Independence of police probes and political expediency | Daily News

Independence of police probes and political expediency

People pray for victims of Easter Sunday attacks.
People pray for victims of Easter Sunday attacks.

“I emphasize that our Government has not entered into any political deal with Parliament Member Rishad Bathiudeen” - President

Opposition politicians are ready to grab any weapon to attack the Government as they have run out of issues. In the rush to make allegations against the ruling party, they put their feet in their mouths again and again. The latest weapon they picked up in their witch hunt is the release of the detained Riyaj Bathiudeen, brother of All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC), Rishad Bathiudeen.

They have conveniently forgotten that the power to discharge a suspect lies solely with the system of judiciary and crime investigations by police and any attempt to question that right is an attempt to interfere in free and fair justice. As Irrigation and State Minister of Internal Security, Home Affairs and Disaster Management Chamal Rajapaksa clarified in Parliament on Tuesday (Oct 6), the release of former minister Rishad Bathiudeen’s brother Riyaj arrested in connection with the Easter Sunday carnage did not mean that he had been cleared of all charges. It was a decision taken by the courts and it can also decide to order the arrest of the suspect if new evidence linked to him surfaces.

The issue was raised in Parliament by Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP Chaminda Wijesiri. In reply, the Minister replied that Riyaj had been taken into custody on April 14, 2020 on suspicion of connections with Insaf Ahmed, the terrorist who blew himself up at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel in Colombo during the terror attacks that took place on April 21, 2019. The CID found out that there were 17 calls made by the suspect to the terrorist. Initially, the suspect had been detained under the provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) for three days for questioning and thereafter obtained the permission of courts twice for three months each. The investigators have found that the suspect and the terrorists had no terror links. The calls had been made for business purposes.

“There is no evidence to prove that the suspect aided and abetted the terrorist(s) to carry out the attacks, and, therefore he was released on Sept 29, 2020. The last call was three months prior to the attacks. However, if there is new evidence, he will be arrested again,” Minister Rajapaksa said.

He said that 130 employees in public institutions and statutory institutions had been interrogated with regard to the Easter Sunday terror attack. After interrogations it had been found that some of them were innocent or that there was no evidence to prove those suspects had links to the terrorists. They had been released. Ten employees in public institutions and statutory institutions had been arrested on terror charges. Cases are pending before courts against some of them. Some have been released. With regard to some others in custody, the police have sought the Attorney General’s instructions. They will be dealt with in accordance with instructions of the Attorney General.

The Members of the Opposition and irresponsible social media activists blatantly challenged the decision of the courts and tried to interpret it as a political ‘deal’ to get Rishad Bathiudeen’s support to the Government.

These wild allegations were levelled despite the categorical statement issued by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa that the Government has not entered into any political deal with Parliamentarian Rishad Bathiudeen. Reiterating his absolute commitment to the safety and security of the country and the people, the President stated in a Facebook post that “ensuring national security is the first and foremost responsibility of my Government”.

President Rajapaksa said he is not prepared to hand over the power of arresting or arbitrarily releasing people to politicians, as happened in the past. “I will also take actions to rectify any omissions or mistakes made by the relevant authorities or officials,” said the President.

“I emphasize that our Government has not entered into any political deal with MP Rishad Bathiudeen,” he said and assured the citizens he will not forsake the trust that they have placed in him and he will most certainly continue to work towards strengthening this trust.

Cabinet spokesman Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said that since there are some concerns over Bathiudeen he should not be taken into the Government.

The ruling party, Sri Lanka Podujana Permauna (SLPP) too announced that neither the Government nor the SLPP had entered into any agreement with MP Rishad Bathiudeen. “There is no discussion or any idea to absorb MP Bathiudeen into the government,” SLPP General Secretary Sagara Kariyawasam said.

However, responding to a question asked at the SLPP weekly news briefing over the concerns raised by Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith over the release of Riyaj Bathiudeen, MP Kariyawasam called for an immediate investigation into the release of Riyaj Bathiudeen, who was arrested over alleged involvement in the Easter Sunday Attacks. “We request the Defence Secretary to launch an immediate investigation into the incident and to find out if there has been any irregularity in the release of Riyaj Bathiudeen,” he said.

Minister Wimal Weerawansa, known for his outspoken statements, said that the Government is not stupid to have any deals with Bathiudeen. He said that if any attempt is made to allow Bathiudeen to join the Government he will be chased out.Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa too said the Government maintains its stand that it will not have any dealings with extremists.

Furthermore, Rishad Bathiudeen clarified that his party, the All Ceylon Makkal Congress did not have any agreement with the Government nor has it had any talks with the Government.

The people have the highest expectations from law enforcement institutions. The police have the fullest responsibility of probing crimes, arrest suspects and also discharge a person if there is no sufficient evidence to prove guilt at a trail seeking conviction.

Hence, politicians should not jump to give their own interpretations of ‘political deals’ when a suspect is arrested or discharged. It is not a healthy sign of a mature democracy. Constantly questioning the capacity to interpret the law is akin to constantly questioning the legitimacy of politicians to even make any law in the first place. In the past, we have seen ugly scenes such as stone throwing at the houses of judges who had given verdicts that were not seen as being favourable to the party in power at that time. The members of the Opposition should think, not twice but several times, before challenging a Court decision merely to score brownie points over the ruling party.