Sri Lanka’s police makes rare apology after threatening journalists
ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s police Saturday made a rare apology to all media institutions and journalists after the head of the police Special Task Force, deputy inspector general Ranjith Perera threatened violence to control the press.
Inspector General Pujith Jayasundara ordered his media bosses to summon an urgent press conference at the information department to announce disciplinary action against DIG Perera’ outburst at his headquarters captured by reporters on audio tapes .
According to a replay, Perera is heard threatening journalists accusing them of not giving enough media coverage to his efforts to crack down on narcotics smuggling into the island.
He was particularly miffed that his STF had been overshadowed in last week’s Cocaine seizure at the Orugodawatte container yard which was visited by President Maithripala Sirisena and Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake.
Perera went onto the warn journalists that he knew how to control the media and punish journalists the same way his outfit had "controlled and suppressed the underworld."
He identified several journalist and accused them of not giving him enough publicity and suggested that they could face dire consequences.
"If you do this to the tri forces (army, navy and the air force) they would break the legs of the journalists and keep the limbs at a separate place," Perera has said according to an account published in Saturday’s Lankadeepa.
SSP Ajith Rohana, a former police spokesman re-appointed to a panel to supervise the police public relations division, said he had spoken to the Lankadeepa journalist and found her report to be accurate and requested her to make a statement so that it could form part of the disciplinary inqiry against Perera.
‘The IGP, Mr. Pujith Jayasundara, the police service and the STF condemn this statement (of DIG Perera) and this is not a statement of the STF or the police. It is his personal opinion. We condemn this and therefore we would like to tender our sincere apologies to all media institutions and journalists in the electronic and print media," Rohana said.
Asked whether Perera knew of any members of the security forces who had carried out attacks against journalists in the past, Rohana said he would be questioned on the contents of his remarks.
Seven years ago, unidentified men abducted general secretary of the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association, Poddala Jayantha, and broke his ankle after he exchanged words with the then defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.
Asked if the STF chief would be questioned about the attack on Poddala Jayantha, police spokesman Rohana did not rule it out. Since surviving the attack, Jayantha has sought asylum in the United States.
Officils said Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s office was stunned to read the threats issued by the STF boss Perera and asked the police for an immediate report.
SSP Rohana went out of his way to distance the police, the STF and the government from Perera’s remarks which came as Sri Lanka was being discussed at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Several rights organisations have said that Sri Lanka was slipping back to its old ways and progress on the human rights front was slow , particularly with the police accused of new rights violations even under the new administration.
Rohana said DIG Perera had violated guidelines issued by new IGP Jayasundara in calling a press conference at his office on Friday when only the police media unit was authorised to call such events.
He also refuted DIG Perera’s allegations that there were delays in his men getting rewards for the successful drug busts carried out by them.
"There is no delay and the allegation is false," Rohana said. "Sometimes payments are held up pending the conclusion of cases against suspects and that is something we don’t have control over." (COLOMBO, June 18, 2016)