Opposition Lawmaker Rishard Bathiudeen and his brother Riyadh who were arrested by the CID last Saturday will be interrogated under a 90 day detention order obtained under the provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, the police spokesman said on Tuesday (28).
Bathiudeen is the former Industries Minister and Leader of the All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC), the second largest Muslim party in the island. The CID arrested the Bathuideen brothers under the cover of night, shortly before the morning meal with which the Muslims commence their day-long fast. Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardane was not informed of the arrest of the MP, although that is the standard practice. Bathiudeen is both a MP and a party leader in the Sri Lankan parliament.
The Presidential Commission on the Easter Sunday attacks evaluated the evidence given before it and found no evidence linking Rishard Bathiudeen to the bombings. However Public Security Minister Sarath Weerasekera has claimed that the police have unearthed new evidence linking the Bathiudeen brothers to the Easter bombers.
Beset with crises on every governance front, the Nandasena Gotabaya Rajapaksa regime has launched a vicious witch-hunt against opposition MPs. Bathiudeen, a long time bête noire of the rabidly nationalist electoral base commanded by the President and the SLPP, was arrested to silence Government critics over its failure to act against perpetrators of the Easter Sunday bombings in 2019.
The arrest of the Bathiudeen brothers is also an olive branch to Cardianal Malcolm Ranjith, the head of the Catholic church in Sri Lanka. For several months, the Cardinal has been hinting that there was more to the Easter Sunday attacks than meets the eyes and calling for Black Sunday protests from the Catholic community across the island until justice is achieved for the mostly-Christian victims of the bombings.
His most recent remarks, walked back 24 hours later, referred to the Easter Sunday bombings as having nothing to do with Islamic extremism. Instead the bombings were “politically motivated” the Cardinal said for certain groups to consolidate political power.
These broad hints by the Cardinal – a long-time backer of the Rajapaksa family – provided grist to the mill of speculation surrounding the April 21, 2019 attacks, as Opposition MPs ramped up revelations about connections between the bombers and the Sri Lankan intelligence services.
Opposition MPs including Harin Fernando, Anura Kumara Dissanayake, Manusha Nanayakkara have openly hinted that the “masterminds” of the Easter Attacks were linked to the ruling Nandasena Gotabaya Rajapaksa regime. Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Spokesman for presidential candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa have already confirmed that the Zahran Hashim, the radical preacher from Kattankudy turned lead suicide bomb squad leader was in the pay of the Sri Lankan intelligence community.
Questions have been raised about whether the arrest and detention of Rishard Bathiudeen and his brother were aimed at appeasing Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith and ending his broadsides against the Government that have proven deeply damaging to the regime that rode to power on the coat-tails of the shock and sorrow brought about by the bombings in 2019.
The move may also be aimed at appeasing its increasingly agitated hardline Sinhalese electoral base that detests Bathiudeen.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s popularity has taken a hard blow from colossal mismanagement and failure to control the Covid-19 pandemic, the rampant deforestation all over the island and corruption at the highest levels of the Government. Despite putting military personnel in charge of key institutions and ministries, the President’s men have failed to deliver the most basic efficiency or coherence of policy at any level. Covid-19 Vacciines are indefinitely delayed, while infections are surging around the island bringing real fears of a third, devastating wave of the disease after the Government opened up the airport and allowed new mutated strains of the virus to enter the island. (By Janakie Mediwake)