to transport Sinhalese rioters attacking Muslim shops in Kurunegala from one police station to another where they were given bail. Both acts are equally condemnatory. But the media focus is on the first and not on the second. Why is this?
Irrationality is in the air
The problem of bypassing the Rule of Law posed by these two incidents, (one being an attempt and the other amounting to a success), captures in a nutshell precisely what is wrong with our law enforcement and media. The National Human Rights Commission’s succinct finding as conveyed to the acting Inspector General of Police (IGP) following a recent fact-finding mission to areas affected by anti-Muslim communal violence was that ‘equal protection of the law had been denied to affected citizens and also to the public at large.’ The law had not been allowed to take its proper course. The Commission called upon law enforcement authorities to strictly act against instigators of communal violence and ‘ensure that no undue political or other external interventions are tolerated.’
These reminders are timely, going beyond the specific context in which they were made. Yet and quite tangibly so, irrationality is in the air. The xenophobes and the zealots in Sri Lanka have invaded the public space. We see spokesmen of every lunatic fringe outfit in town being given media time to expound their favourite fantasies,as unashamedly and un-apologetically racist as these may be. A case in point is the return to an old exhortation by one spirited fanatic this week that Sinhalese mothers should give birth to more and more children to prevent hordes of Thawheed extremists from invading the Dhammadeepa.
The Public Administration Ministry has suspended its decision to impose a dress code for state-sector employees.
This came after Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe opposed the move to re-implement a 30-year old circular which stipulates a dress code for public sector employees – shirt and trouser or national costume for men and saree or osari for women.
Minister Ranjith Madduma Bandara told the Sunday Times the decision was put on hold and the issue would be taken up for discussion at the Government Parliamentary group meeting tomorrow to reach consensus on the dress code.
As members of the Joint Opposition continue to voice dissent over making Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) hearings on the Easter Sunday bombings open to the public, Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) has stressed that all similar committee hearings should by default be open to both the public and the media. “True accountability in Sri Lanka can only be guaranteed by public scrutiny,” TISL Executive Director Asoka Obeyesekere told the Sunday Observer. “TISL believes all such hearings should be made public other than in exceptional cases,” he said.
The PSC was appointed on May 23 to probe and report to Parliament on the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks. For the first time in Sri Lanka’s parliamentary history, it was decided that the proceedings of the PSC will be aired live in a bid to ensure transparency.
During its first sitting, the Chief of National Intelligence (CNI) Sisira Mendis and Defence Secretary General (Rtd) Shantha Kottegoda testified before the Committee. However, opposition MPs backing Opposition Leader and former President Mahinda Rajapaksa alleged that the decision to allow journalists to be present and air live the proceedings would compromise national intelligence services by releasing sensitive information.
The motive of the nine Sri Lankan Muslim suicide bombers, who attacked four hotels and three churches on April 21, might have been to punish the Western powers and their religion Christianity for the atrocities being perpetrated against Muslims in the Middle East.
But what the bombers have achieved concretely and visibly is quite different. They have significantly widened the gulf between the Sinhala Buddhist majority and the minority Muslims in Sri Lanka.
On the one hand, many sections of the civil society have stood up for innocent Muslims who were attacked and harassed following the blasts. On their part, Muslims have offered to help rebuild the three destroyed churches. Heads of mosques from Galle have appealed to the government to remove Wahhabism from Sri Lanka root and branch in the interest of communal harmony.
But on the other hand, there is also poisonous anti-Muslim propaganda aired through the social and mainstream media.
Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thera, MP, says he will not give up his fast, launched yesterday in Kandy, until his goal is achieved.
His protest commenced opposite the Sri Dalada Maligawa, to crank up pressure on the government to remove Minister Rishad Bathiudeen, Eastern Province Governor MLAM Hizbullah and Western Province Governor Azath Sally from their posts.
Before launching the protest Rathana Thera participated in an Adhistana pooja.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be the first major foreign dignitary to visit Sri Lanka following the Easter bombings, announced President Maithripala Sirisena here on Friday.
Addressing a press conference, the Sri Lankan leader sought a joint front to defeat terrorism and announced the date of the national election. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Sri Lanka on June 9. Sri Lanka has recovered from painful terror attacks. We have maintained peace and stability in the country in the aftermath of the Easter bombings,” said President Sirisena urging regional and global strategies to defeat terrorism.
Likely to visit Maldives
According to available information, Mr. Modi is expected to travel to Maldives in the first week of June and Mr. Sirisena confirmed that Sri Lanka will be the second foreign destination of the Indian leader.
Lying on a hospital bed, Mohammad Razak Taslim’s face contorts with pain. The left side of his body is completely paralysed, but he reaches out with his right hand, trying to clutch at his wife and brother-in-law who stand anxiously over him.
Fatima, Mohammad Razak Taslim’s wife, shows a photo of her husband on her mobile phone
His wife, Fatima, presses a handkerchief to his head. One side of his skull has caved in. It’s where he was shot in the head in March. Ever since, he’s been unable to speak, unable to walk.
Police believe Taslim was one of the first victims of the Sri Lankan extremist network, linked to the Islamic State group, that would go on to kill more than 250 people in a series of suicide bombings on churches and hotels on Easter Sunday in April.
According to officials he was shot on the orders of the ringleader of the attacks, Zahran Hashim.
Months before the bombings, Taslim, an earnest 37-year-old local politician from a Muslim-majority town in central Sri Lanka, had been at the forefront of efforts to investigate the extremists.
Taslim’s story encapsulates both how the country’s Muslim community actively tried to stop the emergence of radical elements in their midst, and how the authorities failed to recognise repeated warning signs ahead of the Easter attacks.
Courtesy: Combating Terrorism Center at West Point
Abstract: Over the course of Easter Sunday 2019, eight bombs went off in popular hotels and historical churches across Colombo, the capital city of Sri Lanka; other coastal cities in the west; and towns in the east of the country, killing hundreds. The Islamic State-claimed attack stunned terrorism analysts because there had been no known history of jihadi violence in the country. Several of the attackers were well educated, and two were the scions of a very wealthy family, providing the cell with advantages in its plotting. There were indications, however, from as early as January 2017 that individuals associated with the National Tawheed Jamaat were becoming increasingly supportive of the Islamic State and mobilizing to violence that was missed by local law enforcement. The Sri Lanka attacks may be early evidence that the Islamic State is taking an important and renewed interest in South Asia, following losses in Syria and Iraq.
In the space of 20 minutes from 8:45 AM local time on Easter Sunday April 21, 2019, in Sri Lanka, there were a series of seven coordinated suicide bomb attacks in popular hotels and historical churches across the capital city of Colombo, other coastal cities in the west, and towns in the east of the country, killing hundreds as they gathered for Easter. Hundreds more were injured.1 The bombers’ devices were packed with iron nails, ball bearings, and TATP, an explosive previously used in Islamic State terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels.2
Among the attackers, who were all Sri Lankan and who communicated via an encrypted messenger service,3 was the cell’s suspected leader, Zahran Hashim, a 34-year-old radical preacher who, according to Sri Lankan police, was one of two suicide bombers who blew themselves up at the Shangri-La hotel. (See Table 1.) The other bomber at the Shangri-La was identified by Sri Lankan officials as Ilham Ibrahim,4 the 31-year-old son of one of Sri Lanka’s richest spice traders.5 He is believed to have been a driving force behind the organization of the attacks.6 Ilham’s elder brother Inshaf Ibrahim, whose father had set him up with a copper pipe factory, blew himself up at the Cinnamon Grand hotel.7 Some investigators believe their wealth possibly financed the entire plot.8 In Negombo, 20 miles north of the capital, Achchi Muhammadu Mohamed Hasthun, who is suspected of being one of the bomb makers, detonated his suicide device at St. Sebastian’s Church.a
Around five hours later, another bomb went off at a hotel in the Colombo suburb of Dehiwala, killing two. The bomber was named as Abdul Lathief Jameel Mohamed,9 who studied for a time in Australia and the United Kingdom before returning to Sri Lanka.10 His original target was apparently the five-star Taj Samudra hotel in Colombo, but it appears that after his bomb failed to detonate, he made his way 10 miles south of the center of Colombo to a guesthouse in Dehiwela.11 He checked in around 9:30 AM, likely visited a nearby mosque, and then returned to the guesthouse several hours later. At 1:20 PM, the bomb went off, perhaps as he was trying to fix whatever had malfunctioned.12
At 2:25 PM, the eighth explosion occurred at a housing complex in the Colombo suburb of Dematagoda after the Special Task Force (STF) stormed the premises. According to Sri Lankan police, Fatima Ibrahim, the wife of Inshaf Ibrahim (the Cinnamon Grand bomber), blew herself up, killing three STF officers. The blast also killed her three young sons, as well as herself and her unborn child.13
More than 250 were killed in the Easter attacks, making it one of the deadliest terrorist atrocities ever anywhere.14There was a sense of shock in Sri Lanka and around the world compounded by the fact that the attacks had seemed to come out of the blue. While Sri Lanka had suffered acutely from terrorist incidents until the military defeat of the Tamil Tigers in 2009, the country had had no history of deadly jihadi violence. The day after the attack, though, some Sri Lankan politicians admitted that there were precise warnings given by Indian intelligence several times in early April 2019, which were either ignored or failed to land on the desk of appropriate individuals in government. The warnings were precise enough to not only name Zahran Hashim but also noted that he was planning to attack “popular Catholic Churches and the Indian High Commission.”15 This lapse in security is an ongoing point of debate and controversy as the country moves toward its presidential election in late 2019.
Two days later, the Islamic State claimed the attacks via its Amaq news agency, stating the attackers were “Islamic State fighters” and had “targeted citizens of coalition states and Christians in Sri Lanka.”16 The group quickly followed up with a statement in which it provided the purported kunya (fighting name) of seven attackers and the locations of their attacks.17 (See Table 1.) Then came a release of a picture of the attackers standing in a row18 and a 59-second video release (see Figure 1) from the Islamic State purporting to show the attack cell pledging allegiance to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.19 Eight individuals rather than seven were shown in the picture and video,b with the suspected ringleader Zahran Hashim identified by Sri Lankan investigators as standing at the center of the group because he was the only one not wearing a mask.20 (See Figure 1.)
One month has passed since the April 21 terrorist bombings on three Christian churches and three luxury hotels in Sri Lanka killed over 250 innocent men, women and children, and injured many more.
The government and defence establishment received prior warning from foreign intelligence sources but took no action to prevent the attacks. No plausible official explanation has been given as to why no preventative measures were taken.
In the aftermath, however, all factions of the political establishment have backed the imposition of a state of emergency and draconian police state measures and are whipping up anti-Muslim communalism and violence. The real target of this new “war on terror” is the rising struggles of the working class against the government’s austerity measures.
The evidence made public to date indicates that the atrocity was carried out by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in conjunction with a local Islamist extremist group, National Thowheeth Jamma’ath (NTJ), but there remain many unanswered questions.
Months ahead of the general election in India, friends in Sri Lanka would eagerly ask me: “So, do you think Narendra Modi will come back?” As someone following the polls only through media coverage in India — some shrill and some sane — there was little I could say that they may not have already known. I did not predict the number of seats the BJP would win or speculate much on how Tamil Nadu might vote. It was not just difficult, it was impossible to sit across the Palk Strait and attempt astute readings.
As avid news trackers, these friends are often disappointed that I have nothing “latest” to add. In fact, often they are the ones alerting me to news breaking in India, or to political analysis that they think offers nuance.
This sort of eagerness hit me harder during the string of Assembly elections in 2018, when they wanted State-specific updates and, worse, trends comparing past results. I found it hard to keep up.
I have noticed over the last few years that their interest or familiarity isn’t confined to Indian politics.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, along with 57 Ministers, took oath of office at a grand swearing-in ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhawan on Thursday.
The size of the event, however, was not the only thing that made news, with BJP chief Amit Shah finally deciding to join the Union government, and former Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar making a surprise entry into the Union Cabinet, among the top 10 Ministers.
The drama of the event was not restricted to those who did not make the cut from the last government — almost 22 Ministers have been dropped including those who lost the polls this time. NDA ally Janata Dal (U) hogged the limelight, ironically, by keeping away from the event because Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar demanded more berths than the single one being offered to every ally.
Megapolis and Western Development Minister and JHU General Secretary Patali Champika Ranawaka said today Industry and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen should step down from his post to facilitate investigations into charges made against him in the no confidence motion.
The Minister told a news conference that it should ensure that investigations were conducted properly on the ten counts put forward by the JO in its no confidence motion.
President Maithripala Sirisena today denied media reports that he was informed about any pending attack on April 21, the President’s Media Division said in a statement.
It said in a statement that there were media reports of a statement made by the Head of the National Intelligence Service, while giving evidence at the Parliamentary Select Committee appointed to look into the April 21 terrorist attacks.
Chief of National Intelligence (CNI) DIG Sisira Mendis yesterday told the Special Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC), probing the Easter Sunday carnage, that though he briefed the then Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando on the impending terrorist attack, the National Security Council (NSC) had not met till the coordinated suicide bombings took place on April 21.
Mendis said that he had received information about the impending attacks the previous day from Nilantha Jayawardena, Director, State Intelligence Service (SIS).
Mendis said that Fernando had advised him to inform the IGP as the police should act on such information.
Mendis revealed that the warning of the attacks has not even been discussed at the regular intelligence coordinating meeting attended by Defence Secretary Fernando, Lt. Gen. Mahesh Senanayake, Air Marshal Kapila Jayampathy, Vice Admiral Piyal de Silva and IGP Pujitha Jayasundera.
Mendis said that he had informed the IGP in writing about the warning with a note emphasizing its importance.
According to him, the NSC last met on Feb 19, 2019 before the April 21 suicide bombings.
The Government has included the three organisations it proscribed in the wake of the Easter Day bombings in the List of Designated Persons/ Entities under the United Nations Regulations made under the UN Act of 1968.
The three groups, namely National Thowheed Jama’ath (NTJ), Jama’ath Milla’athe Ibrahim (JMI) and the Willayath As Seylani, have been included in the list for terrorism-related activities and funding for terrorism.
The Joint Opposition (JO), yesterday, strongly opposed the inclusion of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) in a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) probing the Easter Sunday bombings as a key suspect in custody had been on the JVP’s National List at the last parliamentary election in August 2015.
Addressing the media at the Opposition Leader’s Office, Colombo, MP Vasudeva Nanayakkara asked Speaker Karu Jayasuriya why the JVP had been accommodated in the PSC, given its involvement with Mohammad Yusuf Ibrahim, whose two sons, together with others, carried out the April 21 suicide attacks. Ibrahim’s daughter-in-law, too, triggered another suicide blast when the police raided his Dematagoda residence on the afternoon of April 21.
Comedian Volodymyr Zelensky’s resounding victory in the Ukranian presidential election — polling 73 percent of the vote — against former president oligarch Petro Poroshenko, known as the ‘Chocolate King’ of Ukraine, has not had the expected impact in geopolitics, caused surprise or even amusement.
This giant-killing performance of the 41-year-old comedian has not made much of an impact even in the international media, and Zelensky, it appears, has been imperceptibly moved out to their archives by the media.
Ukraine is a frontline state of Western nations on the borders of Russia. There is an ongoing undeclared war between Russia and Ukraine. Russia is being accused of ‘annexing Crimea’ by Ukraine and Western powers. But the powers involved, or even the international media, do not seem to be much concerned how this neophyte politician and comedian will face up to the challenges now confronting Ukraine.
What’s unusual about Zelensky is that he is the first professional comedian to be elected president. Comedians attract public interest as much or even more than politicians. Comedians are those that make people laugh and politicians are those who make people angry and inadvertently make people laugh at them. So why is Zelensky, who possesses both these attributes, not making the headlines?
I could not believe my eyes when I read in the Sunday Island of 19th May 2019, statements attributed to the Army Commander, Mahesh Senanayake.
He is reported to have stated, inter alia, that, “If a soldier has done something wrong, it is the people who have given the orders, who should be held responsible. So I request kindly, all of you to go and find out who gave the order to him.” – Most astonishing!
If the Army Commander has in fact made this statement, (which he has not denied) he is referred to the Army Act, wherein it is clearly stated that soldiers should carry out only lawful and legal orders.
The Army Commander has made this utterance to cover up the controversial re-instatement of an army officer accused of several crimes including the murder of one journalist and torture of two others.
At first, they were nameless. “Nine suicide bombers,” is all authorities would reveal. In a little over a week, the police identified each of them and their stories began coming out. Now, a month after Sri Lanka’s savage Easter attacks, a messy web of disgruntled radicals has emerged, throwing up troubling hints of how readily rage can court terror.
Zahran Hashim, 33, radical preacher and alleged ringleader, found little acceptance in his hometown Kattankudy, in eastern Batticaloa. Mosques in the predominantly Muslim town rejected him outright. Their members even complained to authorities, before he went absconding in 2017 after a clash with a fellow priest who challenged his interpretation of Islam.
But soon, a team of young Muslim men — and one woman — from other, mostly Sinhala-majority, areas eagerly joined him on his Easter mission to carry out a suicide attack on churches and high-end hotels in and around Colombo and Batticaloa. All nine bombers were in their 20s and 30s.
Radicalised at different times, for different reasons, and in varying measure, they encountered Hashim on social media or in person. In him, they saw a mentor who could give their lives purpose and direction. With time and interaction, their shared “cause” acquired considerable weight — enough for them to pledge their lives for it.
Sri Lanka’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and Terrorist Investigation Division (TID), leading the probe, have traced all nine to two jihadist organisations — National Tawheed Jamaath (NTJ), led by Hashim, and Jamathei Millathu Ibrahim (JMI), a less formal group of youth who had met on social media.
When Maithripala Sirisena vacates office in January next year, the President of the Republic will revert to be a ceremonial Head of State, an office that was held with great dignity and distinction for 15 years by the late William Gopallawa. This is because under our Constitution, as amended in 2015, only a Member of Parliament may hold office as a Minister or Deputy Minister.
In a transitional provision, the 19th Amendment allowed Maithripala Sirisena, for as long as he holds the office of President, to assign to himself the subjects and functions of Defence, Mahaweli Development and Environment. Of course, he also assigned to himself, without any constitutional authority whatsoever, and with such tragic consequences, the subject of Law and Order as well.
A constitutional Head of State
The ceremonial (or constitutional) Head of State is not a mere figurehead. He or she is a non-partisan, non-political, individual who symbolises the unity of the State. For over 24 years since Independence, the President (and previously the Governor-General) was also the Commander-in Chief of the Armed Forces and Head of the Executive.
However, the governance of the country, as in India, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom (to name only a few functioning democracies) was the responsibility of the Cabinet of Ministers, chosen from among the Members of Parliament and collectively responsible and accountable to Parliament. The strength and efficacy of that form of governance was demonstrated by the remarkable speed and efficiency with which the January 1962 military and police coup was foiled, and the April 1971 insurgency was dealt with and normalcy restored throughout the country. In contrast, the Presidency vested with full executive powers failed the people of this country in 1983, in 1989, and again in 2004 when the tsunami struck this island.
The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, in a series of letters to public authorities, University Grants Commission, Chamber of Commerce and Judicial Service Commission, raised its concerns over rising human Rights plaints of wrongful refusal of entry to women to public and private premises and buildings due to their attire.
HRCSL Chairperson Dr Deepika Udagama last week issued letters to Public Administration Ministry, Health Ministry, Immigration and Emigration Department, all Governors of Provincial Councils, all Chief Secretaries of Provincial Councils, all Secretaries of Provincial Health Ministries and all District Secretaries calling for non-discrimination in enforcing security measures.
Minister Rishad Bathiudeen was a Muslim leader who respected democracy, Minister of Health, Rajitha Senaratna said yesterday, addressing a media briefing at Temple Trees.
If Bathiudeen has committed anything wrong, the government was in a position to uncover it. “Rishad Bathiudeen has not left the country. During the tenure of President J.R. Jayewardene, Tamil leader A. Amirthalingam also faced similar allegations,” he said.
This was a week of many wrongs and virtually no rights. The optics of the image released to the public when the Bodu Bala Sena’s Galagoda atte Gnanasara and his mother met President Maithripala Sirisena following his pardoning while serving a prison sentence for contempt of court said it best, smiles and merry laughter all around as it were.
The discarding of ‘good governance’ niceties
This presidential pardon must be read for what it is, with no frills and furbelows to obscure the core point. Clearly it is an unequivocal signal that ‘good governance’ niceties have been discarded in what is essentially, a battle for political survival in an election year. Advocates of the Rule of Law may vainly screech themselves hoarse on the palpable affront to Sri Lanka’s judicial institution that this pardon most certainly denotes but let us unflinchingly recognize ugly realities in all their permutations and combinations. Indeed, by keeping silent on this remarkable pardon, the United National Party shifting uneasily in their government seats while trading insults with the President and his men, has also communicated that very same message.
The monk had been sentenced for insulting the Bench in the most horrendous manner possible. But this pardon reduces that fact to a frivolous bagatelle of no worthy account. For those of us with short memories, it may be instructive to recall precisely what the Court of Appeal pronounced in handing down the punishment late last year. This was consequent to the monk’s barging into the hearing of a habeas corpus petition in the Homagama Magistrate’s Court filed in respect of the disappearance of cartoonist Prageeth Ekneligoda during the Rajapaksa years and haranguing the magistrate and the state counsel as eunuchs.
In exceptionally stern language, the Appeal Court pointed to the fact that the accused who had no connection to the court hearing with no standing to appear, had ‘addressed’ the Bench without express or implied permission, intending to ‘intimidate’ the magistrate into granting bail to the suspect intelligence officers after the magistrate had already refused to do so. His ‘address’ to the magistrate was in a high tone, heard ‘even by those waiting away from the court room’ and in ‘abusive, offensive and commanding’ language. In doing so and in saying that this was the ‘white person’s law’ and that he did not accept that law, he had tried to coerce the Bench into obeying his commands and to reverse an already pronounced Order.
While the contents of the proposed Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between the governments of Sri Lanka and the US still remain hidden from the public eye, parliament was told last week that the government had not entered into such an agreement – yet. The negotiations however are going on, and Foreign Minister Tilak Marapana has reportedly indicated to the US that some of its provisions could not be implemented.
One was the provision seeking exemption for visiting US personnel from criminal jurisdiction under Sri Lankan law, while in Sri Lanka. Another was a clause that would give effect to the agreement through an ‘exchange of notes.’
Marapana has also indicated that the Government of Sri Lanka (GSL) could not agree to clauses that sought diplomatic privileges and immunities for US personnel (defined as members of the US armed forces and civilian employees of the US Department of Defense) under this agreement.
Questions about the SOFA have repeatedly been asked in parliament by Opposition MPs who have quoted in detail, presumably from a draft they have seen. Dayasiri Jayasekera and Bimal Ratnayake are among the MPs who warned of serious consequences of entering into the proposed defence pact which, by all accounts, is extremely one-sided.
“The only ‘weapons’ that diplomats carry as representatives of a small state are reason, logic and charm.” –Kishore Mahbubani in ‘50 years of Singapore and the United Nations’ (2015, p13)
No phase of Sri Lanka’s protracted wartime and postwar diplomacy, or more broadly, of Sri Lanka in the United Nations, has had anything remotely close to the volume of analytical and scholarly inquiry, study and mention internationally, as has Sri Lanka in Geneva during the last war and most especially in 2009. Though for obvious and deserved reasons, the Indian role in the Sri Lankan conflict culminating in the airdrop, the Accord and the war with the LTTE has generated much scholarship, that body of work has not been on Sri Lanka’s own diplomacy, except to note its weakness or failure. Any bibliography will show that on the subject of Sri Lankan diplomatic practice and outcomes, Sri Lanka in Geneva May 2009 has generated the greatest number of pages of published work globally.
It is the one that has evoked international academic and analytical interest and has done so for several years after the event, with the articles in periodicals, chapters of or passages in books, being produced at least up to 2017. Two that came out in 2017 are ‘Push Back: Sri Lanka’s Dance with Global Governance’ by Judith Large (Zed, London 2017) and ‘War, Denial & Nation-Building in Sri Lanka: After the End’ by Rachel Seoighe, (Palgrave Macmillan, London 2017).
What really happened in Geneva in 2009? Why was it important? What if it had gone the other way? A critical source, the UK House of Commons Research Briefing paper lodged in Westminster disclosed:
“On 18 May, 2009 the EU called for an independent war crimes inquiry. The US has added its voice in support of these calls. However, at a special session of the Human Rights Council on Sri Lanka which took place on 26-27 May, Western attempts to include such a call in the final resolution were comfortably defeated by Sri Lanka and its allies…the UK Government has been a strong supporter of calls for an independent investigation into allegations that both the Sri Lankan Government and the LTTE committed war crimes. It supported the unsuccessful EU-led efforts to pass a resolution at the 26-27 May special session of the Human Rights Council on Sri Lanka that would have authorized the Council to establish such an investigation…
–‘War and Peace in Sri Lanka’, Commons Briefing Papers RP09-51, authors: John Lunn, Claire Mills, Ian Townsend, June 5th 2009 (https://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/RP09-51#fullreport)
An open warrant for the arrest of Mohamed Zaharan, the self-styled leader of the National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ) had been issued by a Colombo Magistrate back in August last year, but the wanted man had gone into hiding by then and the search for him had dissipated with the arrest of the then Terrorism Investigations Division (TID) chief DIG Nalaka Silva shortly thereafter, it has now been revealed.
The open warrant had been issued after the Police TID filed a ‘B’ report dated July 2, 2018 before the Colombo Magistrate’s Court, citing Mohamed Cassim Mohamed Zaharan by name and stating that he was using the internet to spread disaffection among communities and also, for proposed terrorist activities.
Some cause happiness wherever they go.
Others whenever they go. Oscar Wilde
If you didn’t believe the President is a megalomaniac, charlatan and liar. If you didn’t believe the UNP is governed by its own damning, disturbing embrace of racism, evidenced by episodic expression and a deafening silence around systemic roots, including within party cadre, senior leadership and structure. If you didn’t believe this government and every other government, for decades, hasn’t contributed to the growth of a virulent, violent majoritarian nationalism. If you didn’t believe that politicians of every imaginable hue, through their partisan pulpits, haven’t contributed to the detriment of a self-assured patriotism which doesn’t rely on decrying, destroying, demeaning or dehumanising others.
If you didn’t believe that the SLPP, now in an overtly reconciliatory garb, has for years fomented, condoned and fertilised communal violence in its petri dish of populism. If you didn’t believe that senior political figures, who openly stood for very different ideas and principles in 2015 and were elected on that basis, weren’t hypocrites.
If you didn’t believe that the BBS is not an aberration or anomaly, but condoned, conflated with and celebrated as mainstream Buddhism by the venerable Mahanayakes themselves. If you didn’t believe that the reason for antebellum and postbellum Sri Lanka’s near-total failure at reconciling, through enlightened self-interest, competing national identities is because of an ingrained racism so pervasive the mere flagging of it results in vehement, violent rejection. If you didn’t believe that what matters for all governments – past and present – is the capture of the vote bank in the South.
If you didn’t believe that no mob violence or violent extremism of any hue, anywhere in the country, would be born and grow without direct, sustained and considerable support from the political establishment.
If you didn’t believe the country’s political culture is the anti-thesis of democratic norms. If you didn’t believe Negombo, Minuwangoda, Kurunegala, Ampara, Digana, Aluthgama and mob violence in so many other places, over the years, happened because of well-laid plans that weaponised drivers of conflict.
If you didn’t believe this mob violence has a direct, sustained connection with the racism present in mainstream politics.
In a scathing indictment against police inaction during the communal violence in three districts in the North Western Province and Minuwangoda, the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka in a letter to the Inspector General of Police claims that police had been present while mobs congregated after curfew was imposed.
In a letter to Police Chief Chandra Wickramaratne, HRCSL Chairperson Dr Deepika Udagama said local police stations had called for reinforcements of STF and extra personnel “very late”, allowing “Mobs to go on the rampage, causing severe damage to property and livelihood while villagers fled in fear to save their lives.
According to the HRCSL Chairman, in Bandara Koswatte the mob attacked the main mosque despite police and army presence.
The letter to the IGP added that in Kottampitiya, police had asked villagers to move off the main roads because of possible attacks, but had failed to prevent the mobs from attacking the village.
“You will recognise that this is a very unacceptable situation to say the least, whereby vulnerable civilians had to fend for themselves.”
When the courts ordered the Bodu Bala Sena monk to pay her Rs. 50,000 compensation after being found guilty of criminal intimidation, Sandhya Eknaligoda received the money in coins and 10 and 20 rupee notes, all piled into polythene bags.
Supporters of the monk, who were being driven around in a brand new red Nissan X trail SUV before his jail term, told the courts, when questioned about this curious method of payment, that the money had been collected from temple tills.
For Sandhya, it was further proof of how determined the monk and his followers were to harass her.
In August 2018, the Court of Appeal found the General Secretary of the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), Galagodaaththe Gnansara Thera guilty on four counts of contempt of court and criminal intimidation, relating to his conduct in the Homagama Magistrate’s Court on January 2016.
The controversial monk who has been accused of inciting violence against minority communities, was sentenced to 19 years rigorous imprisonment to be served concurrently over a six year period.
The 56 pages long judgement given by the then President of the Court of Appeal Preeti Padman Surasena extensively elaborated that the accusations against the monk was proven beyond reasonable doubt after considering evidence of the Magistrate Ranga Dissanayake and the Senior State Counsel Dileepa Peeris and other lawyers.
With his pardon last week, Sandhya Eknaligoda is feeling like she is back to square one. The pardon of the monk, was tantamount to the State giving him a licence to harm her and her children, said the determined ‘disappearance activist’, in a letter to Prime Minister Rani Wickremesinghe.
“Even while he was imprisoned his supporters and followers used to harass me when I went to court. Even during the last two days the abusing on social media has escalated,” she explained in an interview with the Sunday Observer.
In the wake of allegations over deputy leader of Pivithuru Hela Urumaya, singer Madumadhawa Aravinda, on his involvement in the Minuwangoda clashes on May 13, a former member of the Minuwangoda Urban Council had made a statement to the police over the connection of the former to the incident, the Sunday Observer learns.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa has been ordered to give evidence before the Jaffna Magistrate’s Court on June 21 in a Habeas Corpus inquiry into the disappearance of two human rights activists who went missing during his tenure as the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence.
Speaking to the Sunday Observer ex-Defence Secretary’s legal team confirmed that provided there’s no security threat Rajapaksa will appear. He added that the legal team is still studying the file.
Rights and political activists Lalith Kumar Weeraraj and Kugan Muruganandan went missing a day before World Human Rights Day, on December 9, 2011. They were last seen in the Kaitaddy area in Jaffna.
Ironically, Weeraraj and Muruganandan were laboriously documenting disappearances in the Northern Province during and after the end of the war in 2009, when they went missing without a trace.
Seven years ago, a writ of Habeas Corpus was filed in the Court of Appeal to demand the release of Weeraraj and Muruganandan if they were in the custody of the State. An inquiry into the writ commenced at the Jaffna Magistrate’s Court in September 2012.
Crucial evidence of their abductions was initially provided by three eye-witnesses.
All three witnesses retracted their statements and backed out of testifying.
If the Police do not arrest the General Secretary of the All Ceylon Thowheeth Jama’ath (ACTJ), Abdul Razeek, within the course of next week, the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) will find him and do the needful, warned General Secretary of the BBS, Ven. Galagodaaththe Gnanasara Thera today (24).
He was addressing the media at the BBS headquarters in Rajagiriya.
There is something intrinsically meaningless in the bare assertion “Sri Lanka is a Sinhala Buddhist country” where the denial that it is a “Buddhist country” is obviously the most contentious part provoking bitter controversy.
However, on any detached analysis the debate whether Sri Lanka is or is not a Buddhist country seems a useless anti-intellectual exercise in futility, over an emotive line in which words are strung together axiomatically without proper definition.
Indeed, from a linguistic perspective the plain statement “Sri Lanka is a Buddhist country” sounds just as absurd and simplistic as saying that “Sri Lanka is a UNP country” just because, say a UNP government is in power, or that Sri Lanka is a Sinhala country just because a majority speak Sinhala, or a dark skinned country just because a majority happen to be dark skinned, or even that it is a naïve country just because most people seem to vote naively at elections!
There are, of course, numerous statements one could make about Sri Lanka that are objectively true. For example it would be entirely factual to state that Sri Lanka is a country where Buddhism IS the most popular religion. Equally and to put it differently it would be perfectly correct to state that Sri Lanka is a country where the vast majority of people identify thousand as Buddhists. It would also be a true statement of fact that Sri Lanka is a country that gives the foremost place to Buddhism in its Constitution.
One can go on and say things like Sri Lanka is a tropical country, Sri Lanka is an Asian country, Sri Lanka is a beautiful country, Sri Lanka is a small country, and so on and so forth. Such affirmations and many more besides can be made without fear of contradiction. Indeed their validity is self-evident.
By contrast the statement “Sri Lanka is a Buddhist country” has the connotation of a universal all-encompassing core characteristic that defines the nation.
The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), a leading public policy research and advocacy think tank in Sri Lanka, yesterday expressed its deep shock and concern over the Presidential pardon of controversial Buddhist monk Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero.
The general secretary of Bodu Bala Sena, Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero, who was convicted of four counts of contempt of court and serving a six-year sentence of rigorous imprisonment, was released from prison yesterday after President Maithripala Sirisena granted a pardon.
Issuing a statement on the President’s move, the CPA said the pardon raises a number of pressing questions which the President and the government are obliged to answer.
CPA stressed that presidential pardons exist to correct miscarriages of justice and are to be exercised with extreme caution and gravity. The pardon of Gnanasara Thero, which cannot be called a fit and proper exercise of that power by any metric, legitimizes the view that it is possible to act with contempt for the judiciary, be punished through a legitimate judicial process, and then enjoy impunity through a pardon.
Sandya Eknaligoda, the wife of missing journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda, had written to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe requesting for security for herself and her children after the release of Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) General Secretary Ven. Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara.
The monk was jailed after he was found guilty of Contempt of Court following verbal abuse hurled at Eknaligoda during the court proceedings into her husband’s disappearance.
She had earlier objected to the granting of a Presidential pardon for Gnanasara Thero.
THERESA MAY strode out of the door of 10 Downing Street in a crimson business suit and bowed to the inevitable. Having failed three times to get her Brexit deal through a hopelessly divided parliament, and confronted with a Tory insurrection over her proposed fourth attempt, she announced on May 24th that she would step down as leader of the Conservative Party and Britain’s prime minister.
“It is and will always remain a matter of deep regret for me that I have not been able to deliver Brexit,” she declared. She then urged MPs to find the spirit of compromise. Had she left it there it might have been remembered as a dignified exit at the end of her dogged prime ministership. Instead she tried to set out her legacy—listing, among other things, measures to limit plastic waste—and only highlighted how little she managed to do. Then, as she gave thanks for the “honour of my life”, a prime minister often derided as “Maybot” shed a tear and left.
(Text of a Press Release Issued By the Media Office of the Tamil National Alliance )
The Tamil National Alliance unequivocally condemns the President’s act of pardoning Ven. Gnanasara Thero by abusing the Constitutional powers vested in the Head of State. He was jailed by the Court of Appeal for committing the offence of contempt against the Magistrate’s Court of Homagama.
The conviction and sentencing happened after the learned Magistrate complained to the Court of Appeal, and after a trial at which he was afforded every opportunity to defend himself. His appeal to the Supreme Court was later dismissed.
This was the one instance when the Thero was dealt with under the law when his conduct in instigating violence against the non-Buddhist citizens of the country never drew any action against him by the law enforcement agencies.
Camelia Nathaniel, Sandasen Marasinghe and Amali Mallawarachchi
Speaker Karu Jayasuriya announced that the No Confidence Motion (NCM) against Industry and Commerce, Resettlement of Protracted Displaced Persons, Co-operative Development and Vocational Training and Skills Development Minister Rishad Bathiudeen would be taken up for debate on June 18 and 19.
Speaker Jayasuriya made this announcement in Parliament yesterday when opposition member Vasudeva Nanayakkara inquired of the decision of the Chair on the matter. He said further that the decision was reached at the Party Leaders’ Meeting held in the morning yesterday.
But with party not cutting through in bypolls, change in govt. is unlikely
The DMK’s well-oiled campaign machinery, led by party president M.K. Stalin, on Thursday succeeded in stopping the Modi juggernaut from rolling into Tamil Nadu by mobilising votes with a focus on core issues such as demonetisation, NEET and the Centre’s alleged neglect of the State on various counts.
In the process, the DMK slowed the BJP surge that swept the nation in the Parliamentary election.
The party, however, did not taste equal success in the Assembly bypolls, putting paid to its plans of forcing a change in government.
The DMK also helped the Congress win eight of the nine seats it contested in the State, thereby boosting its national tally.
Sparking euphoria among his supporters across the country, and in a brutal defeat to the opposition, PM Narendra Modi has led his coalition to a victory, yet again.
The BJP-led NDA is all set to form the Union government for a second consecutive term.
With counting for the 17th Lok Sabha still underway, the BJP is leading in 300 seats as of 2.15pm according to the Election Commission website, which is well past the halfway mark of 271 seats, of the 542 which went to poll in April and May 2019.
The NDA is leading in 350 seats. The Congress is leading in just 50 seats, which is just six more than what they won in 2014.
The BJP seems to be sweeping Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chattisgarh, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Karnataka. In 2014, the BJP won 282 seats, while the NDA had 336 seats.
Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) General Secretary Ven. Galagodaatte Gnanasara Thera was released from the Welikada Prison, Commissioner General of Prisons, J. W. Tennakoon said.
Earlier today, President Maithripala Sirisena ordered the Commissioner General of Prisons to release Gnanasara Thera who was sentenced to 19 years imprisonment to be served in six years for contempt of court.
The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) had decided not to participate in the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC), appointed to probe the Easter Sunday terror attacks.
However, parliament yesterday approved a motion to set up a select committee to look into Easter Sunday attacks and to determine if any MP or minister was associated with the terror group which carried out the attack.
The Speaker Karu Jayasuriya announced that the No Confidence Motion against Industry and Commerce, Resettlement of Protracted Displaced Persons, Co-operative Development and Vocational Training and Skills Development Minister Rishad Bathiudeen would be taken up for debate on June 18 and 19.
The Speakers decision upheld the ruling party’s position that the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) probing Bathiudeen is given three weeks to investigate the allegations.
Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) Secretary General Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero has been granted a presidential pardon, highly placed sources confirmed.
The hardline Buddhist group has called on its supporters to gather near Welikada Prison, where Gnanasara Thero was serving his jail term, at 3 p.m. today to welcome the monk, expected to be released today.
BBS Chief Executive Officer Dilantha Withanage claimed that he has received “verbal confirmation from the President’s Office” on the pardon granted to Gnanasara Thero.
Officials in the Prison Department told Daily FT that the process of granting Gnanasara Thero the pardon was in the works, but that they were yet to receive the final paperwork. However, officials in the President’s Office confirmed that the pardon has been signed.
Lawmakers engaged in heated arguments yesterday in Parliament, unable to reach a decision on the date to take up the No-Confidence Motion against Industry and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen and the Parliamentary Select Committee appointed to look into allegations against him.
Having listened to lawmakers of both sides for two hours, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya adjourned Parliament till 10.30 am today, unable to continue further with the business of the House scheduled for Wednesday, with the Opposition invading the centre aisle of the chamber to stage a protest, violating Standing Orders.
The Opposition shouted slogans, rejecting the Select Committee and the alleged delay in deciding a date to take up the No-Confidence Motion against Minister Bathiudeen for debate.
In the wake of reports about Arabic signboards in some areas of the eastern province, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has instructed that they should be written only in Sinhala, Tamil and English languages.
According to sources close to the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister instructed Home Affairs Minister Vajira Abeywardane to initiate action to make sure that signboards and name boards are written in three officially recognized languages in Sri Lanka.
The resolution for appointing a Parliament Select Committee (PSC) to probe the causes of the Easter Sunday terror attacks which killed over 250 persons and caused injuries to around 500 others was passed in Parliament yesterday (22) with an amendment.
UNP National List MP Dr. Jayampathy Wickramaratne PC brought the amendment to give the PSC powers to investigate any parliamentarian or governor who had allegedly extended support to terrorists responsible for the Easter Sunday carnage.
Representing the UNP, UPFA, TNA and JVP, 40 MPs had presented resolution requesting an appointment of a PSC to ascertain as to why authorities had failed to prevent the terror attacks despite having advance intelligence on the impending strikes.