Sri Lanka’s STF chief exposes corrupt customs, journalists

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Special Task Force chief Ranjith Perera who was accused of threatening violence against journalists had actually exposed corrupt media men and customs officials, according to a leaked audio recording.

Police spokesman Senior Superintendent Ajith Rohana extended a rare apology to all media institutions and journalists over STF commandant, deputy inspector general Ranjith Perera’s alleged threats to control the press.

However, a 47-minute recording of a background briefing Perera gave Friday at his Bauddhaloka Mawatha office suggested he was speaking out against corruption at the customs department and media’s collusion with underworld figures.

He had called a group of journalist to brief them on the background to a recent detection of the largest ever haul of cocaine seized in the country. He makes it clear that the STF’s role had been ignored in the press.

Media savvy officials are known to speak to reporters on the basis of deep background, meaning the information can be used without disclosing the sources, but in Perera’s case his attempt has backfired.

What he told reporters to use without attributing to him is now on the Internet in his own voice after at least one journalist leaked it.

Perera is miffed that his men did not get due recognition for what he believed was a spectacular drug bust, and names journalists who he says are in collusion with underworld figures.

He names a Sinhalese newspaper reporter alleged to have accumulated wealth through underworld connections.

He makes an unrestrained allegation against customs officials too. He dismisses customs officials with contempt for trying to sabotage his efforts and help smugglers and drug lords.

Official sources noted that he had spoken home truths and may have touched a raw nerve with journalists, but there was very little they could disagree with what he had said.





"We know how to punish those who are against us," he says in the leaked audio. He also says the media has not criticised the army, navy and the air force because they maintained "small teams" which go out and break limbs of journalists.

He goes onto say that the STF will not resort to such tactics, but is hopeful that "nature will punish them."

He also cautioned Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake that efforts to spend millions of rupees on scanning equipment at entry points of the island will be of no use of the operators of those equipment could not be trusted.

He holds no punches when it comes to criticising the customs department.

Inspector General Pujith Jayasundara has ordered an investigation into Perera’s comments.

SSP Rohana told reporters on Saturday that he had spoken to the Lankadeepa journalist who reported the conversation and found her report to be accurate and requested her to make a statement so that it could form part of the disciplinary inquiry against Perera.

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.

(COLOMBO, June 21, 2016)

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