ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Law and Order Minister Sagala Ratnayake walked out of a press conference when asked about the role of the military intelligence in the on-going unrest and tensions in the Jaffna peninsula.
The Minister was present at the weekly Cabinet Press Briefing held in the parliament complex Wednesday to give the police version of events leading to the killing of two Jaffna university students and the subsequent unrest.
After repeating the police version that they fired in the air after the students riding a cycle with a small 100-cc engine failed to stop at a police check point, the minister faced a barrage of queries on the credibility of his information.
The minister had said that the police were on an operation against motorcycle gangs in the peninsula when the incident took place.
When asked about claims from local residents that the motorcycle gangs were indeed active in the peninsula and that they were allegedly operated by units of the military intelligence, the minister decided to leave the packed press conference in a hurry.
When asked if his hurried departure was an "yes" or a "no", he declined comment, but gave a broad smile.
However, minutes earlier he said the incident had the potential to create ethnic tensions because the victims were from the minority Tamil community and the policemen were from the Sinhalese majority.
Journalists also asked the minister how the rider was shot in the chest and the head if the police were firing in the air to scare a fleeing cycle as claimed in the minister’s statement on Wednesday as well as in parliament on Tuesday.
He was also asked how the pillion rider sustained head injuries, but there was not even a scratch on his helmet. There were reports from residents that the pillion rider had been beaten to death after the police shooting.
Minister Ratnayake said he was approaching the incident with an open mind and promised he would not protect any wrong doers.
Five policemen have been arrested and remanded in custody pending investigations.
On the day of the funeral of one of the students killed on Thursday night, unidentified attackers beat up two police spies in Chunnakam on Sunday. The minister said that attack too was under investigation.
Local residents have said that the six masked men attacked the two police officers from the State Intelligence Service (SIS). The attackers were most probably from the military intelligence as no one else could operate motorcycles without number plates, according to local residents who spoke with visiting journalists.
There has been no reaction from the military to persistent reports of the involvement of the military intelligence in a string of incidents, including the disruptions at the Homagama courts during the Eknaligoda abduction case.
Military intelligence officers accused of involvement in the Eknaligoda abduction have now been given bail, days after President Maithripala Sirisena expressed displeasure over the incarceration of military men without being charged.
(COLOMBO, October 26, 2016)