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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2705

Minister Bathiudeen takes on the ‘Pressure’

By A Patabendige

The Minister of Commerce and Industry Bathiudeen told parliament as reported in the ‘Island’ of 24 May 19 that he ‘never pressured the Army Commander’ regarding one Mr. Jainuideen’s ‘complaint’. Apparently Jainuideen’s son had been ‘nabbed’ by an ‘unidentified group of people’ who ‘visited’ Jainuideen’s home.

No possible reason for the ‘mystery’ arrest was disclosed by Jainuideen or the minister even though most could guess rightly what it was all about. It is clear that the request of Jainuideen was to get Ministerial ‘pressure’ applied to locate his son arrested obviously for suspected terrorist connections. Did the minister state this?

While the country was agonizing after the deaths of nearly 260 and 500 wounded people on Easter Sunday 21 April 19, Minister Bathiudeen ‘spent 2 days’ visiting police stations, without success. Sadly, it also appears that it was the minister not the father who went searching for the missing person. Was Jainiudeen afraid for himself and believed that only the Minister could trace his son? Was he not looking for the minister to apply 'pressure'? The minister says the police advised him to contact the army.

Bathiudeen instead of contacting the army direct like he did the police, decided to contact the State Minister of Defence Ruwan Wijewardene. Was this not to use the State minister’s influence? Was it because there was possibly a secret he preferred to hide? Wijewardene however apparently advised Bathiudeen ‘to contact the Police or the Army’. This inspired recall unlike many other details was not known to the public until 23 May.

This is the point at which the denial of ‘pressure’ on the Army Commander by Bathiudeen becomes a bit curious. Bathiudeen could have requested, advised pleaded or even exerted himself more to get the state minister to make the contact with the Army Commander himself. Did he not?

Bathiudeen says he only wanted to know ‘if the missing person was with the Army’. A telephone call by Wijewardene may have sufficed. It was such a simple request. It would be in order especially as the Minister was doing the nonstop search on ’humanitarian grounds’ - even as SL bled.

For some unknown reason Wijewardene shied away from volunteering to do so. Was it because he did not want to pressure or influence the Army Commander since the charge was related to the Easter Sunday suicide bombing carnage? Was that why Bathiudeen was rebuffed? Could the request have been a slightly more complicated, involved or embarrassing for Wijewardene not to call the Army Commander? What made Bathiudeen proceed further?

Now comes the ‘pressure’ or whole point of the Minister’s story. He says he only ‘contacted’ the Army Commander ‘to find out if this person was with the Army’. Did he not actually make contact 3 times with the Army Commander? If so, was there not an element of pressure?

Cabinet Minister Bathiudeen says his contacting the Army Commander was not to ‘pressurize’ him. Could the truth be that the Army Commander could not and would not be pressurized even if that was attempted by him or anyone else?

This was something the state minister of defence knew well. Bathiudeen needs to clarify what his action in pursuing the matter by contacting the Army Commander 3 times was if it was not to apply ‘pressure’.

With an Emergency on, the act of requesting the Army Commander 3 times to tell the Minister whether ‘this person’ was with the Army’ cannot be glibly or so innocently described simply as a ‘humanitarian’ gesture.

Why did the Army Commander tell the minister to call again after 18 months? Could it also be a rebuff for attempting to pressurize, influence or pull wires? Whereas the minister’s actions are not unusual for SL politicians, this time it was not done for jobs or favours. This was about a terrorist suspect’s involvement in the most coldly calculated, barbaric and inhuman act in the history of Sri Lanka. That must be unforgiveable.

Minister Bathiudeen should ask the Prime Minister who was a minister then what would have happened had anyone attempted pressurizing the then state defence minister Ranjan Wijeratne during the JVP insurrection of 1989-90. Sixty thousand died, agonizingly.

- Asian Tribune -

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