29 November, 2020

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Hejaaz Hizbullah: A Follow-Up

By Uditha Devapriya

Uditha Devapriya

At around 4 p.m. on April 14, a day after the New Year dawned, Hejaaz Hizbullah received a call from a man identifying himself as an official from the Ministry of Health. It had been a month since the government had imposed an island-wide lockdown due to the pandemic, and there was a palpable sense of fear, anxiety, and dread everywhere.

The man on the other side asked him whether he had withdrawn cash from a certain ATM. Apparently he had. Stay home until our fellows show up, he instructed him. He duly obliged, and stayed put with his wife and mother-in-law.

But the call had not been from the Health Ministry. Nor were the five people (four men and a woman) who showed up at his place an hour later. Hejaaz found himself handcuffed and asked to sit on a sofa. Having rummaged through his property, including his law chambers, and having dialled some numbers on his telephone, they removed his handcuffs. After they were removed, he was told to be present at the CID the next day.

Then someone called one of the officials. He informed Hejaaz and his wife to accompany them immediately. Along the way they picked up one of his juniors. At the fourth floor of the CID, he was questioned for half an hour. Once the interrogation was over, his junior was informed that he had been arrested and detained. No reasons were given.

Lawyer Hejaaz Hizbullah

The Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), used widely, and one could say legitimately, during the war, gives authorities the power to detain suspects for up to 18 months without charge or having to present them at a court of law. The detention orders must be renewed every 90 days. Having been renewed in July, the order for Hejaaz expired on October 17. According to his lawyers, no evidence has been presented so far to explain why it should be renewed a second time. They claim he is being persecuted. They argue he has become a scapegoat for the sins and crimes of others. They say evidence has been and is being fabricated, including the testimony of “key witnesses.” They believe he is innocent.

One cannot blame the government for taking defence and security seriously. The previous government, as it clearly showed, didn’t take them seriously. The Easter attacks brought to the fore a face of international terrorism we never thought we’d see here. At the same time, it brought to the fore officials, ministers, and deputies whose gross mishandling of the issue should have automatically removed them from power. Piers Morgan, reflecting on the then Prime Minister, had this to tweet about him: “Why does [he] keep smirking about the terror attacks?” Asanga Welikala, no friend of that regime’s opponents, re-tweeted: “The world is noticing. Ranil Wickremesinghe is the world’s worst communicator.”

And yet, they did not resign. The anger of the people grew. That anger translated itself to a forever swelling bubble of support for Gotabaya Rajapaksa, to his credit the only person among the presidential candidates who had a record of eliminating terrorism. His opponent from the UNP, representing that party’s petty bourgeois base, was no match for him. While he spoke loftily on the need to beef up security, those invited to speak at his rallies adopted completely opposite positions. It seemed as though Sajith Premadasa was running, but Ranil Wickremesinghe was contesting. Given this, it was inevitable that the Bonapartists of the UNP would concede defeat to the Bonapartists of the SLPP at the polls.

But the anger of the people – Catholics and Christians, Buddhists and Hindus, even Muslims across the country – could not find a way out with the return of the Rajapaksas. The usual way about it was the setting up of a Presidential Commission. The previous government had instituted it, and witnesses had been called almost every day.

The villains of the piece quickly emerged there: the IGP, the Defence Secretary, the State Minister of Defence, and the Minister of Defence. The latter, of course, happened to be the President. He hadn’t, he informed the Commissioners, been getting along with the Prime Minister. For his part the Prime Minister hadn’t been getting along with him either. The one, it turned out, had excluded the other from crucial intelligence meetings.

In other words, a government elected by the civil society intelligentsia, those whom my friend Hafeel Farisz – one of the legal representatives of the subject of this piece – once called “coffee shop liberals”, had treated security in much the same way badminton players treat their birdie: the Prime Minister threw it to the President, the President threw it back to the Prime Minister. No wonder people had got so furious.

Probably a third or so of those who voted for Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the man with a record, were voting as much against the incumbent as they had against the incumbent four years earlier. With his victory, supporters and opponents alike thought his government would up the ante in the probe into the attacks. Many of them welcomed his appointment of military officials, believing, as I did and still do, that it was a pragmatic response to the lackadaisical attitude of their predecessors to security issues and concerns.

Jean-Louis Bruguière, the charismatic leading counterterrorism judge in France, gave a simple piece of advice at the height of Islamist attacks in Western suburbs: “Make sweeping arrests.” The government, this one and the one before it, did not excessively indulge in sweeping arrests. There were two exceptions. The first, under the yahapalanists, was Shafi Shihabdeen; the second, under their successors, was Hejaaz Hizbullah.

Hejaaz’s arrest hence represents the crest of a wave of anger towards those believed to have been complicit in the attacks. It symbolises the apogee of the present regime’s position on defence. It brings back that old debate about the proportionate use of anti-terror legislation. And of course, it aids and abets those among the public, and those operating the court of public opinion, desperately on the lookout for a scapegoat.

I sincerely wish it didn’t have to be this way. As I pointed out in my earlier piece on Hejaaz, however, his case is more a symptom than a consequence of an upsurge in security. From 1971 to 2009, the Sri Lankan government, as Shiran Illanperuma observed in an article on the Counter-Terrorism Act (proposed, though not enacted, as a replacement for the PTA by the last regime), faced “existential threats in the form of armed militants in both the north and south.” Those who bombed the churches last year were neither armed militants nor from the north and south. They represented a different breed of terrorism altogether, and the PTA, revived and reactivated, is in full throttle to keep them at bay.

And yet somehow, somewhere, I believe someone has been accused for something he didn’t do. Though I don’t have the proof, I believe I might not be wrong. I believe, also, that the people responsible for what happened last year, people still roaming on the streets, still smirking smugly at the Presidential Commission, should be the ones charged, detained, and made responsible for their inactions. The demonization of scapegoats, by contrast, achieves very little. It is time we realised this. It is time we woke up.

*The writer can be reached at udakdev1@gmail.com

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Latest comments

  • 29
    11

    I feel sad for the arrested scapegoat his wife family and friends.
    a.
    These Yakkos who are in power think that the sun is shining on their sordid stinky oozing backsides think being sinhalese they can inflict irreparable harm on the innocent like in this said episode.
    b.
    To hold a person in hidden custody is normally the doings of cowards who think that they are in position s of power they can do anything and get away.
    C.
    The baiyagulla rajapukas for reasons best known to them are holding this innocent lawyer in illegal kallathoni incase ration.
    d.
    How many more are in this position is the multi million dollar question.
    e.
    In September 1987 I and my ex wife were arrested at 1.00 am in the morning on a Sunday on false charges of being foreign empl.
    oyment agents which we were not on a commercial money transaction.
    The perpetrator of this was none other than the retired DIG sirius senanayake an avid christian.
    f.
    As my influence was too much for these sexually frustrated money greedy police crooks they had to let us go.

    • 3
      6

      Mr. rj1852,
      .
      a
      b
      c
      d
      Please keep some more “sad” in stock.
      .
      You are going to need lot more in the future.
      e
      f
      g
      h
      i

  • 40
    6

    Minority MP’s that voted for 20A
    Ishak Rahuman
    M.S. Thowfeek
    MPs H.M.M. Harees
    Faizal Cassim
    MP Naseer Ahamad
    MP Ali Sabri Raheem

    They will sell their soul for personal gain . This is why Muslim rightfully or wrongly don’t get the same sympathy .

    • 14
      5

      Gota must now have enough power to do one of two things
      1.release this guy Hejaaz Hizbullah
      2..detain him further

      will These jokers who voted for 20A press for 1.
      Perhaps Gota would say thanks for giving me more power.
      Now I order you guys to shut the fxxk up.

    • 16
      3

      In return for Gota’s promise not to punish anyone for the Easter Sunday attack. Nothing is free. Rajapaksas cleverly blackmailed them into agreeing to vote for 20A.

      As expected most Buddhist, Christian and Muslim MPs voted in favour of 20A. Only Most Hindu MPs voted against it.

      • 3
        0

        GATAM
        “As expected most Buddhist, Christian and Muslim MPs voted in favour of 20A. Only Most Hindu MPs voted against it.”

        one of the most idiotic statement I ever read in CT. Eagle Eye and S J Pasqual etc can learn something from you

    • 3
      1

      Burt,
      “They will sell their soul for personal gain .”

      Tamil politicians in TNA did the same thing during ‘Jadapalana’ Government. Look what Sambandan got as the Leader of the Opposition who slept with UNP protecting the Government; a luxury house in Colombo 7 for lifetime.

      • 0
        0

        nobody gives a hoot about TNA bankrupt jokers lol

    • 4
      2

      Burt: Now the “Sinhala Buddhists Majority”(including the Maha Sanga) who brought GR and “HIS” Government will have to say a “Daily” prayer thus: “ALLAHU AKBAR” in addition to “THUNURUWAN SARANAI”.

    • 1
      3

      Burt,
      Tamil politicians in TNA did the same thing during ‘Jadapalana’ Government. Look what Sambandan got as the Leader of the Opposition who slept with UNP protecting the Government; a luxury house in Colombo 7 for lifetime.

      “They will sell their soul for personal gain .”

      • 1
        1

        What a damn hypocrite.
        a.
        It is alright for to play hokey pokey under the bed sheets with a Tamil Nadu meenachi.
        b.
        It is not right as per your two cents worth of shithole opinion for the TNA and the UNP to join hands with the sole purpose of eradicating the 72 year old curse.
        c.
        Who was the party poopers who panicked created many an issue to prevent a just solution?
        d.
        It was none other than that alibaba mahindapuka who along with his Maude ring criminal minds.

    • 2
      4

      Mr. Burt,
      .
      Yes.
      .
      We have a democratically elected president and a government supported by majority and minority alike.

      • 3
        0

        So did Hitler.
        “Heil Hitler!” ,
        “Heil, mein Führer!”
        There are, may be, may be, different paths to Hell and Heaven.

        • 2
          0

          So did Hitler – a democratically elected president and had a government supported by majority and minority alike.
          Till…………

    • 7
      0

      Burt

      How about the minority community MP, Aravinda Kumar, from Tamil Progressive Alliance who also voted for 20A?

      And how about the Majority community MPs like Wijedasa Rajapakse, Wimal Weerawansa, Vasudeva Nanayakara, Gammanpila et al, who were making loud noises against 20A till the very last, but then shamelessly voted in favour of 20A? And, there is the Sinhala lady from the SJB who also voted in favour of 20A.

      If voting in Favour of 20A is not acceptable, be fair without singling out Muslim MPs for your slur.

  • 28
    5

    I don’t know in what planet this writer is living. How do you expect the present government to genuinely investigate the Easter Day bombings when some of its key players were part of the Deep State that was operating during the previous regime and used the crazy Wahabi Jihadists to stage the false flag attack?

    • 8
      1

      Ajay,
      You are right. Easter Bombing is a well planned attack and nothing to do with International Islamic Terrorism. Those who planned and implemented this attack are well experienced internal political, military and religious fundamentalists. If you use the common sense how come Lasantha & Thayabudeen murders are not found by our military and CID intellegencia. As long as Buddhist Sinhala are remain fools, they will continue with this type of drama.

    • 2
      11

      Ajay,
      Why don’t you go and tell this to the PC on Easter Sunday Muslim Terrorist attack?

  • 13
    3

    SPOT ON!

    “the people responsible for what happened last year, people still roaming on the streets, still smirking smugly at the Presidential Commission, should be the ones charged, detained, and made responsible for their inactions. The demonization of scapegoats, by contrast, achieves very little. It is time we realised this. It is time we woke up”.

  • 17
    4

    g.
    Then the pettah bus station bomb blast took place and I was the recipient of a telephone 📞 call from a person by the name of IP Weerasingha from the CID who stated that I am coming to get you.
    h.
    On my making enquires from the ASP nugegoda a friend of mine an ex CID official who confirmed that there was an officer by that name.
    G.
    Within a period of 10 days I in the company of my 3 year old daughter and her mother settled all my business and domestic staff with their monetary dues and took the flight to Singapore from where after obtaining a visa to New Zealand made that wonderful island our home.
    ###################$##.
    The plight that has fallen onto this lawyer might have been my fate if I did not have the courage along with the monetary means to make such a move.

    May the good gods teach these low life’s a good lesson and the sooner it is done it will be better for the innocent s who have and will be held under illegal detention.

    Allah please protect Me. Hisbullah and ensure that he will be released soon .
    The sooner the better is my plea.
    to Singapore from

    • 5
      0

      They have inflicted on themselves a bad Karma. The families of Lasantha Wickrematunge, Prageeth Eknaligoda, Thajudeen, and many others, have been hurt badly, had been suffering for years, and will naturally have bitter feelings against those who killed their loved ones, and have lied, obstructed, and dismissed these brutal murders, which it seems no one will be held responsible for.

      Many bad vibes going towards these criminals, and they will pay for it one way or the other. Sooner the better.

      This poor lawyer is still languishing in jail, with no explanation, no judicial recourse, and his family suffers. Making up false justifications will not hold up in any court of law, so they are simply prolonging this man’s agony, while they live their luxurious lives, without any remorse, or conscience. We have a bunch of criminals running this country, and we are constantly being watched by all the International agencies for judicial and human rights.

      People who keep blaming foreign nations for “trying to interfere” in our country, HERE IS ONE GOOD REASON WHY.

    • 3
      9

      rj1952,
      You must have been a ‘Sleeper Cell’ of LTTE in Colombo.

    • 2
      9

      rj1952,
      Army Intelligence detected several LTTE ‘Sleeper Cells’ in Colombo. You must be one of them!

  • 5
    2

    I expected something more edifyingly analytical from this writer. There is very little about Hejaaz Hisbullah or what he had done to justify his arrest. The writer derives his implied justification from a few isolated quotations like that from a French counterterrorism judge. Thankfully Western judges are in general wiser. I have been hearing about the arrest from well-informed friends, who find his detention a scandal that degrades this country. Many Tamils who supported or were ambivalent about the LTTE expressed themselves in the media during the Kumaratunga era. For the most part they were left alone and that was the right thing to do. That Gotabhaya crushed the Tigers is a distortion that ignores the background of the Tigers’ prolonged self-destruction – something too commonplace for a colourful story. From what I have heard from friends about Hejaz, he cannot be accused of any ambivalence towards Islamic extremism. The absence of evidence and official attempts to manufacture it tell their own story.

    • 7
      2

      Dr. Hoole

      In 2018, it was Dr. Shafi who languished in Remand custody for 2 months. Although the CID could NOT find any evidence against the trumped-up charges against him, he and his family have been forced to leave Kurunegala, and Dr. Shafi still CANNOT work!

      Hejazz Hisbollah is the Lawyer who Filed the Fundamental Rights application on Dr. Shfi’s behalf and appeared for him in the Magisterial Court Inquiry. And the Government is in No hurry to finish the cooked-up case against Dr. Shafi.

      The President travels to far away villages to find out about poor villagers’ problems and solve them but he couldn’t care less about the woes of a specialist Doctor and his family, which he can sort out by a mere phone call.

      . .

    • 0
      0

      RH
      I expected something more edifyingly analytical from this writer.
      Had you said this a few years ago I would have agreed with you.

  • 4
    1

    If one believes in god, then surely god is blessing GR & the Rajapakse clan in heaps because it is only they who benefitted from the Easter bombings. The stupidest President by far to govern SL (thanks primarily to CBK), Sirisena, in his slimy way, passed the buck to RW, even though the proverbial buck should stop with him. Equally ineffective as a leader, RW could only grin stupidly & say ‘wot to do? I was not informed’. Is it god’s will or stupidly, ignorance, incompetence & lack of integrity of our past leaders?

    Certainly, god has not seen Mr Hisbullah’s plight & now with a President with super powers & above the law, the same fate (or worse) can happen to anyone who provokes the wrath of GR (not that it has happened before). Reminds me of a saying by a German citizen at the height of WW2 – ‘first they came for the gypsies & Jews but I didn’t say anything because I was not one of them, then they came for the intellectuals & those in opposition but I didn’t say anything because I was not one of them & now they have come for me…..’

    God bless SL & all its citizens.

  • 2
    3

    Thank you Uditha. We must not forget Hejaaz.

  • 5
    0

    All those people who had state power and kept smirking after the bombs killed nearly 300 people and maimed scores more and all those people who had unofficial power and influence who smirked at other innocent people’s suffering should be exposed to the full and the public must take their vengeance. I don’t think any member of any ruling class in Sri Lanka would like that though..that is why they work to protect each other and find scapegoats instead to feed the gullible public..

  • 3
    10

    2/3 Majority, everyone expected. We wish all the best for this government. Wipeout Terrorists Oriented Tamils, Tamil Parties, Muslim Parties, Tamil leaders, a Muslim leader from Sinhalese Aryans country Heladiva. Gotabaya Rajapaksa best leader of the Sinhalese Aryans country who completely wiped out LTTE and LTTE leadership also.

    • 3
      2

      Heladiva has turned out to be “aeladiwa” (symptomatic pancreas), today, curse go to Rajapakse criminals. Days ahead u will find “human flesh and bones” as comsumer meat readily available in local supermarkets. 🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔

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