The break-in and entry into the home of The Sunday Leader Journalist Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema was aimed at preventing her from exposing details about a controversial construction deal and not a robbery, the Opposition Leader charged yesterday.
UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe said the forced entry was not an attempt to steal her gold jewellery and valuables when he addressed Parliament, querying into ongoing investigations in the matter.
Wickremesinghe said the intimidation attempt was aimed at preventing Abeywickrema from revealing details about the controversial Krrish development project, in which several allegations against top officials have surfaced.
According to Wickremesinghe, the Police has failed to carry out the basics in investigations, including the holding of an identification parade.
“There have been continuous assassinations, disappearances, abductions, attacks and threats related to journalists throughout the recent past. What are the steps intended to be taken for creating an environment of safety for the journalists where they can carry out their work with no fear and uncertainty?” Wickremesinghe charged in Parliament.
He asked the Government what the current state of the investigation was into the raid of the journalist’s home.
“A gang who entered the residence of Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema, the Associate Editor of The Sunday Leader newspaper, during the early hours on 24 August had attacked and threatened her and had searched for something, remaining in the house nearly for three hours. It has been reported that during that period, one of them carried out a search while connecting with somebody over a mobile phone. One of those who entered the house had also said that it was a contract. Later the Police entered the premises on information provided by her husband and the ensuing clash resulted in the death of one in the gang and four of them had been taken into custody,” he added.
In response, Minister of Water Supply and Drainage and Chief Government Whip Dinesh Gunawardena stated that the Colombo Crime Division of the Police Department had detained the arrested personnel, who would remain in detention for 90 days while investigations were conducted.
“In response to a telephone call received around 4:45 a.m. on 119 at the Bambalapitiya Police Station, the mobile unit visited the said house. When the robbers were arrested, Police officers were injured with sharp weapons. The firing in self-defence killed one robber, while four others were arrested. These robbers have been in the house from 2:30 a.m. till 4:45 a.m.,” the Minister said.
Gunewardane added that the name of the deceased robber was Kadinappulige Indika Sampath Kumarasiri and the injured are Kadinappulige Rohitha Lakshman alias Pol Ravi, Pradeep Chamara Kumara, Vithanarachchilage Shantha Kumara and Asanga Ubesiri.
Gunewardane said that Police Sergeant Jayapala, Constable Somadasa and Constable Gamage had been injured in the incident. “These robbers have taken away Rs. 36,000 in cash and US$ 12. Investigations are underway about the telephone calls they had taken. There are warrants issued for most of these thieves who are wanted for various offenses and some are deserters,” the Minister added.