Police seek death penalty for rogue cops

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Police headquarters will soon request Attorney General Dappula de Livera to establish a three-judge bench to try those officers and men of the Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) taken into custody over unprecedented large scale drug dealing with the underworld.

DIG (Legal) Attorney-at-Law Ajith Rohana told a hurriedly arranged media briefing at police headquarters yesterday that the police would push hard for expeditious conclusion of the ongoing investigations.

“Police headquarters will request the Attorney General to carry out judicial executions if the suspects were found guilty,” DIG Rohana said.

Sri Lanka suspended judicial executions way back in 1976. Successive governments, including the last one headed by President Maithripala Sirisena vowed to restore the death penalty, but executions were never resumed. The European Union has repeatedly warned Sri Lanka against resumption of capital punishment

The top police official said that the actions of those taken into custody wouldn’t be tolerated under any circumstances. The revelation that the PNB dealt in drugs with the underworld ruined the department, hence the decision to seek early conclusion of the investigations, DIG Rohana said.

At the onset of the briefing, DIG Rohana said that so far 18 PNB personnel-two Chief Inspectors, three Sub Inspectors, five Sergeants and eight constables had been taken into custody. Of them, 12 had been remanded till July 21 pending further investigations whereas six were being questioned under Detention Orders. In addition to them, three civilians, too, had been arrested in connection with the high profile inquiry conducted by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID).

DIG Rohana said that as part of the overall effort to restore confidence in the PNB, a new DIG and a Director had been assigned along with a group of officers in place of those transferred and arrested in connection with the inquiry.

The police made the initial breakthrough soon after the arrest of a 43-year-old person by the Minuwangoda police on June 12.

The police suspects were taken into custody since June 25  in separate raids.

DIG Rohana emphasized that the 18 arrested persons would face the death penalty if found guilty and their appeals rejected.

The Island sought an explanation from DIG Rohana whether the police already concluded that only 18 personnel had been involved in heroin deals thereby restricted the investigation. DIG Rohana said that so far 18 personnel had been arrested though more arrests could be made depending on the unearthing of new evidence incriminating others.

The media were told investigators so far seized eleven vehicles and several plots of land bought by the suspects.

The media also raised the possibility of the involvement of DIG Sajeewa Medawatta and the Director, PNB, SSP Manjula Senarath in the clandestine operation.

Police spokesman SSP attorney-at-law Jaliya Senaratne emphasized they had been moved out pending investigations though there were no accusations against them. They were transferred by the National Police Commission (NPC) following a request of the Acting IGP C.D. Wickramaratna.

They were replaced by DIG G.K.J. Aponso as the new head of the Police Narcotics Bureau and SSP Sujith Wedamulla as the new Director.

SSP Senaratne admitted that though there had been charges against the seniors their accountability was an issue.

Responding to another query raised by The Island, SSP Senaratne claimed that according to investigations conducted so far the sordid operation commenced in March this year.

Reminding SSP Senaratne that he along with DIG Medawatta announced at a hurriedly arranged media briefing several weeks ago of a highly successful drug busting operation now exposed before no less a person than the Attorney General as a sham, The Island asked whether those in custody deceived their DIG, too. SSP Senaratne said that obviously all had been deceived until the chance exposure of a clandestine PNB-underworld operation.

Close on the heels of the Minuwangoda detection and an alleged attempt by police higher ups to hush up the investigation, AG Dappula de Livera called a meeting with Acting IGP Wickramaratna in the presence of Defence Secretary Maj. Gen. Kamal Gunaratne and Chief of National Intelligence (CNI) Maj. Gen. Jagath Alwis, where the police were told to clean up the PNB.

The Island learns that some police officers had sought the intervention of the AG after police higher ups demanded an end to the investigation. Investigations have so far revealed that the rogue group may have had siphoned off 100 kg of heroin from PNB custody and also used heroin in their custody to implicate at least one gang.

(Source: The Island – By Shamindra Ferdinando)