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Journo, STF ‘intel’ officer et al held in high profile CID probe

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Some of the PNB suspects arrested in connection with the ongoing CID probe

…disappearance of undeclared captured LTTE weapons sends shock waves

By Saman Gamage and Shamindra Ferdinando

Police investigating clandestine links between the underworld and some law enforcement personnel have taken into custody journalist Prasad Abeywickrema for allegedly facilitating the smuggling of weapons, including Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs) and assault rifles from Naula to Colombo during the corona lockdown.

Abeywickrema was taken into custody on Monday (17). Investigations have revealed that the weapons had been moved in a van that carried ‘President’s Media’ name board.

Another journalist is also under investigation in this regard.

Of the weapons pilfered, the elite STF on June 29, 2020 recovered 12 T-56 assault rifles stashed in a multi-storey building at Pitipana in the Homagama police area.

Sources said the STF carried out the raid on information provided by an informant who accompanied Abeywickrema from Naula to Colombo. Sources said that subsequently, the STF handed over the informant to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) now handling the inquiry.

Sources said that the stock of weapons included RPGs, Light Machine Guns, T 56 assault rifles and pistols.

Responding to The Island queries, sources said that the information regarding the weapons stashed at Pitipana had been received by a Chief Inspector and Sub Inspector attached to the STF who received transfers over a year ago following major narcotic detection. Sources said that the CI and SI had been sent to Mannar and Hambantota, respectively after the controversial detection. They were brought back after Varuna Jayasundera took over the STF recently, sources said, adding that over 80 weapons were yet to be recovered.

Sources said that the entire stock of weapons believed to be the property of the LTTE had been sold to underworld gangs. The weapons recovered at Pitipana had been sold to Kosgoda Tharaka’s gang, while the rest had fallen into hands of others operating in the Colombo district et al.

Several army personnel, including a Commanding Officer of an infantry battalion have been detained in connection with the investigation. The other journalist under investigation is believed to be the go between the military and the underworld.

Sources said that the highest levels of the government had been briefed of the ongoing investigation.

Sources said that some of those under investigation had also been involved in smuggling heroin.

Recently Justice Minister Ali Sabry PC expressed serious concern over the Registrar of courts, the police, the prisons and the Government Analyst Department (GAD) involvement in the heroin trade. Over 20 persons in custody in connection with alleged underworld links include police personnel attached to the Police Narcotics Bureau, GAD workers and Prisons Department employees.

Sources said that more arrests were likely soon.

Police headquarters yesterday evening confirmed Abeywickrema’s arrest. It said that the 30-year-old journalist, a resident of Ambakolawewa, Medamulana was taken into custody on Monday around 6.30 pm on information elicited from PNB personnel in custody for dealing in heroin.

It said that the suspect misused the identity card issued by the Government Information Department to move weapons from Naula to Pitipana in a van owned by a person held under Detention Orders. The journalist too was being been held under Detention Orders.

The police headquarters also said that information provided by PNB suspects led to the arrest of 49-year-old STF officer who functioned as the OIC, Intelligence and Special Operations of STF base, Mannar. The STF officer had been taken into custody under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (Temporary Provisions) of 1979 No 48.

 



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About Rs 3 bn paid as OT during past few months

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Overtime gravy train for CPC refinery workers:

By Saman Indrajith

About Rs. 3,000 million had been paid as overtime for the employees of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation oil refinery, during the past few months, Parliament was told yesterday.

Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera said that he had asked for a detailed report as to whom and on what grounds the overtime payments had been made and it would be submitted to Parliament.

Fielding a question asked by Chief Opposition Whip, Kandy District SJB MP Lakshman Kiriella, Minister Wijesekera said instructions had been issued to regulate overtime.

MP Kiriella demanded to know why overtime had been paid to employees of an institution that had been shut down. “There are reports that over Rs 4,000 million has been paid as overtime to the workers of the refinery that was not functioning owing to the non-availability of crude oil. This is a crime,” Kiriella said.

Minister Wijesekera: “I made inquiries after I saw newspaper reports on payment of overtime to refinery workers. I inquired from the Finance Manager of the CPC. I was told that a sum between Rs 2.5 billion to Rs 3 billion had been paid as overtime. The refinery was not closed during the months of March and April. It was closed only during the last month. They had issued refined fuel on all seven days of the week continuously. When an institution operates full time in such a manner the employees would have to be paid for their overtime work. However, I admit that could have been done with some level of management in the payment process,” the Minister said.

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Wigneswaran claims RW accepted all his demands

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Head of the Thamil Makkal Thesiya Kuttani (TMTK), C. V. Wigneswaran told the media recently that President Ranil Wickremesinghe had agreed to all demands he had made, including the release of Tamil ‘political prisoners’, to secure his vote during last month’s Parliament election, to elect a President.

He made this statement following a meeting with the President in Colombo to discuss the establishment of an all-party government.

“We have made several requests and if the President is ready to comply with them, we will consider taking part in the all party government,” he said.

“We met him when he was Prime Minister. Before the parliamentary vote to elect the President, I made these demands and he agreed to them. That is why I voted for him. Now, it is for him to keep his promises. I am here to remind him of this,” Wigenswaran said.

Wickremesinghe, as the Prime Minister in the yahapalana government, vehemently denied that there were Tamil ‘political prisoners’ in the country. (RK)

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MPs are not immune from country’s laws – SJB

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By Saman Indrajith

Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa told Parliament yesterday that the MPs were not immune from the Penal Code despite the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Act.

Premadasa said Cabinet Spokesman Minister Bandula Gunawardane had claimed that incidents in Parliament could not be dealt with under the regular law.

“This claim sends the wrong message to people. Aren’t the provisions of the Penal Code or the Offences against Public Property Act applicable to the MPs? There were incidents in this Chamber during the 52-day coup conspiracy; some MPs damaged public property. There were investigations by the CID and also by Parliament.

The Secretary General announced the cost of the damage. When the process was on to prosecute those MPs responsible for the damage, political influence was exerted on the CID not to file cases against the culprits. It is against this background that Minister Gunawardane, in his position as the Cabinet spokesman, makes this false claim. His statement is sending a message saying that there is one law inside the Parliament and another outside it.

“He also claims that the Speaker decides whether these laws are applicable to Parliament or not,” Premadasa said.

Colombo District SJB MP Mujibur Rahuman said that people were already against the MPs and this new wrong message would further exacerbate their anger against elected members. “The Cabinet Spokesman says that the MPs have a different set of laws while the people are dealt with by the country’s laws. That is wrong. We are also liable for criminal offences that we commit,” Rahuman said.

“The CID conducted an investigation and was prepared to file cases, but that was prevented through political influence. The Cabinet Spokesman’s statement is fueling public hatred towards the MPs. Please, request the Cabinet Spokesman to refrain from making such statements,” he said.

Minister Gunawardane said that he was only responding to a question raised by a journalist and the question was about fairness of cracking down on protesters for destroying public property, during anti-government protests, when MPs, who damaged Parliament, property under the former government, are yet to be apprehended.

Minister Gunawardane said as a public representative in Parliament for the last 33 years he had only explained that the law would be implemented against those engaged in violent activities during peaceful protests.

“I said MPs had Parliament privileges and the Parliament law. I also explained that MPs attending Parliament cannot be arrested as they are engaged in legislative activities,” he said.

Chief Opposition Whip, Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella, said that the MPs had no such legal immunity. and Parliament privileges only cover MPs from being arrested while they are on their way to attend and when they leave Parliament. “Therefore, there is no law that says they are exempt from other laws of the country,” Kiriella said.

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, agreeing with Chief Opposition Whip Kiriella, said that all other laws in the country applied to the MPs.

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