By Ahimsa Wickrematunge –
9 March 2021
The Chairman, Members and Secretary,
The National Police Commission (NPC),
BMICH Premises, Block 09,
Re: Appointing a suspect to run the Criminal Investigation Department (CID)
I write to respond to your letter dated 21 January 2021 (your ref: NPC/PCID/HO/61/2020), in which you address the complaint I lodged with the Commission on 17 June 2019 on the above subject. I drew the attention of the NPC to the fact that it appointed Mr. Prasanna J. Alwis as CID Director despite the CID having previously caught him tampering with evidence in the investigation into my father’s murder. I asked the Commission to investigate how this happened.
You confirm in your letter that “evidence with regard to the death of Lasantha Wickrematunge had been suppressed by SSP A.R.P.J. Alwis and that was reported to the Magistrate of Mt. Lavinia on 4 October 2019.” You also state that “extracts on destroying and suppression of evidence have been handed over to Hon. Attorney General under C.R.01 40/2020.”
This file was submitted to the Attorney General before Mr. Alwis was appointed to head the CID. I cannot believe that the Commission and Attorney General blessed the regime’s decision to put the CID in the hands of an officer who tampered with a murder investigation. Throwing natural justice to the wind, Mr. Alwis was once again allowed to oversee my father’s case. The Commission must answer for appointing an accused criminal to head the CID.
Never in the 140-year history of the CID had it ever been headed by an officer with even the slightest disciplinary blemish. That 140-year streak was broken when the NPC appointed a CID Director reported to court for suppressing evidence of Sri Lanka’s most emblematic unsolved murder, in which the state stands accused of killing a journalist for exposing corruption.
By turning a blind eye to the state’s effort to subvert these investigations, you have jeopardised the credibility of the Commission, the police, the Attorney General’s Department and the entire Sri Lankan criminal justice system. The NPC well may go down in history as a complicit rubber stamp to an autocratic regime bent on covering up the atrocities of its leaders. To redeem any credibility, the Commission must take the following actions immediately:
1. Interdict and discipline Mr. Alwis. His current post as Director of the Counter-Terror Investigation Division (TID) is critical to national security. Protecting us from terrorists is no job for an officer accused of covering up murders. The commission interdicted SSP Shani Abeysekara over a mere phone call. Why is there a double standard for Mr. Alwis?
2. Order a full audit of records of my father’s murder investigation and other CID cases including those mentioned in your letter involving Keith Noyahr and Upali Tennakoon. If Mr. Alwis criminally mishandled these inquiries a decade ago as a mere junior officer, is there any reason to believe he did not do so again as Director of the CID?
3. Reveal how the Commission was deceived into appointing an officer accused of hushing up a murder to run the CID. If the Commission was aware of the charges against him, the public must know who made the Commission jeopardise so many sensitive investigations by appointing a fox to run the henhouse. Who pressured or misled the Commission?
4. Re-examine the credentials and disciplinary records of all 100+ officers who were brought into the CID since November 2019. If even the director has helped to hush up a murder, there is no telling who else the regime has smuggled into the CID. For example, another investigator on my father’s case, SP Merrill Ranjan Lamahewa, was removed from the CID in 2015 when then S/ASG (now Chief Justice) Jayantha Jayasuriya caught him sabotaging an arms-trafficking case. He was reinstated in December 2019 and now supervises CID officers who are testifying against his brother at the Welikada prison massacre trial-at-bar.
The President may appoint the Commission. But the Commission is expected to serve the people and uphold the Constitution. The President cannot pardon you in the eyes of history or the court of public opinion. Unless the NPC at least now grows a trace of backbone or a semblance of accountability for compromising the domestic institutions entrusted with investigating and preventing atrocity crimes and terror attacks, the nation and the world will have no choice but to join me in losing all hope for what little is left of Sri Lanka’s criminal justice system.