Reckless sliding tackles
Posted on April 25th, 2020

By Rohana R. Wasala

Three current unavoidable circumstances that only anti-national forces could exploit to stymie the government’s progress in its anti-Covid-19 drive thereby contributing to general oppositional efforts to destabilize the Sri Lankan state are   (1) the recent announcement of a new date for the next parliamentary elections by the Election Commission, (2) the mobilization of the health and national security departments for the containment of the spread of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 or Covid-19 pandemic in Sri Lanka, and (3) the arrest by the CID of a lawyer in the course of investigations into the Islamic terrorist bombings of April 21 last year (2019). These ‘issues’ have created an opportunity for the opposition to resort to the controversial sliding tackle move against the government, so to speak. (This is a personal thought for what it is worth. Open to criticism)

The Election Commission has declared June 20 as the new polls date. Earlier the opposition groups and individuals made an unnecessary ruckus raising unfair allegations that the government was anxious to hold elections in spite of the operation being deadly to the public because of the epidemic situation. Groups loyal to the government naturally favour as early an election as possible, but they are unlikely to subject people to lethal health hazards in achieving that end. The preference of the opposition elements, on the other hand, seems to be for cancelling the elections altogether. The still menacing Covid-19 situation, though so far the government has managed it with appreciable success, is the second issue that is being exploited by the election-phobic opposition to attack the government.  

The recent  arrest of a lawyer named Hejaz Hizbullah by the CID has also stirred up adverse commentary in some quarters. The online Colombo Telegraph (April 19, 2020) ran an article by Chamika Madiwake under the title ‘CID Abuses Covid-19 Surveillance To Detain Top Lawyer: Habeas Corpus Petition Reveals Terrifying Details’ (sic). Any reader looking for these so-called ‘terrifying details’ in the article will be disappointed. There is nothing to show that the CID officers resorted to any illegal methods to detain him. No less a person than His Eminence Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith had repeatedly expressed his dissatisfaction with the way investigations were conducted under the Ranil-Sirisena government into the April 21 terror attacks (and this feeling was universally shared by ordinary people). Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, in his election manifesto ‘Vision GR’ as presidential candidate, pledged to re-investigate the bombings and bring to book the culprits behind the heinous crime irrespective of their status in society. The first anniversary of the multiple suicide terror bombings  in three Catholic churches and three 5-star hotels, has just passed; investigations have been speeded up with three more teams deployed to assist them. The Cardinal sounds confident that under president Gotabaya Rajapaksa the needful will be done. 

The arrest of the lawyer was no doubt a part of the investigative process; there cannot be any political interference in the matter. This lawyer (who is not so ‘top’ as Chamika M pretends) wouldn’t have been taken into custody unless there was enough information to justify his detention. After all, as a lawyer, he was allegedly legal consultant to Pettah trader in spices Mohamed Yusuf Mohamed Ibrahim, and the latter’s two sons blew themselves up in two 5-star hotels in Colombo killing some local and foreign patrons. Hejaz Hizbullah’s arrest was not an arbitrary one contrary to what the obviously ill informed or misinformed Chamika M alleges. He refers to a Jaffna lawyer in support of his view of the arrest of Hejaz Hizbullah: ‘Jaffna lawyer and academic K. Guruparan however called the arrest of Hizbullah and the way it came about atrocious”’. How much this quote helps Chamika M establish his case is not difficult to decide (that is, little). Chamika M must have been born yesterday. He appears to be completely unaware or deliberately forgetful of how the so-called Financial Crimes Investigations Division (FCID), illegally instituted according as some legal experts have been pointing out, was operating under the arbitrary direction of the then prime minister Ranil Wickremasinghe, whose government squandered almost all of its time on keeping political opponents at bay mostly through false litigation. People are confident that no such politicization of the law enforcement agencies will take place under president Gotabaya. 

Chamika M expresses scepticism about Hejaz Hizbullah getting justice. He concludes his potentially libellous article with this incredibly nasty comment: QUOTE ‘The Court of Appeal is currently led by Abdul Hameed Dileep Nawaz, a notoriously corrupt judge, and staunch supporter of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’. END OF QUOTE

(Note on the title for readers not familiar with the football term used in it: A sliding tackle, also called a slide tackle, is a usually controversial move in the game of football. When this tackle move is executed, a player slides along the ground with their leg extended to push the ball so the opposing player is prevented from doing what they want to do with it.) 

Postscript:

The above was completed on April 23. The factual situation regarding the lawyer’s arrest was explained to the media at a news briefing by Police spokesman Attorney-at-law SP Jaliya Senaratne as reported in The Island newspaper the next day (April 24): According to the Police spokesman there was irrefutable evidence to link Attorney-at-Law, Hejaaz Hisbullah, who had been recently taken into custody by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), in connection with the 2019 Easter Sunday suicide bombings……. SP Jaliya Senaratne denied accusations the arrest had been made without sufficient evidence”. The arrest was made a week before the first anniversary of the Easter Sunday carnage. The news report also mentioned the fact that the suspect’s father Naina Hizbullah had recently filed a habeas corpus application against Hejaz Hizbullah’s arrest. 

One Response to “Reckless sliding tackles”

  1. aloy Says:

    Rohana,

    Neither you (as per this article) nor the sanga collective yesterday have seen anything wrong in the unethical way the affairs in this country is being conducted. It is the duty of the PM as the executive (as per 19A) to do it. Instead, he sent his former secy who actually is a convicted criminal turned a CIA agent to give the script (perhaps prepared by CIA) that was read out by our Prez. Whether he is under some kind of spell or doing it on his own is not clear. But certainly he needs some help from patriotic people. This should be nipped in the bud. US has no guts to take on our military now and create another Vietnam, where they learnt a bitter lesson. Indians also will not venture out as they know what is written in their holly book Ramayanaya.

    There is nothing wrong in the way EC has conducted affairs except the closing of nominations, to my mind. So, if at all the SC sits it should be to try those cases pending via the ‘express courts’.

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