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Cprruption: Sri Lanka’s New Quartet Mount Pressure for Prosecutions

( Ministers Rajitha and Champika in the lead)

A new quartet of ministers has mounted pressure on the President and the Prime Minister to prosecute members of the Rajapaksa regime accused of massive corruption and ensure swift investigations into high profile murders as the government nears its first anniversary.

The four-member ministerial group had presented a cabinet paper demanding a detailed progress report into some of the headline grabbing corruption alleged by the United National Party when they were in the opposition.

Health Minister Rajith Senaratne, Megapolis Minister Champika Ranawaka, Ports minister Arjuna Ranatunga and Regional Development Sarath Fonseka signed the missive calling the conduct of the police and the Attorney General’s department into question .

A top government source said there would be a major shake up in the investigative mechanism given the less than satisfactory progress at the Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID) and the CID.

“It looks like investigating crimes is being turned into a lucrative source of income for some police officers,” a ministerial source said on condition of anonymity. He said the cabinet heard of a 30 million rupee bribe allegedly paid to remove a file that was under investigation.

At the highest levels in the government there were serious questions about the conduct of the police.

Allegations that the police Colombo Crime Division abducted a suspect and assaulted him to recant a testimony against former president Mahinda Rajapaksa’s chief ofg staff Gamini Senarath has been brought to the President’s attention.

“The President got down the parties involved and has given clear instructions to the IGP to hold an inquiry into this incident,” a minister directly involved in the incident said.

Another minister said the government was also investigating allegations that some senior members of the police had been paid handsomely to hush up investigations or destroy evidence.

The new IGP Pujith Jayasundera has been asked to give the government a report on the specific instances that had been brought to the attention of the president last week.

Minister Senaratne, who led the breakaway faction from the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime in late 2014, told reporters last week that he was under pressure from over 40 civil society organisations to deliver or depart.

The minister had earlier this year given a February 4 deadline to the government to show results, but the administration was given more time to allow a new attorney general to settle in and speed up pending cases.

However, that has not been the case and even the new AG  Jayantha Jayasuriya, P.C, has failed to impress, the source said.

Apart from a failure to take decisive legal action against any of the high profile individuals in the previous regime, except Basil Rajapaksa, most of the investigations have stalled.

Even in Basil Rajapaksa’s case, police went out of their way Thursday to block journalists reporting his latest court appearance before the Matara magistrate.

Matara SP Sudath Masinghe prevented all reporters getting into the court house although the magistrate had only requested that there should be no filming inside her court house.

SP Masinghe effectively prevented any photographs of Basil being brought into court and reporters being in court when the case was called up.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has ordered the Law and Order minuistry to investigate why police blocked journalists covering court proceedings.

The new AG and the new IGP are under pressure to show results in the drawn out cases. The assassination of Lasantha Wickrematunga, the Eknaligoda murder and the Wasim Thajudeen killing are some of the high profile cases which are still dragging without suspects being arrested.

(Colombo/May 14, 2016)


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