By Rathindra Kuruwita
Pulasthini Rajendran aka Sarah Jesmine, wife of Atchchi Muhammadu Hastun, who detonated the suicide bomb at St. Sebastian’s Church at Katuwapitiya, Negombo had been with the wife of NTJ leader Zaharan Hashim, Abdul Cader Fatima, from February to 26 April, 2019 and the authorities could find out what happened to Sarah from Fatima, Rajaratnam Kavitha, the mother of Pulasthini, on Saturday, told the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) investigating the Easter Sunday attacks.
The witness said that Pulasthini had been converted to Islam in 2015 by General Secretary of the Sri Lanka Thowheed Jama’at (SLTJ), Abdul Razik. Her daughter, born in 1996, had obtained 8 As and 1 B at the GCE O/L examination, and had decided to study biology; she used to travel to Kalmunai to attend private tuition classes and the witness was working in Abu Dhabi at that time.
The witness said that on 29 July, 2015, her mother had informed her, over the phone, that Pulasthini had gone missing. Kavitha had instructed her mother to lodge a complaint with the Kaluwanchikudy Police. Razik had called Kavitha’s brother informing him that Pulasthini was with them.
Kavitha said that she returned from Abu Dhabi and visited Razik’s office at Maligawatte. “I saw Pulasthini dressed like a Muslim woman. There were three men including Razik and a woman. Razik and two other men there were listening while I was talking to Pulasthini.”
Asked by the Attorney General’s (AG’s) department representative who was leading the evidence what she had done after talking to Pulasthini on that day, the witness said that she had lodged a complaint with the Maligawatte police station.
The witness said: “Abdul Razik came to the police station with Pulasthini. Police officers told me to take her home for 15 days and that I could keep her with me if she decided to follow Hinduism. However, if she decided to follow Islam, she should be allowed to join Razik. The Police officers also warned me that I would be arrested if I didn’t act accordingly.”
Commissioners asked Kavitha if she was aware that a mother had the right to a child, regardless of religion, and if so, whether she had explained that to the policemen. The witness said that she was aware of that and when the point was raised, the Police officers had told her that Pulasthini was over 18 years old and that she could do as she wished.
Kavitha also said that the Police officers had got her to signe a three-page document. She added that she could not understand the contents as it had been in Sinhala.
“Razik’s aim was to convert Hindus to Islam. When I first went to the Maligawatte Police station I told them that, but the Police did not pay any attention to it and only listened to Razik,” she added.
Kavitha said that after returning home with her, Pulasthini had removed the Abaya and practiced Hindu rituals. However, after 15 days, Razik had demanded that Pulasthini be returned to them. Razik had warned he knew how to change Pulasthini’s mind. On September 24, 2015 she went to hospital with Pulasthini, who went missing. She lodged a complaint with the Batticaloa Police.
The following day, Razik had called her and informed her that Pulasthini had got married to Hastun, the witness said. “I went to Maligawatte with my brother, aunt and son. However, Razik did not show her any evidence that the marriage had taken place.
“The Maligawatte Police were informed of this but they said there was nothing they could do because both Pulasthini and Hastun were over 18 years. I learned that my daughter’s name had been changed to Sarah Jasmine after the marriage.”
However, Pulasthini came to Abu Dhabi on 6 January, 2016 to join her mother because she didn’t want to live with Hastun. Pulasthini was in Abu Dhabi for almost four months ; she worked there as a cashier.
“After about four months, Pulasthini told me that she wanted to continue her studies and went back to Sri Lanka. She promised me that she would not go back to Hastun again. Meanwhile, Hastun had lodged a complaint with the Kattankudy Police station that we had kept his wife away from him forcibly. The complaint was investigated at the Kattankudy Police station. Representatives of a Muslim federation and the Police handed over my daughter to Hastun.”
Commissioners paid special attention to the fact that Hastun had lodged a complaint with the Kattankudy Police although Pulasthini was a resident of the Kaluwanchikudy Police division. They were also concerned by the revelation that outsiders had come and intervened during the investigation of the complaint.
The witness said that after sometime she had come to know that Zaharan’s wife had taken her daughter to a house in Narammala and the last time she spoke to Pulasthini was on the phone on 19 February, 2019, around 12.30 p.m.
“I heard a lot of people talking around her when she spoke that day, and she said she would give her phone to be repaired and, therefore, she would not call me for about a week. I haven’t heard from her sincee.”
Kavitha said that she had returned to Sri Lanka by that time and lodged a complaint with the Narammala Police on 6 April, 2019, as she had not heard from Pulasthini for two months. On 7 April, a CID officer Roshan had visited her and informed her that he has come with some information from Razik. Roshan had told the witness that Pulasthini was with Zaharan’s wife and gave her a contact number to inform him in case Pulasthini called her.
“Two days later, I went to the Kaluwanchikudy Police station to lodge a complaint about Pulasthini but they did not accept the complaint. They told me to go to Kattankudy Police station. Even though I went to Kattankudy Police, they also did not accept the complaint.”
Since both the Kaluwanchikudy and Kattankudy Police stations had not accepted complaints, Kavitha had then gone to the Human Rights Commission’s regional office in Batticaloa.
“I informed an officer there that I had found out that my daughter was with Zaharan. At that moment he said he knew Zaharan and that there was nothing to be scared of since Zaharan was a normal person. He also said there was no need to lodge a complaint and that he would look into the matter,” Kavitha said.
Members of the PCoI asked Kavitha about recent revelations that Pulasthini had not been killed during a shootout with the security forces in Sainthamaruthu on 26 April, 2019. Kavitha said that she had come to know about such a matter through the media but she has not heard from her daughter since February 2019. She also requested the security forces to conduct another DNA test.
The witness said that the Police had shown her photographs of jewelleries found in the house of Sainthamaruthu after the explosion and that her daughter’s jewellery was not there.
When the commission inquired whether the witness had seen Pulasthini in September 2019, she said that she had not even spoken to her over the phone since February 2019, and if she had known her daughter’s whereabouts, she would definitely have informed the security forces.
“I request the security forces to find out if my daughter is alive. If my daughter has done something wrong, punish her. But if she is alive, give me a chance to see her at least once,” she said.
Concluding that Kavitha’s life was likely to be in danger due to testimonies that she gave before the Commission, the PCoI ordered the National Authority for the Protection of Victims of Crime and Witnesses to ensure her security and to submit a written report to the PCoI within a week on the action taken in that regard.
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AG not bound by its recommendations, yet to receive report
PCoI on Easter Sunday attacks:
By Shamindra Ferdinando
Attorney General Dappula de Livera, PC is not bound by recommendations made by the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (P CoI) into the 2019 Easter Sunday carnage, or presidential directives in that regard, according to authoritative sources.
They said that the AG couldn’t under any circumstances initiate legal proceedings until he had received the full PCoI report.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa received the PCoI report on Feb 1. The President’s Office delivered a set of PCoI reports to Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena on Feb 23, a day after the report was presented to the cabinet of ministers. The Island raised the matter with relevant authorities in the wake of a section of the media reporting the PCoI recommending punitive measures against former President Maithripala Sirisena, Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando, IGP Pujitha Jayasundera, Chief of State Intelligence Senior DIG Nilantha Jayawardena, Chief of National Intelligence retired DIG Sisira Mendis and All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) leader and Samagi Jana Balavegaya MP Rishad Bathiudeen et al over the Easter Sunday carnage.
Sources pointed out that due to the inordinate delay in sharing the PCoI report with the AG, the department hadn’t been able to take preliminary measures required to initiate the proceedings. Sources said that a team of officers would take at least six weeks or more to examine the report before tangible measures could be taken.
With the AG scheduled to retire on May 24, 2021, even if the AG Department received the P CoI it would be quite a tough task to initiate proceedings ahead of retirement, sources said. However, in terms of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution enacted in last October, both the AG and the IGP could receive extensions beyond 60 at the President’s discretion.
Dappula de Livera received an Acting appointment as the AG a week after the Easter Sunday carnage whereas his predecessor Jayantha Jayasuriya, PC, was elevated to Chief Justice.
Responding to another query, sources said that the Attorney General two weeks ago requested Secretary to the President for a copy of the P CoI. However, the AG was yet to receive one, sources said. In spite of the AG not receiving a P CoI copy, the AG had instructed the IGP to obtain a copy of the report when he requested the police to complete investigations into the Easter Sunday carnage. The AG issued specific instructions after having examined police files pertaining to the investigations.
The IGP, too, hadn’t received a copy so far though some sections of the report were in the public domain.
Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage displayed at a live political programme on Derana a copy of the P CoI report he received at the cabinet meeting earlier in the day.
Sources said that the Attorney General’s Department couldn’t decide on a course of action in respect of the Easter carnage on the basis of a section of the report. In terms of the Commission of Inquiry Act (Section 24), the AG enjoyed significant powers/authority in respect of investigations; sources said adding that the Department urgently required both the P CoI report and police investigations report. The Attorney General’s Department has raised the delay in receiving a P CoI report amidst the Catholic Church attacking the government over the same issue.
Sources said that ministerial committee appointed to study the P CoI report couldn’t decide on how to proceed with the recommendations and the matter was entirely in the hands of the AG. Sources pointed out that the delay on the part of the government to release the report had received the attention of sections of the international media, including the New York Times. Public Security Minister retired Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera having met Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith at the Bishop’s House on Dec 8, 2020 said that the AG would get a copy of the P CoI report once the President received it. Minister Weerasekera said that the CID had handed over the relevant files after having completed investigations into eight blasts. Referring to the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) report on the Easter Sunday carnage, the former Navy Chief of Staff said that all such documents would have to be brought to one place and considered before initiating legal proceedings. Acknowledging that there could be delays, lawmaker Weerasekera said that on the instructions of the Attorney General a 12-member team of lawyers was working on the case. The minister vowed to expose the mastermind behind the Easter Sunday attacks. Investigations continued while some of those wanted were overseas, the minister said.
The minister acknowledged that the Attorney General couldn’t proceed without the P CoI report. Minister Weerasekera reiterated that once the President received the P CoI report, it would be sent to the Attorney General. The minister said that there were documents two to three feet high that needed scrutiny. The minister assured comprehensive investigation. The minister said that investigations pertaining to eight blasts had been completed and the reports handed over to the AG. However, the Attorney General had found shortcomings in those investigations.
JVP picks holes in PCoI report
By Saman Indrajith
The Presidential Commission of Inquiry on the Easter Sunday bombings had failed to identify the mastermind of , the JVP said yesterday.
Addressing the media at the party headquarters in Pelawatte, JVP Propaganda Secretary MP Vijitha Herath said that the PCoI report had levelled accusations against former President Maithripala Sirisena, former IGP and head of intelligence for their dereliction of duty, shirking of responsibilities and not taking action to prevent the attacks and negligence. There were reference to the causes of the terror attacks and actions to be taken to avoid such attacks and the influence of extremist organisations. “However, there is no mention of the mastermind of the attacks, the handlers of the attackers and those whose interests the carnage served. It is also not mentioned whether there has been any foreign or local organisation behind those attacks. As per the PCoI report the attack took place as a result of culmination of extremism.
“According to the PCoI the extremist activities were a result of the prevailing political situation then. The entire nation was waiting to see who was responsible and who masterminded those attacks. The PCoI has failed to identify the true culprits responsible for the terror attacks. The report says that the leader of the suicide cadres killed himself in the attacks and it was a puzzle. That means those who are actually responsible for the attacks are still at large. The report does not provide exact details of the sources of the attacks. The PCoI had sittings for one year and five months. It summoned various persons and got their statements but it has failed to shed any light on the terror attacks. Everybody knows that the top leaders of the government and heads of security and intelligence establishments failed in their duties. Ranil Wickremesinghe was the second in command and he too is bound by the responsibility but the PCoI report fails to identify him as one of the persons against whom legal action should be instituted. The PCoI has treated Wickremesinghe and former President Maithripala Sirisena differently. We are not telling that this report is a total failure but we cannot accept this as a complete report. The PCoI handed over its report to the President on Feb 1. After 23 days it was sent to Parliament. Now, a copy of the report is there in the parliamentary library for the perusal of MPs.”
Herath said that the PCoI did not have powers to take punitive action. “It only has powers to name those responsible and recommend action to be taken against those named.
TNA MP faults govt. for delay in answering questions, gets under Johnston’s skin
By Saman Indrajith
It did not matter whether the MPs were wearing pressed clothes or had travelled long distances when their questions were answered, Chief Government Whip Johnston Fernando told Parliament yesterday.
The Minister said so in response to a complaint by Batticaloa District TNA MP Shanikyan Rasamanikkam, who expressed his dismay for government taking time to answer a question raised by him.
MP Rasamanikkam has raised a question whether the Minister of Health is aware that the Dikkodai ospital, located in the Batticaloa district is not used for public purposes and the patients who visit the hospital for receiving services, face inconveniences, owing to that. On behalf of the Minister of Health, the Chief Government Whip and Minister asked for additional two weeks time.
MP Rasamanikkam: I come to parliament from Batticaloa, which is 422 km away. To attend Parliament we take great care including pressing our clothes. After taking so much trouble to come there braving the pandemic threat we do not get answers. There is a Health Minister and Acting Health Minister and neither of them is here. I saw Minister Dr Sudarshini Fernandopulle in the House this morning. She too has gone out. I travel more than 800 km. We could attend to many other problems. It is because the government does not give answers we are conducting protest marches, but when we do so we are hauled up before courts.
Chief Government Whip Minister Johnston Fernando: Every MP comes here wearing pressed clothes. But that has nothing to do with questions and answers here. I have been requested by the subject minister to ask for two weeks’ time. The MPs have a right to ask questions and in the same way the ministers have the right to ask for time. On the other hand, whether you cover 400 km to reach parliament does not matter. The majority of MPs travel 200 to 250 kilometers to come to Parliament. It is for that purpose they contest elections and get elected. Once elected the distance is not an issue you have to come to Parliament. The government has answered all your questions. This is the first time the Minister has asked for additional time. It is unfair for you to level charges. A more responsible conduct is expected of you as an upcoming political leader.