Opposition Lawmaker Eran Wickremaratne slammed President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s Government this week, saying the prolonged incarceration of former Minister Rishard Bathiudeen and former CID Chief SSP Shani Abeysekera without charge made them ‘political prisoners’ of the regime in power.
Rather than combat the Covid-19 pandemic, the Government had launched a vicious witch-hunt against political opponents and critics, MP Eran Wickremaratne charged, addressing the media on Monday (24).
The SJB Parliamentarian noted that when you arrest someone and incarcerate them for prolonged periods without charging and prosecuting them in a court of law, they become political prisoners.
“This is supposed to be a country of laws – there cannot be political prisoners in this country,” Wickremaratne charged.
Shani Abeysekera, the former director of the CID is the country’s most skilled criminal investigator, Wickremaratne said.
“Not every police officer is willing to conduct investigations into powerful members of the ruling class. No matter what case the IGP entrusted to Shani Abeysekera, he would investigate meticulously and deliver results. It was Shani Abeysekera who investigated the Easter Sunday bombings. He also investigated politicians. He was one of the Police Department’s most skilled and courageous officers. A public officer who has worked tirelessly for the country for 20 years. They dragged him also off to prison,” the SJB MP said.
“If he has done something wrong and the government can prove it, prosecute him in a court of law,” Wickremaratne demanded, about the senior cop President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s government has imprisoned for nearly a year now.
Wickremaratne noted that Shani Abeysekera is an officer with a long and distinguished record in public service and someone who suffers from high blood pressure and diabetes. He had a heart attack in custody and even contracted Covid-19, the MP noted.
“How is this justice? Shani Abeysekera is a political prisoner today,” Wickremaratne emphasised.
The Samagi Jana Balawegaya MP said for one month the Government was holding former Minister and the leader of the second largest Muslim party prisoner under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) for over a month now.
Wickremaratne said that ACMC Leader Rishard Bathiudeen had also noted in his parliament speech on May 18, that if the Government could prove charges of terrorism against him, they should bring those charges to court and prosecute him.
Wickremaratne noted that the Presidential Commission of the Easter Sunday Attacks had found no evidence of wrongdoing by Bathiudeen and then acting IGP Chandra Wickremaratne had informed the Speaker of Parliament that the ACMC leader was not being investigated in connection with the Easter Sunday attacks.
At the time that Bathudeen was arrested in a pre-dawn raid of his home in CID, there was no detention order issued against him, and the Attorney General had not advised the police to take the member of Parliament into custody, the main opposition MP told the media.
Bathiudeen’s arrest and detention was grounded in racism, Wickremaratne said. “Do not bring race and religion into this. None of us can help what we were born into. We don’t decide to be born into a Muslim, Buddhist or Christian home. We don’t even decide to be born in this country. Every person should be treated equally irrespective of cast or creed,” the SJB MP charged.
Watch Eran Wickremaratne’s statement on Bathiudeen and Abeysekera here.