ECONOMYNEXT – More than two-thirds of the country’s governing party Parliamentary Group has signed a letter addressed to the President and the Prime Minister demanding an inquiry into how Riyaj Bathiudeen, a suspect in the Easter bombings, was released from police custody.
A media release issued by the office of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa said that the letter was handed over to the PM at Temple Trees last night.
The letter, which has been circulated to media organisations, pointed out that the Police Media spokesman had said that Riyaj Bathiudeen had had “direct contacts with” the Easter bombers and had been spotted having a meeting with one of them at a hotel in Colombo.
It also quoted former Army Commander Gen Mahesh Senanayake as telling the Presidential Commission investigating the attacks that he had received an intelligence report that Bathiudeen had helped the leader of the group that carried out the attacks, Zahran Hashim, escape to India by providing him with a boat.
Senanayake was Army Chief during the period of the attacks and previously head of Military Intelligence.
After his release, the police said that he was “cleared of all charges.”
Riyaj Bathiudeen is the younger brother of Opposition MP and former Minister Rishad Bathiudeen who was vilified by supporters of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) during the last government and in the run-up to the recent elections as a supporter of Islamic terrorism.
However, amid rumours that he would cross over to the government benches to support the controversial 20th Amendment to the Constitution, MP Bathiudeen was seen hobnobbing with Chamal Rajapaksa who is the Irrigation Minister and elder brother of the Prime Minister and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at a recent event.
Coincidentally, the MPs brother was released by the Criminal Investigation Department, which the government MPs pointed out was done without him being produced in court.
The event attracted a chorus of criticism from the SLPP’s Right-Wing support base as well as bemused comments from the Opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) which officially has said that none of their members would support the 20A.
Well-known Nationalist Monk Pahiyangala Ananda Sagara Thero criticized the release saying that it was a political move.
The SJB’s Tissa Attanayake said that the current government has the responsibility of punishing those behind the Easter attacks. “But we are surprised that people who are arrested in this investigation are released. It is becoming increasingly clear that all this is to ensure a majority to pass the 20th Amendment,” he told reporters last week.
Bathiudeen’s group called the All Ceylon Makkal Congress, consists of three MPs, two of whom were elected on the SJB ticket and the other independently elected.
He supported the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa in the 2010 elections and was a Cabinet Minister in that government. His party left the government in 2014 and in 2015 joined the Good Governance government and was appointed to the Cabinet again.
Bathiudeen draws much of his support from Muslims who were expelled from the North by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and are resettled in the Mannar and Puttalam areas. (Colombo October 10, 2020)
Reported by Arjuna Ranawana