By Shamindra Ferdinando
The Attorney General’s Department owed an explanation regarding the acquittal of Rishad Bathiudeen, MP, leader of the All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC), a key suspect in the 2019 Easter Sunday carnage, the National Organiser of the Jathika Nidahas Peramuna (JNP) Jayantha Samaraweera, MP, said on Thursday (03).The ACMC is a constituent party of the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB).
The former State Minister asked whether AG Sanjay Rajaratnam, PC, issued instructions that paved the way for Fort Magistrate Thilina Gamage to acquit lawmaker Bathiudeen on Nov 02 as investigations conducted by the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) cleared him of involvement.Rajaratnam succeeded Dappula de Livera, PC, in May 2021. Livera, who was appointed AG a week after the Easter Sunday blasts, is on record as having alleged that the carnage was a grand conspiracy.
The Island interviewed the Kalutara District MP following his media briefing at the JNP Office at Pita Kotte, where the former JVPer questioned the circumstances the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) informed the Fort Magistrate Court of the AG’s decision.Police headquarters, too, certainly owed an explanation as authoritative law enforcement authorities repeatedly assured they were inquiring into the former Trade and Commerce Minister’s involvement with those who carried out the attack, lawmaker Samaraweera said.
ACMC leader Bathiudeen was granted bail on Oct 14, 2021 after having been detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) for over six months. The CID arrested the Vanni District MP on April 24, 2021.Bathiudeen switched his allegiance to the SJB in the run-up to the last general election in August 2020. At the previous parliamentary election, the ACMC contested on the UNP ticket. At that time of the Easter Sunday blasts that claimed the lives of 270 persons, including about 40 foreigners and wounded over 400 others, Bathiudeen served in the Cabinet of President Maithripala Sirisena.
The MP pointed out that the Fort Magistrate announced the AG’s decision on All Souls Day, Nov 02, a day of prayer and remembrance for those who departed.Lawmaker Samaraweera said that in terms of the instructions received from the AG, the Fort Magistrate also released the ACMC leader’s passport.The MP said that he would like to know the status of the investigation into the funding made available by the Colossus Copper factory, Wellampitiya for the suicide bombers as former police spokesman and Attorney-at-Law SSP Jaliya Senaratne was on record as having said the direct involvement of that enterprise in the National Thowheed Jaamaat (NTJ) terror project.
Lawmaker Samaraweera stressed that the police couldn’t go back on statements issued to the media over a period of time as regards the Easter bombing. Responding to another query, the top JNP spokesperson said that investigations revealed how Colossus factory had received favoured treatment in the issuance of copper by the Industrial Development Board (IDB) that was under the purview of the then Trade and Commerce Minister Bathiudeen during yahapalana administration. Bathiudeen has served as the Trade and Commerce Minister from the time Colossus launched its operations in 2012 during the second term of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the MP said.
Lawmaker Samaraweera recalled the revelation made at the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Easter Sunday carnage how the then Public Relations Director of President Sirisena advised the IDB to provide 500 tonnes of copper to Colossus.The MP said that the media reported how Devika Liyanage, a Senior Assistant Secretary of the Ministry of Defence, at that time also directed the IDB to issue Colossus 1000 kilos of brass.
The Catholic Church should take up the issue at hand, lawmaker Samaraweera said, adding that they were in the process of examining the case anew in the wake of the AG’s move.Alleging that successive governments quite conveniently refrained from implementing recommendations of the P CoI made in early 2021, MP Samaraweera said that they intended to raise the issue both in and out of parliament.
The MP noted that local spice tycoon Mohamed Yusuf Ibrahim, the father of Mohamed Ibrahim Ilham Ahmed and Mohamed Ibrahim Insaf Ahmed who detonated themselves at Shangri-La and Cinnamon Grand, respectively, was granted bail in late May this year. Ibrahim had been on the JVP’s National List at the 2015 general election, MP Samaraweera said, alleging that the matter never received the attention of the investigation.
A seven-judge bench presided by Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya, PC, ruled on Sept. 26 that Ranil Wickremesinghe could no longer be named as a respondent in the Easter Sunday fundamental rights petitions filed 12 parties, including the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL). President’s Counsel Jayasuriya served as the AG at the time of the Easter Sunday attacks.MP Samaraweera said that ex-President Sirisena, who is also a respondent through his Counsel Faizer Mustapha opposed in vain the granting of presidential immunity to Wickremesinghe.
Alleging that the government hadn’t implemented P CoI recommendations pertaining to none of the senior law enforcement officers, including the then Head of the State Intelligence Service (SIS) Senior DIG Nilantha Jayewardena, lawmaker Samaraweera said that the AG’s Department should reveal how it dealt with State Counsel Malik Azeez and Deputy Solicitor General Azad Navavi against the backdrop of the P CoI recommending disciplinary action by the Public Service Commission (PSC).The MP noted that Rishad’s brother Riyaj, also arrested in connection with the Easter Sunday carnage, had been granted bail.
The JNP official recalled how the then AG de Livera called for an explanation from the CID in late 2020 when the Riyaj was released by the CID. What really happened to the investigation initiated by De Livera, the MP asked, urging the police and the AG’s Department to come clean on this matter.MP Samaraweera said that the termination of investigation into Bathiudeen should be examined against the backdrop of the AG and the CIABOC (Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption) withdrawing and terminating several dozens of high profile cases.