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Why Sri Lanka jailed a Muslim lawyer without charge for 6 months

The Geneva-based International Commission of Jurists, the EU and UN Human Rights Core Group on Sri Lanka have expressed their concerns on the arbitrary arrest and detention of Hizbullah [Photo courtesy: Family]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Geneva-based International Commission of Jurists, the EU and UN Human Rights Core Group on Sri Lanka have expressed their concerns on the arbitrary arrest and detention of Hizbullah [Photo courtesy: Family]

Why Sri Lanka jailed a Muslim lawyer without charge for 6 months

Rights groups and members of civil society have raised concerns over the continued incarceration of a Muslim lawyer in Sri Lanka, adding that his prolonged detention “had a chilling effect on anyone involved in peaceful dissent and advocacy”.

Hejaaz Hizbullah, a prominent human rights lawyer, was arrested on “terrorism” charges in April and has remained in detention without charges, with rights groups saying he has been denied due process rights.

Sri Lankan authorities said he had been detained for links to the perpetrators of the 2019 Easter Bombings, which left more than 250 people dead and injured more than 500 – the Indian Ocean island nation’s worst attack since the end of civil war in 2009.  Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said the police had not presented “any credible evidence” against Hizbullah, adding that he was denied his due process rights and kept in custody despite calls from UN experts “that prison populations must be reduced to prevent the spread of COVID-19”.  The president’s spokesperson Mohan Samaranayake did not respond to Al Jazeera’s request for comment.  Hizbullah, a lawyer at the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka, was arrested under the controversial Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), which allows the government to detain suspects without charge and or having to present them before a judge.  “Even though the Gotabaya Rajapaksa administration has said that it does not want to continue its support to the Human Rights Council resolution, the Sri Lankan government remains obliged to keep its pledges, including to repeal PTA, regardless of the party that might be in power,” Ganguly added.  A person can be detained for 90 days under the PTA, with the option to renew the incarceration period for another 90 days for up to 18 months.  The New York-based HRW has dubbed the PTA a “draconian” law, one that the previous Sri Lankan government headed by Maithripala Sirisena pledged to revoke in a 2015 Human Rights Council resolution.  Rights groups have raised concerns over shrinking space for dissent since President Gotabaya Rajapaksa – a Buddhist hardliner – took power last November on the promise to boost security in the island nation in the wake of the deadly bombings.  In August, the HRW said the government of President Gotabaya has waged “a campaign of fear and intimidation against human rights activists, journalists, lawyers, and others challenging government policy”.  According to Thyagi Ruwanpathiran, South Asia researcher at Amnesty International, Hizbullah’s arrest “had a chilling effect on anyone involved in peaceful dissent and advocacy, be it lawyers, human rights defenders or members of the minority Muslim community”.  “There is a real fear of being targeted for your professional work where you could suffer reprisals from the state,” she told Al Jazeera.  The Geneva-based International Commission of Jurists, the European Union and UN Human Rights Core Group on Sri Lanka have also expressed their concerns regarding the arbitrary arrest and detention of Hizbullah.  A local magistrate court in the capital, Colombo, is hearing his case again on October 28, but activists say there is little hope of bail.  ‘Pure fabrication’ Of the several accusations made against Hizbullah include his relationship with Yusuf Mohammad Ibrahim, a business owner, whose sons Inshaf and Ilham were two of the seven perpetrators of the Easter Sunday bombings. Hizbullah was Ibrahim’s lawyer.  Hizbullah, along with Ibrahim, also served on the board of the Save the Pearl charity, which works with underprivileged children.  Ilham also served on the board briefly in 2016 briefly, until he was asked to step down, a report by Amnesty International said. According to the human rights group, these associations with Ibrahim and Save the Pearl were being used to detain Hizbullah.

“The detention order says that Hejaaz [Hizbullah] is being investigated for allegedly ‘aiding and abetting’ the Easter Sunday bombers and for engaging in activities deemed ‘detrimental to the religious harmony among communities'”, the Amnesty report said.

Another accusation against Hizbullah is that he indirectly, through a school funded by Save the Pearl, fed “extremist” ideas and thoughts to children between the ages of 8-13, Hafeel Farisz, one of Hizbullah’s lawyers, told Al Jazeera.

The children from Al-Zuhriya Arabic College in Puttalam district were interrogated by the police for several days in April, during which they were threatened and coerced into accusing Hizbullah of providing “terrorist” training, said the lawyer.

Farisz said the children described accusations against Hizbullah as “pure fabrication”.

It was also revealed in the media that the children questioned had filed for legal action against the police for “infringement of their fundamental rights”.

‘Real fear’
Critics say Hizbullah was targeted because of his work on interfaith relations and reconciliation amid rising Islamophobia in the island nation fraught with sectarian and ethnic divide.

Hilmy Ahmed, CEO of Young Asia Television, told Al Jazeera from Colombo that Hizbullah was a “victim of the hate campaign that has been staged-managed by extremist Buddhists”.

“Hejaaz [Hizbullah] is a non-violent and extremely values-based individual who would never promote any form of extremism let alone violence,” Ahmed said, adding he had known the accused for more than 20 years.

Since the Easter bombing, anti-Muslim sentiment has been running high, with rights groups blaming Buddhist nationalists for “hate speech” and “mob violence” against Muslims.

Groups such as Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), a Buddhist far-right group, has been accused behind attacks against Muslims since 2009 when the Sri Lankan forces defeated Tamil separatists, ending a civil war that lasted nearly 30 years.

The BBS has previously successfully run an anti-halal campaign and called for a ban on the burqa, a full-body veil worn by some Muslim women that covers the face as well.

Muslims, who comprise about 10 percent of the population, say they have faced discrimination and hate speech from hardline Buddhist groups, who wield influence in the current governing Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party led by the Rajapaksa brothers.

Earlier this year, the government decision to cremate Muslims who died of COVID-19, caused anguish in the community, as the traditional Islamic funeral was denied. Families said it was against WHO guidelines and done to harass Muslims, who were blamed for spreading the virus that has killed more than one million people globally.

SOURCE : AL JAZEERA

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/10/15/sri-lanka-muslim-lawyer

 

 

Hejaaz Hizbullah case: CID misled public and Cardinal, says Counsel

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When the case of the arrest of Hejaaz Hizbullah was taken up yesterday, the Counsel alleged that the Criminal Investigations Department had misled the Cardinal and the public with regard to Hizbullah.

“They lied to His Eminence the Cardinal and the public. The real culprits were never caught and they have instead found a scapegoat in Hejaaz,” the Counsel said.

The CID submitting a report said that they were awaiting a Government Analyst report on three phones used by Hizbullah.

“This is how they lied throughout. They said the investigations were to be completed and a Deputy Solicitor General of the Attorney General’s Department said it would be by 16 September. The CID lied to the Attorney General’s Department as well and is now seeking further time.”

The CID said that transactions of Qatar Charity were being investigated by the TID, to which the Counsel submitted a brief containing records of Qatar Charity. “There is not a word in the reports that Mr. Hizbullah received funds. Instead what it says is an organisation called Islamic Relief Fund received this money. Who fed this story that Hejaaz received money? It was the CID, like they fed the forced confessions story. In any event Qatar Charity is a world-renowned charity and this is all trumped up to keep an innocent man and protect the real wrongdoers,” the Counsel said.

The Magistrate questioned the CID regarding the progress on the investigations into how statements made confidentially by the children were leaked to the media.

“It was the CID who prepared the statements and then leaked them,” the Court was told, after it being pointed out that no investigation thus far had been carried out despite Court orders.

The Magistrate ordered the CID to submit a progress report of the TID and on the investigation into the media leaks on 28 October.

http://www.ft.lk/news/Hejaaz-Hizbullah-case-CID-misled-public-and-Cardinal-says-Counsel/56-707182

 

Sri Lanka has locked up this Muslim lawyer without charge for nearly five months

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The prominent Sri Lankan Muslim lawyer, Hejaaz Hizbullah, is being described by human rights groups as the latest victim of Sri Lanka’s draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act.

On April 14, Hizbullah, 40, got a call from the Ministry of Health saying they were worried he may have contracted COVID-19 and advised him to remain at home.

A day earlier he and others had written to the Sri Lankan president about his government’s decision to ban Muslims from burying their dead, forcing them to cremate their remains instead – a violation of their right to freedom of religion, as protected by Sri Lanka’s constitution and its international obligations.

Hejaaz Hizbullah was a lawyer at the Supreme Court and worked as a state counsel for the Attorney General’s department. Beyond his legal work, he was involved in interfaith and reconciliation work, tackling the rising tide of Islamophobia that is now a key concern for human rights groups when it comes to Sri Lanka.

The health officials never visited him after the call, but he did get a knock on the door from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the police. They handcuffed him and placed him under arrest without explaining why. When Hizbullah’s relatives asked if the police had an arrest warrant, they were warned not to ask any questions.

Hejaaz Hizbullah is currently serving a detention order under the notorious Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), where any “suspect” can be placed in detention without charge and without being produced before a judge. The detention order can continue to be renewed for up to 18 months.

The PTA has long been criticised as an abusive law that has been used to crush dissent and forcibly disappear people, along with other violations. The Sri Lankan authorities have even acknowledged the inherently abusive character of the PTA but have failed to repeal it as promised.

Amnesty International says the authorities have plunged Hizbullah in this predicament on the basis of nothing more than his legitimate associations with Mohamed Ibrahim, the father of the bombers who perpetrated attacks on churches in Sri Lanka over Easter 2019.

The authorities have publicly stated that the reason for his arrest were his interactions with the bombers and their family. Mohamed Ibrahim’s sons, Inshaf and Ilham, were two of the seven bombers who set off six explosions across Sri Lanka on 21 April 2019, striking three churches and three five-star hotels on Easter Sunday and killing more than 250 people.

The detention order says that Hejaaz Hizbullah is being investigated for allegedly “aiding and abetting” the Easter Sunday bombers and for engaging in activities deemed “detrimental to the religious harmony among communities.”

Amnesty says Hizbullah was connected to Mohamed Ibrahim in two ways. For the past five years, he had served as his lawyer, handling legal cases related to his business. He and Mohamed Ibrahim were also part of the “Save the Pearls” organisation, a charity that supports the education of underprivileged children, hoping to lure them away from criminal activities and drug abuse.

Amnesty International says it is extremely concerned that the case and evidence against Hejaaz Hizbullah may now be subject to fabrication.

“A new allegation has emerged that a school supported by the Save the Pearls charity was responsible for preaching extremism’ and even providing the children weapons training,’ Amnesty said. “These charges lack credibility because nearly three months since his arbitrary arrest, authorities have so far been unable to substantiate their claims with evidence…

“Hejaaz has been subject to an unfair character assassination in local media by the authorities in an environment where anti-Muslim sentiment is rife, and prominent Muslim professionals have been unfairly targeted in the recent past.

“The Sri Lankan government must immediately restore Hejaaz’s due process rights, including producing him before a judge, allowing him to challenge the grounds of his detention, ensuring that he has unfettered access to his family and lawyers, and, in the absence of any charges of credible evidence of a crime being committed, release him.”

Hizbullah’s brother, Hefraz, added: “Having been to a Christian school with a multicultural environment, he integrated well with people from all faiths, with no leanings towards extremism whatsoever. Hejaaz is someone with a spotless track record. He worked hard and excelled at what he did.

“Knowing how he was arrested and how he’s being portrayed as an extremist connected to the terror attacks under the allegation of apparently aiding one of the perpetrators and worse is an absolute shock… Hejaaz had a lot of plans for his family’s future together but right now all that is up in the air. Everyone is just praying and hoping for the best. And it pains me that we can’t do more than just proclaim his innocence and hope that justice, eventually, is served.”

https://5pillarsuk.com/2020/09/08/sri-lanka-has-locked-up-this-muslim-lawyer-without-charge-for-nearly-five-months/?fbclid=IwAR3rWoZmjoBtEhc6xK8xhRucAZYApbSzaHDG32M6YbVpUeQUEdMsqe5WL3s

   

“කවදා හෝ යුක්තිය ඉටුවේයැ’යි බලාපොරොත්තු සහගතව ජීවිතය ගෙවනවා විනා වෙන කිසිවක් කළ නොහැකි වීම ගැන මට ඇත්තේ නොදැරිය හැකි වේදනාවකි”: මගේ මල්ලි හිජාස්

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හිජාස් හිස්බුල්ලා මගේ බාල සොහොයුරා ය. අගෝස්තු 25 වැනි දිනට එළඹුණු ඔහුගේ 40 වැනි උපන්දිනය ඔහුට ගත කිරීමට සිදු වුයේ පාස්කු ඉරිදා ත්‍රස්තවාදී ප්‍රහාරයට සම්බන්ධ බවට අභූත චෝදනා එල්ල කරමින් අයුතු ලෙස අත්තඩංගුවට පත්ව අපරාධ පරීක්ෂණ දෙපාර්තමේන්තුවේ රැඳවුම් භාරයේදී ය.

හිජාස් පිළිබඳව මට ඇති පැරණිතම මතකයන් අතර බොහොමයක් කළුබෝවිල සිට වාසස්ථානය මාරු කර පැමිණීමෙන් පසු අපි පදිංචිව සිටි ගල්කිස්සේ පිහිටි නිවස හා බැඳී ඇත. හිජාස් දරුවන් තිදෙනෙකුගෙන් යුත් අපේ පවුලේ බඩපිස්සා විය. අපි තිදෙනා අතර වයස් පරතරය ඉතා අවම වූ බැවින්, අපි අපේ ගෙඋයනේ පැයගණන් සෙල්ලම් කරමින් කල්ගත කළෙමු. අපේ වැඩිමල් සොයුරිය ආදර්ශයට ගෙන කටයුතු කළ ඔහු, ඇය සඳහා කළ එක් උපන්දින සුබපැතුමක දී ඇයව නිහඬ වීරවරියක් ලෙස නම්කර තිබූ බැව් මට මතක ය. කොල්ලන් වූ නිසාවෙන්ම, හිජාස් සහ මම එකිනෙකා හා සහයෝගයෙන් හවුලේ කටයුතු කළෙමු.

අපේ සෙල්ලම් බොහෝවිට රොබින් හුඩ් පිළිබඳ කථාන්තර ආභාෂයට ගත් අතර, ගෙඋයන පුරා දිවයමින්, දුනු-ඊතල විදිමින්, සෙල්ලම් කළෙමු. මා සමඟ බොහෝ අවස්ථාවල දී කරට කර සිටිය නොහැකි වුවත්, නිතර තාප්ප උඩට නගිමින්, එහාමෙහා පනිමින් සිටි මගේ හවුල්කාරයා සහ අත්උදව්කාරයා වූයේ හිජාස් ය. නමුත් තවදුරටත් සිය උත්සාහය ඊට යොදවනවා විනා, ඒ කිසිවක් නිසා ඔහු සැලුනේ නැත, එම ගුණාංගය ඔහු තුළ තවත් වසර ගණනාවක් පුරාවට අඛණ්ඩව පැවතුණි. හිජාස්ට සිය අරමුණු ඉටුකරගැනීම සඳහා වේදිකාවක් වූයේ රොබින් හුඩ් හරහා ඔහු ලබාගත් ඒ ආභාෂයයි. ඔහු හැදුනේ – වැඩුණේ ඔහු වටා සිටි මිනිසුන්ට උදව්-උපකාර කළ යුතු බවට දැඩි චේතනාවක් සිතෙහි දරමිනි (එපමණක් නොව, සතුන්ටත් ඔහුගේ උදව් ලැබුණි – මෑතකදී ඔහු අනතුරට පත්ව සිටි බළලෙකුව බේරාගත් අතර, ඉන් ඔහුගේ බළල්-ලෝලිත්වය ද තහවුරු විය). අපේ පාසල් කාලයේ එක්තරා අවදියක දී අපි දෙදෙනාම පරිසරය සංරක්ෂණය කිරීම ගැන උනන්දුවෙන් ඒ සඳහා දායකත්වය දැක්වීමට පටන් ගත්තෙමු. කොස්ගොඩ මුහුදු තීරයෙන් කැස්බෑ බිත්තර සොයාගන්නා අපි, ඒවා ආරක්ෂිතව ශා. තෝමස් විද්‍යාලයේ බිජු සුරැකුම් මධ්‍යස්ථානයට රැගෙන ආවෙමු. ඒ වන විට හිජාස්ගේ වයස වැඩිම වුවහොත්, දහයක් හෝ එකොළහක් වන්නට ඇත. ඒ කුඩා වයසේ දී ම ඔහු ඔහුගේ වගකීම් පිළිබඳව බරපතල ලෙස සැලකූවේය. සති අන්තයේ දී කැස්බෑ පැටවුන්ට ආහාර ලෙස නැවුම් මාළු ද රැගෙන ඔහුගේ පාපැදියෙන්ම පාසල වෙත ගමන් කිරීම සහ පසේ තෙතමනය හොඳින් රැඳී ඇති බව ද, ජලයේ ලවණතාව නියමිත ප්‍රමාණයට ඇති බව ද තහවුරු කරගැනීම ආදිය ගැන ඔහු අතිශයින්ම සැලකිලිමත් විය.

පරිසරයට, ඔහුගේ පාසලට සහ සමස්තයක් ලෙස ජීවිතයට ඔහු දැක්වූ ආදරය ක්‍රමක්‍රමයෙන් වැඩුණේය. පාසල් දිවියේ දී ම තමා අනාගතයේ දී කවරෙකු විය යුතුදැ’යි ඔහු අවබෝධ කොටගෙන තිබුණි. සාමාන්‍ය පෙළ විභාගය උසස් ලෙස සමත් වූ ඔහුට ඉතාම පහසුවෙන් ජීව විද්‍යා හෝ ගණිත විෂය ධාරාව තෝරාගත හැකිව තිබුණද, ඔහු කලා විෂය ධාරාව තෝරාගත්තේය. අපේ මුල්ගුරුතුමා අපගේ නිවසටම පැමිණ ඒ තීරණය ගැන ඔහුට බැණවැදුණු අතර, වෙනත් විෂය ධාරාවක් තෝරාගැනීමට පෙළඹවූවත්, ඉන් වෙනස් වූයේ හිජාස්ගේ තීරණය නොවේ. ඒ, තමන් නීතිඥයෙකු විය යුතු බව ඔහුගේ සිතට තදින්ම කාවැදී තිබුණු නිසා ය. අපේ පවුලේ කිසිවෙකුත් ඔහුව අධෛර්යමත් නොකළේ ඔහු සිය තීරණයට පදනම් වූ පසුබිම් අධ්‍යයනය නිවැරදිව සිදු කර ඇති බවට අප සතු වූ විශ්වාසය නිසාය. ඔහු සැමවිටම තීරණ ගත්‍තේ හොඳින් සිතාමතා, දැඩි අධ්‍යයනයක් කළ පසු ය. විවාද සහ කථන තරග සඳහා දැඩි ඇල්මක් දැක්වූ හිජාස්, තමන් සතු සහජ ප්‍රබල හැකියාවන් ඒවා බව හඳුනාගෙන සිටියේය; එම හැකියාවන් නීතිඥයෙකුව තවත් මුවහත් කරගතහොත් මිනිස් ජීවිතවලට දැඩි බලපෑමක් කළ හැකි අයෙකු ලෙස තමන්ට මං විවර වන බව ඔහු දැනසිටියේය. බාලදක්ෂයෙකු, ඉන්ටරැක්ට් සමාජයේ ක්‍රියාකාරී සාමාජිකයෙකු (එහි සභාපති ලෙස 1997 දී පත්විය) සහ ශිෂ්‍ය නායකයෙකු ලෙස හැකි සෑම අවස්ථාවකදී ම කෙනෙකුට උදව් කිරීමට හිජාස් දෙවරක් සිතුවේ නැත. සමාජීය ක්‍රියාකාරකම් සහ ක්‍රීඩාවලට ද සිය නොමසුරු දායකත්වය සැපයූ ඔහු, වෝටර්පෝලෝ ක්‍රීඩාවේ ශූරයෙකු විය. මා මෙන්ම ඔහු ද ප්‍රාථමික පාසල් අවදියේ සිටම පාසල නියෝජනය කරමින් පිහිනුම් කණ්ඩායමේ සාමාජිකත්වය දැරීය. 1994 වසරේ දී වයස අවුරුදු 14ක්ව සිටි හිජාස් පාසලේ වෝටර්පෝලෝ කණ්ඩායමට එක් වූ අතර, 2000 වසරේ හොංකොංහි පැවැත්වුණු තුන්වැනි ආසියා පැසිෆික් වෝටර්පෝලෝ ශූරතා තරඟාවලියට ශ්‍රී ලංකාව නියෝජනය කරමින් සහභාගී වීමට ඔහුට හැකියාව ලැබුණි. එම වසරේදීම වෝටර්පෝලෝ ක්‍රීඩාව සඳහා ශ්‍රී ලංකා වර්ණ දිනාගැනීමට හිජාස් සමත් වීම අප සියල්ලන්ටම මහත් ආඩම්බරයක් ගෙනදුන් බව මගේ මතකයේ ඇත.

හිජාස් යනු ඔහුගේ වැඩකටයුතු සහ ඔහුගේ අරමුණු පිළිබඳව පමණක් අවධානය යොමු කළ අයෙකු නොවේ. ඔහු විනෝදකාමී, තමන් කැමති දේවල් කරන්නට උත්සුක වන පුද්ගලයෙකි, එමෙන්ම ළමා කාලයේ දී මෙන්ම තමන් කරන-කියන දෑට අවධානය ලබාගැනීමට කැමති අයෙකි. පාසල් කාලයේදී ඔහු අසංග වැලිකල (වර්තමානයේ ආචාර්ය) වැනි සිසුන් ආදර්ශයක් ලෙස ගෙන කටයුතු කළේය. නමුත් ඔහුටම කියා වෙන් වූ තත්ත්වයක්, සම්මතයන් පවත්වාගෙන යාමට ඔහුට හැකිවිය. ඔහු සතු වූ එවැනි ඉහළ සම්මතයන්, සදාචාරයන් සහ සිතිවිලි නිසාම පවුල තුළ ඔහුට “අංකල් ජෝජ්” ලෙස නමක් ද පටබැඳුණු අතර, ඒ නම කියැවෙන වාරයක් පාසා ඔහු කේන්ති ගත්තේය. එලෙස අධි සම්මතයන් සහිත වීම නිසා අපි ඔහුව විහිළුවට ලක්කළද, බිම් මට්ටමේ මිනිසුන් සඳහා විය යුතු දේ නොපමාව, හැකි උපරිමයෙන් ඉටුකිරීමට ඔහු නොපැකිලි හා නොපසුබට විය. නීතිපති දෙපාර්තමේන්තුවේ අනුරාධපුර රජයේ නීතිඥ ධුරය භාරගත් වහාම, වසර ගණනක් තිස්සේ ඇදි-ඇදී තිබුණු අව-වරප්‍රසාදිත ගොවියන්ගේ නඩුකටයුතු වේගවත් කිරීමේ සිට, අපවත් වී වදාළ පූජ්‍ය මාදුළුවාවේ සෝභිත හිමිගේ ආදාහන පූජෝත්සවය සඳහා පැමිණ සිටියවුන්ට වතුර බෙදා දීම දක්වා, තමන්ට යමක් කළ හැකි සෑම අවස්ථාවක දී ම ඒ සඳහා ඉදිරිපත් වීමට ඔහු පැකිලුනේ නැත. අපේ මිතුරන් සමඟ සෑම නව වසර උදාවන සැන්දෑවකම විශේෂ දිව්‍ය පූජාවක් විහාරමහාදේවි උද්‍යානයේ පැවැත්වූ අයුරු මගේ මතකයට එයි. එහි විශේෂත්වය නම් උදෑසන අපට පිරිනැමෙන අතිශයින්ම රසවත් ආහාරවේල යි. 2019 සිදු වූ කුරිරු ත්‍රස්ත ප්‍රහාර මාලාවෙන් පසු උදා වූ මැයි මාසයේ දී සහෝදරත්වය පිළිබඳ පණිවිඩය බෙදාහැරීමේ වුවමනාවෙන් සිව් ආගම් නියෝජනය වන ලෙස ආගමික නායකයන් ද ගෙන්වා, රාමදාන් මාසයේ විශේෂ ඉෆ්තාර් සංග්‍රහයක් සිය පන්ති සගයන් සඳහා පැවැත්වීමට හිජාස් තීරණය කළේ ද ඒ ආභාෂයෙන් වන්නට ඇත. හිජාස් යනු එවැනි පුද්ගලයෙකි. බහු-සංස්කෘතික වටපිටාවක් සහිත වූ ක්‍රිස්තියානි පාසලක අධ්‍යාපනය ලද හිජාස්, සියලුම ආගම් නියෝජනය කළ පුද්ගලයන් හා සම්බන්ධතා පවත්වාගෙන ගිය අතර, ඒ කිසිවිටෙක ඔහු අන්තවාදී මතවාද නොදැරූ බව සහතිකය.

හිජාස් යනු නිකැලැල් වාර්තාවක් ඇත්තෙකි. ඔහු ස්වෝත්සාහී, එමෙන්ම තමන් කළ දේ නිවැරදිව සහ උපරිමයෙන් කළ කෙනෙකි. සිය මිතුරන් ද සමඟ නීති විද්‍යාලය නියෝජනය කරමින් නවසීලන්තයේ, ඇමරිකා එක්සත් ජනපදයේ සහ ඉන්දියාවේ පැවති මූට් උසාවි තරග සහ සේවාදායකයන් සඳහා උපදේශනය සැපයීම සම්බන්ධ තරගවලට සහභාගී වී, නොයෙක් සම්මානවලින් පිදුම් ලැබ, රටේ නම දිදුලවන්නට ඔහුට හැකියාව ලැබුණි. එමෙන්ම, නීති විද්‍යාලයේ දී හොඳම දක්ෂතා සඳහා වූ වෝල්ටර් ලද්දුවහෙට්ටි රන් පදක්කම මෙන්ම ජූරිය ඇමතීම සඳහා වූ හෙක්ටර් ජයවර්ධන අනුස්මරණ රන් පදක්කම ද දිනාගැනීමට ඔහු සමත් විය. නීතිඥයෙකු ලෙස දිවුරුම් දුන් පසු ඔහු නීතිපති දෙපාර්තමේන්තුවේ සේවයට බැඳුණේය. ඔහු චිවනිං ශිෂ්‍යත්වලාභියෙකු ද වූ අතර, නීතිය පිළිබඳ ශාස්ත්‍රපති උපාධිය ලන්ඩන් යුනිවර්සිටි කොලීජියෙන් හැදෑරුවේය. පුණ්‍ය ආයතන වෙනුවෙන් අරමුදල් රැස්කිරීම සඳහා සිය කථන හැකියාව පාවිච්චියට ගත් ඔහු, අව-වරප්‍රසාදිත ජනයා වෙනුවෙන් සිය හඬ අවදි කිරීමට ද එම හැකියාව යොදාගත්තේය. සිය නිජබිම වෙනුවෙන් ඔහුට ඇත්තේ අප්‍රමාණ ආදරයක් සහ ගෞරවයකි, එමෙන්ම රටේ ප්‍රතිසන්ධාන වැඩකටයුතු සඳහා ද ඔහු සිය දායකත්වය නොමසුරුව සැපයුවේය.

නිරන්තරයෙන්ම උද්‍යෝගීමත් චරිතයක් වූ හිජාස්, සැමවිටම පාහේ ‍යම් දෙයක් ගැන සැලසුම් කරමින් සිටි අයෙකි. සුළු නමුත් සිත ආනන්දයෙන් පුරවන උදාහරණයක් ලෙස පෙන්වාදිය හැක්කේ, නිවසේ ඊද් සැමරුම් සිදුකරන ආකාරය ඔහු විසින් සැලසුම් කරන ආකාරයත්, එය සියල්ලන්ටම විනෝද විය හැකි, සතුටුදායක දිනයක් බවට තහවුරු කිරීම සඳහා ඔහු දරන උත්සාහයත් ය. ඔහු සහ ඔහුගේ බිරිඳ එක්ව, මගේ වයස අවුරුදු 1 1/2ක් වූ බාලම දරුවාගේ සිට අපේ වයස අවුරුදු 19ක් වූ ඥාති දියණිය දක්වා වූ පවුලේ සියලුම දරුවන් වෙනුවෙන් විශේෂ තෑගි මිලට ගෙන කදිමට අසුරා තිළිණ කරති. ඒවා තෑගි දෙන විට ඔහු කදිමට හැඳපැළඳගෙන, නටමින් ගයමින් සියල්ලන් සතුටු කරයි. මෙවැනි සුළු දේවල් නිසාය අපි ඔහුගේ වියෝවෙන් තවමත් තැවෙන්නේ – විශේෂයෙන්ම මේ ඔහුගේ ජීවිතයේ සන්ධිස්ථානාත්මක උපන්දිනයක් වීම නිසා ය. මේ දිනය සතුට සහ විනෝදය පිරුණු දිනයක් විය යුතු වුවත්, දැන් අපේ පවුල නිරන්තරයෙන් දුකෙන් තැවෙන්නන් වී හමාරය. වයෝවෘද්ධ අපේ දෙමාපියන් දුක නිසාම අසනීපයට පත්ව ඇති අතර, මේ ගත වූ කාලය තුළ අදහාගත නොහැකි තරම් වයසට ගොස් ඇති බවක් පෙනේ.

මගේ නෑනා තව සති කිහිපයකින් සිය දරු ප්‍රසූතිය සඳහා මුහුණදීමට සූදානම් වන අතර, ඔහු අත්තඩංගුවට පත් වූ ආකාරයත්, සිදු වූ ත්‍රස්ත ප්‍රහාරයට සම්බන්ධ බවට හා එහි එක් මහමොළකරුවෙකුට උදව්-උපකාර කිරීම සම්බන්ධයෙන් චෝදනා ලබා, අන්තවාදියෙකු ලෙස හංවඩු ගසනු දකින්නට ලැබීමත් නිසා ඈට ද ඒ සම්බන්ධයෙන් සෘණාත්මක බලපෑමක් ඇතිව තිබේ. සිය පවුලේ අනාගතය වෙනුවෙන් හිජාස් සතු වූ සැලසුම් අපමණකි, නමුත් ඒ සියල්ලම දැන් කාල නියමයක් නොමැතිව ඇණහිට තිබේ. සියල්ලන්ම දැන් දෙවියන්ට යාඥා කරමින්, සියල්ල හොඳින් සිදුවිය යුතුයැ’යි අපේක්ෂා සහගතව සිටිති. ඔහුගේ අහිංසක බව ගැන කියාපෑමත්, කවදා හෝ යුක්තිය ඉටුවේයැ’යි බලාපොරොත්තු සහගතව ජීවිතය ගෙවනවා විනා වෙන කිසිවක් කළ නොහැකි වීම ගැන මට ඇත්තේ නොදැරිය හැකි වේදනාවකි.

හිෆ්‍රාස් හිස්බුල්ලා | HEFRAZ HIZBULLAH

සංස්කාරක සටහන : මෙහි මුල් ලිපිය හිෆ්‍රාස් හිස්බුල්ලා විසින් “My Brother Hejaaz” මැයෙන් ඉංග්‍රීසි බසින් රචිත අතර, 2020 අගෝස්තු 27 වැනි දින ග්‍රවුන්ඩ්වීව්ස් වෙබ් අඩවියේ පළ කෙරුණි.

https://www.vikalpa.org/?p=38446&fbclid=IwAR1I1xxb12co2-uRvvNF0JckbN_ktepBpzrGiX6ClwSh-r8OrEei6ZnFtiA

 

My Brother Hejaaz

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My Brother Hejaaz


 

 

Hejaaz Hizbullah is my younger brother, and this week, on August 25, he spent his 40th birthday in detention at the Criminal Investigation Department, having been wrongfully arrested and portrayed as being connected to the Easter Sunday terror attacks.

My earliest memories of Hejaaz are from our home in Mt. Lavinia, where we had moved to from Kalubowila. Hejaaz was the youngest of three siblings. The three of us, being very close in age, would spend many hours playing together in our garden that surrounded the house. Hejaaz looked up to our elder sister, referring to her as an unsung hero in a birthday wish. Hejaaz and I, being two boys, were often in cahoots.

Our play times were inspired by Robin Hood, where we would take our bows and arrows and run around the garden. I would climb walls and jump around and Hejaaz would follow me around being my partner and sidekick, even though most of the time, he couldn’t keep up. But that never stopped him from trying, for many years to come. Robin Hood set the stage for Hejaaz’s aspirations and he grew up with a keen interest to help people (and animals – he recently rescued a cat and is now a confirmed cat person) around him. There was a period when we were in school where we were both involved in environment conservation.  We would pick up turtle eggs from Kosgoda and bring them safely to our hatchery at St. Thomas’. Hejaaz was just ten or 11 then and he took his responsibilities very seriously from making sure that the soil was well watered, to cycling to school over the weekend to feed the turtle hatchlings with fresh fish and ensuring that the water had the correct level of salinity.

His love for the environment, his school and life in general continued to shine through. He knew what he wanted to be very early in his school career. Despite passing his O’Levels with flying colours and being able to get into the Science or Math streams, he opted to join the Arts stream. Our headmaster came home to scold him and tried to convince him to join one of the other streams. Hejaaz just stuck by his decision because he knew he wanted to become a lawyer, and that’s what he was going to do. No one in our family tried to discourage him as we all knew that he would have done his background research. He would always make informed decisions. Hejaaz had a knack for debating and public speaking and he knew that those were his strong points; he  knew he would be able to make more of an impact in helping people by honing those skills as a lawyer. Being a Scout, an active member of the Interact Club (taking over as President in 1997) and a prefect, Hejaaz never turned down an opportunity to help anyone. He was involved in a number of social activities and sports, excelling in water polo. He, like myself, had been representing the school in swimming since primary school. In 1994, at the age of 14, he joined the school water polo team and eventually represented Sri Lanka at the Third Asia Pacific Water Polo Championships in Hong Kong in 2000. Hejaaz being awarded Sri Lanka Water Polo Colours the same year was a proud moment for us.

All this meant he barely spent time at home. I remember how he would get a hundred calls every evening when he used to be at Law College – quite a lot of them from girls. He was very popular with the ladies and everyone at home got tired of answering the landline because we just knew it was for him and would let the phone ring itself out.

However, Hejaaz wasn’t someone who focused only on his causes and his work. He’s a fun loving, spontaneous man and still loves attention as much as he did when he was a child. He looked up to people like Dr. Asanga Welikala back in school. He was in a league of his own. The family used to tease him about his high ideals, nicknaming him Uncle George – something that annoyed him no end. Despite being teased by us for being too posh, he never backed down when it came to getting work done on the grassroots – from speeding up court cases for the underprivileged farmers in Anuradhapura that had been dragging on for years when he first started practicing as a State Attorney to distributing water for mourners at Ven. Sobitha Thera’s funeral, he involved himself in everything. I recall how we used to participate in a special New Year’s Eve mass held at Vihara Mahadevi Park with our friends, the highlight of the occasion for us being the delicious breakfast that was served on in the  morning. This was probably what gave Hejaaz the idea to convey a message of solidarity by organising a special Ramadan Ifthar for his classmates, along with the attendance of clergy from all four faiths, in May 2019, a few weeks after the Easter Attacks. This is the kind of person that Hejaaz is. Having been to a Christian school with a multicultural environment, he integrated well with people from all faiths, with no leanings towards extremism whatsoever.

Hejaaz is someone with a spotless track record. He worked hard and excelled at what he did. Along with his peers, he represented his law college across the world in New Zealand, the United States and India in Moot Court and Client Counselling competitions, winning several awards for his country. At Law College, Hejaaz won the Walter Laduwahetty Gold Medal for Excellence for the best performance, as well as the Hector Jayawardene Memorial Gold Medal for the Address to the Jury Contest. Upon graduating he joined the Attorney General’s Department. He was also a Chevening Scholar and pursued his Master’s in Law at University College London. He used his skills as an orator to canvass for charities and speaking on behalf of the less fortunate. His love for his country is immeasurable and he also played a part in contributing towards reconciliation efforts.

Forever brimming with enthusiasm, Hejaaz was always making plans for one thing or the other. A small but heart-touching example is how he would plan out Eid celebrations at home, and make sure it was a fun-filled, joyous event for everyone. He and his wife would buy and beautifully pack presents for each child in the family from my one-and-a-half-year-old to our 19-year-old niece. Then he would dress up and jig around when handing them out. It’s little things like that which make us miss him most – especially on his birthday. It’s a day for joy and happiness but right now our family is shattered. Our elderly parents are sick with worry and have aged incredibly during this period.

Knowing how he was arrested and how he’s being portrayed as an extremist connected to the terror attacks under the allegation of apparently aiding one of the perpetrators and worse is an absolute shock. My sister-in-law is due to give birth in a few weeks and this is taking its toll on her as well. Hejaaz had a lot of plans for his family’s future together but right now all that is up in the air. Everyone is just praying and hoping for the best. And it pains me that we can’t do more than just proclaim his innocence and hope that justice, eventually, is served.

https://groundviews.org/2020/08/27/my-brother-hejaaz/

   

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