ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s police have arrested a member of the security forces while investigating the so called "Aava Group" accused of terrorising people in the Jaffna peninsula and destabilising the region.
The suspect, arrested along with five others, is reported to be from a military unit. The military denied the arrest, but police sources said their information was that one of the suspects in custody was reportedly in active service.
Police stepped up a crackdown against the underworld gang after President Maithripala Sirisena last week ordered a clean-up following allegations that the military was behind the criminal gang in Jaffna.
"It is too early to speculate, but the arrest is very significant given what has happened in the past two weeks," a senior administration official said adding that the highest levels of the government was being kept informed.
President Sirisena bowed to his civil society supporters and ordered a shake-up of the military intelligence units, including the removal of intelligence chief Brigadier Tuan Suresh Sallay last week.
Sallay, among other things, had been accused of causing rifts within the ruling coalition.
He is also a "person of interest" in the investigations into the murder of editor Lasantha Wickrematunga and the abduction of cartoonist Prageeth Eknaligoda.
The involvement of the military intelligence had been well established in both cases and the attempted murder of Upali Thennakoon with courts passing severe strictures on the military for not cooperating with the police investigation.
Government spokesman Rajitha Senaratne told reporters last week that former defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and an army officer (who had since retired) were responsible for creating the clandestine Aava Group.
Rajapaksa has since denied setting up such a group.
The minister’s remarks backed claims from residents that the military intelligence was still behind the Aava Group and they operated with impunity because of the covert army support.
The crisis with the Aava Group came to a head when police opened fire and killed two university students at a check point in Jaffna.
Five policemen have been arrested and remanded in connection with the murder of the students, but police had initially said they thought the two were Aava Group members who disobeyed orders to stop.
During the funeral of one of the students, unidentified men beat up two police spies raising fears that the military intelligence was responsible for the attack.
The shake-up in the army intelligence followed although army spokesman Brigadier Roshan Seneviratne said the transfers were routine. (COLOMBO, Nov 7, 2016)