Travel ban on MR, Namal, Johnston and others

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Colombo Fort Chief Magistrate Thilina Gamage, yesterday imposed an overseas travel ban on 17 persons, including former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, Ex-Minister Namal Rajapaksa and Western Province SDIG Deshabandu Tennakoon.

This was in connection with an alleged assault by SLPP-led goons, on protesters at GotaGoGama at Galle Face Green and MainaGoGama in front of Temple Trees on 9 May.

The protesters had been demonstrating opposite the Presidential Secretariat and Temple Trees, exerting pressure on the President and the then PM, to resign from their posts.

The Fort Chief Magistrate thus impounded the passports of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, former Ministers Pavithra Wanniarachchi, Johnston Fernando, Namal Rajapaksa, Rohitha Abeygunawardene, C.B. Ratnayake, MP Sanjeewa Edirimanne, Kanchana Jayaratne, Sampath Athukorala, Renuka Perera, Ex-State Minister Sanath Nishantha, Nishantha Jayasinghe, Amitha Abeywickrema, Pushpalal Kumarasiri, Mahinda Kahandagama, Dulip Perera and Western Province SDIG Deshabandu Tennakoon.

Chief Magistrate Gamage stated that the passports of the 17 should be promptly submitted to Court.

This order was issued based on a request made to Court by ASG Ayesha Jinasena, who appeared for the CID on behalf of the Attorney General.

Furthermore the Court impounded the passports of seven witnesses, in order to obtain their support for the probe.

Fort Magistrate – “When there has not been any case filed in this Court with regard to the ongoing protest at Galle Face Green, a group of lawyers attached to the BASL, had submitted a letter to the JSC, urging the latter to remove me from the case. Hence, I intend to ask from you whether all are in agreement with me presiding over this trial.”

DSG Jinasena – “I would like to state on behalf of the CID and the AG, that we have no objection to it.”

President’s Counsel Rianzi Arsakularatne – “We too have no objection against you presiding over this case. We have full confidence in your ability to do so.”

Hence based on the mutual agreement on the part of the prosecution and the aggrieved party, it was decided to hear the trial before Chief Magistrate Thilina Gamage.

ASG Jinasena – “This request is made to you, based on Provisions contained in Sections 7, 77 and 127 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. I hereby urge you to issue an order to impound the passports of the persons, which will be mentioned to you subsequently. In order to facilitate the probe into the case, it is imperative that an order is issued to ban the foreign travels of these persons.

The probe into the case was begun by the CID, on an order received from the IGP on 10 May. Hence submissions were made to Court on the same date via a ‘B’ Report. The CID has only received a certain amount of details, regarding this incident. This probe is primarily conducted via the information beamed through electronic and print media, social media platforms, video footages, statements recorded from the wounded and eye witness accounts etc.

The probe is pertaining to the alleged assault on the protesters at GotaGoGama, MynaGoGama, injuring the protesters and damages caused to properties at the two protest sites. We have to date probed with regard to from which areas these assailants had arrived. According to information available, they had arrived at the two protest sites from Temple Trees.

The probe had revealed that these assailants, having taken part at a meeting convened by the former PM, had proceeded to assault the protesters at the two protest sites. It is also clear that they had arrived at Temple Trees, from various parts of the country. During this meeting the former PM Mahinda Rajapaksa, along with former Ministers Pavithra Wanniarachchi and Johnston Fernando, had addressed them. It has also been revealed, that at the end of that meeting, the assailants armed with iron poles and clubs, had proceeded towards the MainaGoGama and GotaGoGama, and had assaulted the peaceful protesters there.

Hence it has to be probed as to how these people who had gone to the meeting at Temple Trees without bearing any arms, had then gone to the two protest sites, being armed with iron poles and rods. Furthermore the conduct of Police officers at the two protest sites has also now become questionable, as they had not intervened at all to quell the chaos. We are currently probing that too. Hence an inquiry is being conducted, related to charges of conspiracy, to conduct an illegal meeting and an illegal assault.

This is a very complex probe. We are also investigating 10 persons, who had addressed that illegal meeting at Temple Trees. We are also investigating the conduct of Mahinda Rajapaksa, Pavithra Wanniarachchi, Johnston Fernando, Namal Rajapaksa, Sanjeewa Edirimanne, Kanchana Jayaratne, Rohitha Abeygunawardene, CB Ratnayake, Sampath Athukorala and Renuka Perera, with regard to their involvement with the meeting held at Temple Trees.

Also we have uncovered details, regarding the involvement of six other persons who had accompanied the armed assailants to Temple Trees (MynaGoGama) and Galle Face Green (GotaGoGama).

As a result investigations are continuing regarding the conduct of Sanath Nishantha, Nishantha Jayasinghe, Amitha Abeywickrema, Pushpalal Kumarasinghe, Mahinda Kahandagama and Dulip Perera. Also it has come to light, that persons such as Sanath Nishantha and SDIG Deshabandu Tennakoon, were engaged in discussions with unidentified groups, who had headed off to the two protest sites, to assault the peaceful protesters.

It is also clear that though the responsibility lies with the IGP to ensure peace in the country, he had been guilty of dereliction of his duty here. A separate probe is also being conducted into it. Hence in the name of justice and to further aid the investigation into this case, I urge you to issue an order to impound the passports of each of the aforesaid people, as it is imperative that they remain here. There are also seven witnesses to this case. They too must remain here till the conclusion of this trial and I urge you to issue a similar order against them as well. They are namely Nona Maureen Noor, Ven. Etampitiye Sumananda Thera, Amal Salinda Perera, Sadan Sandaruwan, Amila Jeewantha, K. Jagath and Mohammad Sharmila.”

A group of lawyers including President’s Counsel Saliya Peiris, Rienzi Arsakularatne, Maithri Guneratne and Upul Jayasuriya were present in Court, on behalf of the aggrieved party.

Arsakularatne PC – “There is proof by way of video footage, that on the day of the mayhem that former Minister Johnston Fernando addressing the meeting at Temple Trees, had implored the people to get rid of the protesters at Galle Face Green and outside of Temple Trees.

At that moment Sanjeewa Edirimanne, had raised both of his arms and had expressed his consent to it overwhelmingly. Afterwards around 500 people, who had gathered at that meeting, had also expressed their support for it. It also shows that Mahinda Rajapaksa had also been involved in that meeting. It is clear that he had at no stage opposed the measures being contemplated by his supporters, to crash into the protest sites.

He had the responsibility to ensure that peoples’ fundamental rights are not infringed by such action. But, he never took any measures to nip it all in the bud. These people, who had gone to the meeting without arms, suddenly came out of the premises, being armed with iron poles and rods. They then proceeded to the two said protest sites and had begun to assault the protesters mercilessly, who had been engaged in carrying out peaceful demonstrations. The tents of the protesters had also been damaged.

Though Deshabandu Tennakoon too was present there, it is patently clear that he has not taken any action to douse the chaos or even arrest any of the assailants. We also have proof that Moratuwa Mayor Saman Lal Fernando, had brought down crowds in buses to Temple Trees. Therefore I urge you to issue an order to arrest each of these persons and produce them in Court.”

Guneratne PC – “Also I must bring to your attention the involvement of Rekha Kahandagama, with the assaults at the two protest sites. Her name had not been mentioned previously. There is also proof that a large number of inmates from the Watareka Prison had been brought down in vehicles, for the attack on peaceful protesters at Temple Trees and at Galle Face Green. Therefore I request you to issue an order for the arrest of Prisons Commissioner General Thushara Upuldeniya and produce him in Court, with regard to this incident.”

Chief Magistrate – “I hereby order you to submit your evidence to the CID and for them to initiate an investigation into that evidence ahead of making submissions to Court at the next hearing. Further hearing of the case is fixed for 25 May. 

By Hansi Nanayakkara