ECONOMYNEXT – Legislators in Sri Lanka traded charges on Thursday (07) over a claim that detained opposition MP Rishad Bathuideen is compelled to urinate into a bottle while in prison.
The matter came up when members of the opposition raised a point of privilege over Bathuideen’s ongoing detention which is now into its sixth month, claiming that he is undergoing much hardship.
Bathiudeen and his brother Riyaj were arrested on April 24 for alleged links to the 2019 Easter Sunday bombers. The government was under pressure at the time, particularly from the head of Sri Lanka’s Catholic church, to take action against purported masterminds of the attack.
The brothers were arrested under provisions of Sri Lanka’s controversial Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) for aiding and abetting and for maintaining connections with the attackers.
However, the MP has yet to be charged by the legal authorities.
“His cell is locked at 5pm every day and he has to urinate into a bottle,” Chief Opposition Whip and main opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) MP Lakshman Kiriella said raising the question of privilege.
Bathiudeen is also facing inconvenience in offering his two night-time prayers due to this issue, he added.
“This is an injustice. There is a government MP also in prison, but he is being allowed to bring his meal from his home,” Kiriella said referring to Premalal Jayasekara, a ruling party MP and murder convict who is in prison.
“This is what happens when police act according to government orders. This is politically motivated.”
Former minister Bathiudeen is also at the centre of a controversy surrounding a 16-year-old domestic aide employed at his residence who burnt to death in July this year.
Chief Government Whip Johnston Fernando responding to Kiriella said it was the same fate Fernando underwent when he was arrested during the previous government.
“Even for us, they closed it at 5pm and opened at 6. We also did [urinate] into bottles,” Fernando told parliament.
However, Fernando said he has spoken to the prison commissioner and the commissioner has informed him that Bathiudeen was permitted to use the prison toilet and have his meal brought from outside, but COVID-19 restrictions have so far compelled authorities not to allow meals from outside until October 15.
“I urge Kiriella not to mislead parliament. None of Bathuideen’s lawyers has complained about this to the court,” said Fernando.
Early this week, former prime minister and opposition United National Party (UNP) MP Ranil Wickremesinghe also raised a question of privilege on Bathiudeen and asked the authorities to either present evidence against him or release him from prison.
On August 23, a medical doctor attached to the Welikada prison hospital lodged a police complaint against the detained MP for allegedly threatening his life.
Bathiudeen has denied all allegations against him. (Colombo/Oct07/2021)