Police given deadline to complete high profile cases
ECONOMYNEXT – Police have been given their final warning to speed up investigations into high profile murders and corruption of the former regime or face the axe within two months, top official sources said.
Law and Order minister Sagala Ratnayaka has taken a hands-on approach to monitor progress on the investigations after he took flak earlier this month when he President Maithripala Sirisena virtually put him on notice to deliver or depart.
Official sources said Ratnayaka will keep a close watch on the progress to ensure that at least 10 of the high profile cases, including the Lasantha Wickrematunga assassination, Wasim Thajudeen murder and mega-scale corruption during the Rajapaksa regime are concluded soon.
The arrest of former navy spokesman D. K. P. Dasanayake and Senior Deputy Inspector-General Lalith Jayasinghe followed President Sirisena’s outburst at cabinet earlier this month when he expressed his displeasure over the snail-paced investigations.
There was no discussion last week in cabinet about the police, but official sources said Minister Ratnayaka had taken on board the concerns expressed earlier and has taken a firm line with his men and ordered regular briefings to update progress.
Dasanayake’s arrest followed an investigation triggered by a complaint made by former navy commander Wasantha Karannagoda who had alerted the police about the abduction of children by his own men to extort money from their wealthy parents.
Police sources said Karannagoda’s complaint had also revealed a love triangle that eventually led to the break up of the extortion racket operated by some men in uniform. Police investigators are expected to establish command responsibility and make further high profile arrests shortly.
While Ratnayaka attempted to improve the performance of the police last week, he suffered a setback on Friday when Finance minister Mangala Samaraweera raised concerns that police officers were trying to recreate a fear psychosis of the former regime by attempting a “white van” abduction of a medical student.
Minister Samaraweera said he lodged a protest with police chief Pujith Jayasundara over the attempt by plain-clothed officers to seize on Thursday night a student activist leading protests against private medical education.
Four plain clothed officers travelling in a white van attempted to grab student Rayan Jayalath, but other students prevented him from being taken away.
Police in uniform turned up later to make a formal arrest, but returned empty handed after a heated exchange with protesters outside the Organisation of Professional Associations (OPA) building in Colombo.
The Finance minister said the "white van abduction" was to recreate the fear psychosis associated with former strongman leader Mahinda Rajapaksa’s regime.
The minister said the new government came to power in January 2015 promising to end the "white van culture" and ensure people had more freedom, but the latest police action was a retrograde step.
"I spoke with the Inspector General of Police and he said he will take disciplinary action against those responsible," the minister told reporters in Colombo at his first press conference after becoming the minister of Finance.
Being "white-vanned" had become a verb synonymous with being abducted — a tactic widely used by Sri Lankan forces to deal with troublesome opponents during Rajapaksa’s decade in power.
The abduction attempt came hours after President Sirisena gave legal effect to a 2016 law which established an office to trace the tens of thousands of people who went missing during the island’s decades-long ethnic war.
Samaraweera told the police chief that the timing of the illegal police action suggested there may be elements trying to discredit the administration.
Police chief has since appointed a senior DIG to investigate the incident. (COLOMBO, July 22, 2017)