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State minister defends letter requesting top cop’s transfer

State Minister Arundika Fernando – Image credit: Facebook

ECONOMYNEXT – State Minister Arundika Fernando has defended a controversial letter he wrote to the minster of public security in December last year requesting the transfer of a senior police officer in the Chilaw electorate.

The letter, which was leaked to social media earlier this week purportedly by former governor Rajith Keerthi Tennakoon according to some reports, has caused much controversy, with allegations of political interference levelled against Fernando.

The state minister told reporters yesterday that he requested an inquiry on the conduct of Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Eric Perera to be followed by a transfer out of the Chilaw electorate.

ASP Perera, who was attached to the Wennapuwa police station at the time the letter was written, is now with the Negombo police as a result of the transfer, it is learnt.

“I requested the officer to be transferred only after an investigation,” the State Minister of Coconut, Kithul and Palmyrah Cultivation Promotion and Related Industrial Product Manufacturing and Export Diversification claimed at a press conference held at the ministry premises yesterday.

A copy of the letter that was doing the rounds on social media indicated that Fernando had requested Minister Sarath Weerasekara to hold an inquiry on the conduct of Perera and subsequently transfer him out of Chilaw, the former’s electorate.

The transfer proper took place just two or three weeks ago, months after his letter that was sent on December 3, Fernando said.

“I don’t how that letter was leaked on social media. There is a huge problem with that,” he added.

Fernandooo said he has requested the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to investigate how the letter was leaked.

The state minister also called for an investigation on allegations that he claimed are levelled against Perera.

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The officer had put together a five-member team to eradicate the illicit liquor (kasippu) business in the Wennappuwa area, locals said. A social media campaign has been launched against his sudden transfer at a time when he was praised for his work in his area, according to residents. Fernando himself acknowledges Perera’s popularity in his letter addressed to Minister Weerasekara.

In the letter, Fernando says Perera was appointed as ASP Wennappuwa during the United National Party (UNP)-led Yahapalana government and won the admiration of locals, religious leaders and politicians in the area for his numerous raids on moonshiners.

Fernando then claims that Perera has been detaining a number of these moonshiners on trumped up charges by planting drugs on their persons. The state minister further notes that the ASP does not accommodate any requests made by local politicians for the benefit of the public.

“For decades, people in our electorate have been engaging in the illicit liquor trade as a livelihood. What needs to be done is to provide these people an education and opportunities for self-employment and wean them off this practice,” he said.

The minister further charged that Perera is known by locals for maintaining close ties with drug dealers and underworld members in the area.

Neither Perera nor police spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana could be reached for comment.

In his letter, Fernando requests Minister Weerasekara to investigate these allegations levelled against Perea and transfer him out of the electorate.

Media reports quoted Minister of Sarath Weerasekara as saying on Monday that the ASP was transferred due to “various reasons” and that he is currently posted at the Negombo police station based on a “request submitted by the latter”.

He said an investigation is underway into the various reasons cited for the transfer.

Meanwhile, an audio recording released by the privately owned Ada Derana news revealed a conversation between ASP Perera and State Minister Fernando at a district development committee meeting. In the recording, Fernando is heard requesting the police to go easy on small-scale moonshiners and to prioritise action against major players.

The ASP is heard responding that, as per government policy, moonshine businesses cannot be allowed to operate as a form of self-employment. Those in the trade cannot be categories as small scale or major, he said, such classification will be exploited by those in the trade. (Colombo/Apr1/2021)

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