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'No mercy' in hunt for ACMC leader Bathiudeen - Sri Lanka's defence secretary

MP Rishad Bathiudeen 

Sri Lanka’s defence secretary Maj. Gen. Kamal Gunaratne said the state does not want to show any mercy to Bathiudeen or his associates,” as he pledged to arrest the All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) “very soon”.

Former Minister Rishad Bathiudeen filed a writ petition this week seeking an order to prevent his arrest after Acting Inspector General of Police (IGP) C.D. Wickramaratne was ordered to obtain a warrant to arrest the parliamentarian.

In comments made yesterday however, Gunaratne said the security forces were hunting for the Muslim politician.

“In Rishad Bathiudeen’s case he was to be arrested but unfortunately, the news of his pending arrest was announced to the media and the media announced into the public,” he claimed.

“Once the news of his pending arrest was broadcast, he went into hiding and now his lawyers have filed a writ application... Perhaps he has a safe house or maybe shifting from place to place. Since he is a politician who commands some vote base, he may even have followers ready to provide him facilities to hide.”

“We don’t want to show any mercy to Bathiudeen or his associates, but we must ensure justice to the victims," Gunaratne added. "We will find him, but give us time.”

Bathiudeen's lawyers filed a writ petition at the Court of Appeal after the Colombo Fort Magistrate’s Court deemed that the charges against the MP do not require an arrest warrant, therefore the MP can be arrested at any time the Attorney General sees fit.

He is accused of transporting internally displaced persons in 222 Ceylon Transport Board buses from Puttalam to Mannar to cast their votes during the 2019 Presidential election. Furthermore, Bathiudeen is reportedly set to be charged with Violation of Election Laws during the 2019 Presidential Election and Criminal Misappropriation of Public Funds, with state council Nishara Jayaratne claiming there is sufficient evidence Bathiudeen committed criminal misappropriation of funds to the tune of Rs. 9.5 Million.

However, MP Bathiudeen claims the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) is maliciously attempting to arrest him and he has no connection to the incident in question.

On 14 October, the Fort Magistrate imposed a travel ban on Bathiudeen due to a request by the (CID). On the same day, 14 October, a police constable attached to the security detail of Bathiudeen and his accountant, Alagarathnam Manoranjan, was arrested.

The police constable was been accused of helping Bathiudeen abscond and evade arrest. Manoranjan has been arrested in relation to a case filed for the violation of election laws, according to Police Media Spokesperson Deputy Inspector General of Police Ajith Rohana.

Bathiudeen’s controversial past

In August of 2019 Bathiudeen, who was returning to Sri Lanka’s cabinet after Muslim ministers had resigned en masse following protests by Sinhala Buddhist monks, stated:

“We, the Muslim Ministers then resigned to protect Sri Lanka's international goodwill," stating he did so after discussions with his party. 

Furthermore, Baithudeen has claimed, the lack of Muslim ministers in Sri Lanka’s cabinet is “just fine” as he argued that the new government headed by an accused war criminal Gotabaya Rajapaksa would treat all on the island fairly.

Last year, he claimed Sri Lanka’s Muslim politicians had canvassed support for Sri Lanka at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, where Colombo was attempting to fend off investigations into mass atrocities committed by the military against Tamils during the final phase of the armed conflict.

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