BY Buddhika Samaraweera
Following his son Avinda Randula Jehan Fernando, being remanded in connection with the attack on a group of students at the Kelaniya University’s Medical Faculty’s male hostel in Ragama on Wednesday (2) morning, State Minister of Coconut, Kithul, and Palmyrah Cultivation Promotion and Related Industrial Product Manufacturing and Export Diversification Arundika Fernando has, as promised earlier, resigned from the said post until the investigation into the matter is concluded.
Speaking to the media yesterday, Fernando said: “I met with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa last (3) morning where I informed him that I would resign from the post of the State Minister in order to pave the way for an independent investigation into this incident.”
However, he added that he hopes to be reinstated as the State Minister in order to continue his service to the nation if the investigation clears his name.
Jehan Fernando, 23, had surrendered to the Ragama Police through a lawyer on Wednesday night and was subsequently arrested by the Police. The Police have also seized a luxury car in which the attackers had come to carry out the attack. He was produced before the Welisara Magistrate’s Court yesterday for an identification parade. Jehan Fernando and five other suspects were later produced before the Welisara Magistrate last afternoon, after which they were remanded till 7 February. Another suspect who was also injured during the attack is said to have been admitted to the District General Hospital in Negombo.
Three medical students who were injured in the attack by a group of persons on the said Medical Faculty’s male hostel at around 3 a.m. on Wednesday had been admitted to the Colombo North Teaching Hospital in Ragama. Speaking to the media, the students stated that a group of persons who had arrived in two cars had broken into the hostel and assaulted them.
One of the persons from the said group and a car belonging to them had been seized by the students, and the suspect and the car were handed over to the Ragama Police on the same day. The car is said to be one belonging to the Coconut Development Authority and an official identity card of a member of State Minister Fernando’s personal staff has also been found in it.
The Police stated that the attack may have taken place due to the intervention of a third party in a clash between two groups of students at the said Medical Faculty recently.
Meanwhile, State Minister Fernando stated on Wednesday that he would resign from the state ministerial post immediately if it is revealed through a formal investigation that he was aware of the incident or that he was, by any means, involved in it. He also said that he would not hesitate to take disciplinary action if it is established that an officer working under him or anyone else connected to him was involved in the incident.
Furthermore, making a special statement regarding the incident, Public Security Minister Rear Admiral (Retd.) Sarath Weerasekera stated that he had instructed Inspector General of Police (IGP) Chandana D. Wickramaratne to conduct a formal and full investigation into the incident. He also said that the Senior Superintendent of Police in charge of Kelaniya has deployed two special police teams under the supervision of Senior Deputy Inspector General of Police – Western Province Deshabandu Tennakoon to probe the incident. “I have instructed IGP Wickramaratne to enforce the law against all those involved, irrespective of rank,” noted Minister Weerasekera.