By Rajan Hoole –
An example of how the Police have indirectly encouraged crime pertains to Lohan Ratwatte, the son of the Deputy (de-facto) Defence Minister, Anuruddha Ratwatte. In mid-March 1997, just before the local council elections, a UNP candidate, Sudeera Yapa, complained to the Kandy Police of assault. While he and a supporter were putting up posters outside the UNP office, he complained, Lohan Ratwatte came in a silver coloured Toyota and fired into the air, while his bodyguard assaulted them. He was hit on the head with a knuckle-duster. The Kandy Police as reported, did nothing.
A little more than six weeks later, this youth became party to an international scandal that reflected very badly on this country. Ratwatte was in a casino in Colombo with several bodyguards in the early hours of May Day. In a drunken brawl which started over nothing serious, Joel Pera, the Papua New Guinean rugby player of Havelocks Club was shot dead. Ratwatte and his bodyguards got into their car and drove away. The public was deeply concerned. The Sri Lankan expatriate community in PNG was worried. No one apart from Ratwatte’s party is known to have had a weapon. The investigation had been placed under SSP Bandula Wickremasinghe, then Director, CID.
The case was handed over to the CID as a matter of urgent interest. The Police took no interest in apprehending Ratwatte who was apparently unavailable, or in even recording his statement. But witnesses who implicated him were threatened and ill-treated. The case was botched up. In a letter to President Kumaratunge (Sunday Leader 20.7.97), Pera’s wife Vanessa née Selvaratnam, accused the CID team led by Director SSP Bandula Wickremasinghe of throwing out good evidence by various manoeuvres and putting on trial a dummy. The latter was a security man, an employee of a state corporation under Minister Ratwatte, against whom the case was bound to fail for the lack of evidence.
Tassie Seneviratne observed with regard to this case (Sunday Times, 30.1.2000): “The CID was very quick to go public and pronounce that the minister’s son was not involved, even before preliminary investigations were completed, and there was no irrefutable alibi for him. In fact, the evidence was that he was at or in close proximity to, the scene of shooting. So why all this haste? The Police have pronounced who didn’t do it, but have failed to find out who did it.”
If there is any truth in the charge that the CID, which was given the investigation into the Vijaya Kumaratunge assassination during the Premadasa era, actually botched up the evidence and suppressed the investigation, one could hardly say that things have improved now. Sadly, the continuation of the same practices appears to be the case today, under Kumaratunge, when powerful interests are involved. The investigation into the para- military group PRRA that was closely allied to the SLMP and was responsible for killings during the JVP era was taken over by the CID in June 1997 and remains stalled.
When T.V. Sumanasekera was succeeded by Punya de Silva as DIG, CID, in 1998, the CID’s role became even stranger. Almost definitive is the case of the abduction and attack on the Lakbima journalist Sri Lal Priyantha who was writing features on corruption in defence purchases. The Police had been inactive for 3 hours despite being told of the abduction immediately, at 4.00 AM on 4th March 1999. The IGP condemned the attack and ordered an urgent investigation by the CID. It turned out that the party who abducted him was the Police.
The Information Department subsequently (Sunday Times 16.5.99) faxed to several media organisations what purported to be a 5 page confidential CID document accusing the injured journalist of being a JVP killer known as Chukka. The document charged that his present mission was to create dissension in the security services by writing derogatory reports alleging corrupt practices by senior officers.
It is notable that no case was filed in court charging the journalist with defamation or murder as alleged. He was held for 3 months and released without ever being charged. Nothing more was said about the culprits behind the assault. The CID had been reduced from an investigative body to purveyors of gossip against political opponents of the Government. This role was further enhanced around the time of the December 1999 presidential election. The state media were full of CID investigations into some fantastic conspiracies against the Government by persons varying from General Algama to unnamed security officials to a Tamil lady who was a director of a bank. The Government was warned by well wishers that this kind of sensationalism would shake investor confidence. The whole affair of dire conspiracies died like a damp squib. Another institution that has featured in controversy is the PSD.
*To be continued.. Next week – The PSD (Presidential Security Division)
*From Rajan Hoole‘s “Sri Lanka: Arrogance of Power – Myth, Decadence and Murder”. Thanks to Rajan for giving us permission to republish. To read earlier parts click here