Police spokesman behind media-driven arrests

police stateSri Lanka’s police spokesman orchestrated the controversial arrest of an army major and his driver so that he could give a sexy sound bite to radio and television networks, a police investigation has revealed.

Assistant Superintendent of police, Ruwan Gunasekera ordered the Officer in Charge of the Opanayake police station last month to arrest both the army driver and his passenger following a fatal accident on February 18.

The military vehicle was involved in an accident with a three-wheel taxi. A five-year-old girl who travelled in the trishaw was killed and another four people were wounded.

Both the army driver and major W. A. Samantha were also wounded and admitted to hospital. It is fairly routine for a driver to be arrested following a fatal accident, but in this case police controversially arrested the passenger too.

The Opanayake OIC has said that he was under instructions by spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera who telephoned him on the night of the accident and wanted both the army driver and his passenger, Major Samantha immediately arrested.

“Go immediately and arrested the major for aiding and abetting an accident under penal code 298 (causing death by negligence). I have told the IGP and I am now going to give a ‘voice cut’ (sound bite) to Sirasa,” Gunasekera had said according to the Opanayake OIC.

Accordingly, the same night the major was arrested while he received treatment at the Balangoda base hospital at 10.30 p.m. A magistrate was informed the next day and the major was remanded for four days.

He was subsequently released on 250,000 rupee personal bail.

An internal investigation has found that the arrest of the major was excessive and the police spokesman had acted beyond his authority in ordering a junior officer to arrest an army major.

Gunasekera, who is also a lawyer, is already under investigation for his role in trying to lead evidence at the inquest of a 29-year-old man who died after police assaulted him at a party in Embilipitiya in January.

Following protests from lawyers, IGP N. K. Illangakoon was forced to withdraw Gunasekera from the case. The IGP had sent Gunasekera although the police department has a separate legal division to handle such matters. Gunasekera went to curt dressed in suit and in his capacity as a lawyer although he cannot practice law while being a state employee.

The latest incident has underscored a nexus between the police spokesman and the IGP in carrying out questionable action ahead of his retirement in April. (Economy Next)

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