President Gotabaya Rajapaksa‘s decision to unceremoniously sack SSP Shani Abeysekera as CID director has sparked grave concern particularly since the Department was leading several murder and abduction investigations carried out by death squads allegedly operated by the former defence secretary.
The decision to remove Abeysekera from the CID was lightning quick with President Gotabaya only four days in office.
The National Police Commission said the transfer was executed within hours on the request of Acting IGP Chandana Wickremaratne. In a particularly despicable attempt to humiliate the former CID director, he was transferred as Personal Assistant to the DIG of Galle. Police sources said PA positions to DIGs were usually restricted to police officials at CI rank.
Ironically the President Gotabaya Rajapaksa made this deliberate attempt to interfere with law enforcement despite claiming that his Government would not engage in political vengeance.
The move was roundly criticized on social media, with the Sri Lanka Young Journalists Association issuing a statement denouncing the actions of the National Police Commission which the Association claimed was showing a grave loss of independence.
“SSP Shani Abeysekera is one of the country’s best investigators. He has always worked independently, irrespective of the Government. He is a fearless professional. His transfer is a massive victory for murderers and criminals,” said UNP MP Ajith Perera, the sole voice in the UNP raising the issue of Abeysekera’s sudden transfer.
TNA MP M.A. Sumanthiran said the transfer smacked of being politically motivated and questioned why the main opposition UNP was silent in the face of such a big blow to law enforcement and rule of law.
SSP Shani Abeysekera has served decades in the Sri Lankan Police and is well known for being an upstanding officer with an impeccable record of integrity. His successful case record stands testimony to the fact that he is one of the country’s top investigators.
Abeysekera was the chief investigating officer in the 2005 Royal Park Murder and helped to convict Shramantha Jayamaha for the murder of 19 year old Yvonne Johnsson. Offered pots of money to suppress evidence in that case, Abeysekera resisted the moves and complained to court that a popular cricketer had been instrumental in trying to bribe him. At the time Abeysekera was a chief inspector.
He also led successful investigations into the gruesome Angualana double murder by four policemen. He also busted a mercenary assassination racket run by former DIG Vas Gunewardane and helped to secure a conviction. Abeysekera also ran the investigation into the LTTE assassination attempt on former President Chandrika Kumaratunga. A few years ago, under his direction, CID officials arrested and secured convictions for nine men accused of the gang-rape and murder of Sivaloganathan Vidya, the Jaffna schoolgirl.
More recently, the CID was entrusted with the investigation into the Easter Sunday bombings. As Director of the CID, Abeysekera led that probe and the Department rounded up the NTJ network within 8 days of the bombings.
Colombo Telegraph learns that SSP Abeysekera’s transfer was effected on the basis that he was “too friendly” towards minority communities, especially in light of the CID’s stunning investigation into the Dr Shafi controversy which proved that the entire saga was a politically motivated, Islamaphobic witch-hunt against a Muslim surgeon, spear-headed by the Director of the Kurunegala Hospital, the DIG of the Kurunegala District and other players in the region.
The Rajapaksa regime has considered CID officers high on its list of enemies, after the Department spearheaded a series of investigations into their crackdown on journalists and activists during a decade in power. It is a telling sign that Abeysekera’s transfer was considered such a top priority for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and signals a terrible fate for key investigations the CID was conducting under a new, more pliable director, legal experts said.