‘Death threats kept me away’

“The Former Secretary of Defence threatened and criticised me over my training lecture even as I was returning from that lecture in Katana”, recalled former Police spokesman Prashantha Jayakody who recently returned from Australia, where he fled during the previous regime.

On his return, Jayakody said that his concern was to see justice in the society. “Being a police officer if I had to face this much of agony what could have been the fate of a normal citizen? I’m looking forward to see a just society where all are equal before the law,” he said in an interview with the Sunday Observer.

Q: What do you intend to do now? What are the possibilities for you to get back to the police service?

A: That is what I am looking into these days. I was told I have been issued desertion notice from the police stating that I have quit the service without notice. But I did not receive any. There is a code of conduct to follow when issuing such a notice but I do not know how far it had been adhered to in my case. Yet, two weeks before my departure from Australia I wrote an appeal to the Public Service Commission requesting them to reinstate me in the Police Department. I wrote the letter and my brother delivered it to the Commission. I’m awaiting for their response. My concern is to see justice in the society. Being a Police officer if I had faced this much of agony what could have been the fate of a normal citizen? I’m looking forward to see a just and fair society where all are equal before the law.

Q: What exactly made you to leave the country?

A: There were numerous reasons. As you all remember, when I worked as the Police Spokesman I tried my best to not to be biased to any party. People of the country had the right to know the truth about what is happening in the country. But I believe certain segments of the previous government did not like it.

Q: Are there any specific incidents to prove these dislikes?

A: Yes. There are very specific ones. First of those would be when I spoke about DIG Moneragala M.R. Latheef and on his proper action taken against corrupt powerful people. When he did his duty according to the law of the country, affected culprits initiated protests, raised black flags. All those culprits were heavily backed by corrupt politicians and used their power to intimidate this honest police officer. DIG Latheef worked against those who tried to break the justice, law and order of the country. Thus, I had to release a statement to point out that DIG Latheef was acting as a proper Police officer according to the laws and regulations of the country and all allegations backed by political interventions are wrong. It received wide publicity. With this, very powerful politicians thought that I acted as a traitor and a nuisance to their political activities. Thus, I faced numerous harassments. Even the then Director General of the Media Centre for National Security heavily argued with me on many instances after this incident.

Q: Were you transferred to Ratnapura due to these reasons?

A: No. I was first transferred to two places in one week – divisions within the Police headquarters – soon after this incident. And there was another notable incident. While I was the Police Spokesman I had to deliver a lecture to a group of newly appointed DIGs who were undergoing a special training at the Police Training Institute in Katana. I was given the topic ‘Mass media and Police’. What I emphasised is that, if police officers do not conduct themselves properly and justifiably before the media, it will create a negative impression of the police in the minds of the people. I recorded the entire lecture. Following the session I left the place and was heading towards Colombo and as I was passing Ja Ela I received a call on my mobile from the IG of Police. He said the Defence Secretary was not happy with what I said at the lecture and it had criticised the Government and the Defence Secretary. He said that he was told that the lecture content had anti government factors criticising it and that there will be an inquiry to probe in to the matter.

Returning to Colombo I went to meet the IG and clarified myself – told him I did not criticise the Government and I merely did a lecture and that I am ready to face any investigation. The Defence Secretary called me and heavily criticised – it was with severe threats. At that time no one would dare to take any action against them to safeguard another. That was the truth. Then the investigation started and a report had to be given within a day. Senior DIG Nawaratne was appointed to conduct the investigation. I appeared before the investigation and clearly explain my part.

Statements were taken from those newly appointed DIGs at the training centre. The investigation report stated that I merely have delivered a scholastic lecture to enlighten the trainees. Still even before the report was released I was transferred. To the Examination division and later on to the revision division within one week. But I understood that the IG Police was contended of my job performance. He stood up to defend me. And as a result I was sent to Ratnapura to a suitable post for my position as the officer there at that time was going to a different post with his promotion.

Q: What happened in Ratnapura?

A: When I went to Ratnapura those police officers were working under heavy pressure and unnecessary interventions of politicians. Then the problem aggravated when I raided an illegally run karaoke. It was running with the blessings of top politicians powerful during the previous government without any registration. (news reported states the karaoke was in operation for nine years).

When I was planning for the raid I took policemen from other stations and avoided the Ratnapura area. It had to be carried out with that discreetness. They were produced before courts. Then I started receiving phone calls to my mobile with death threats. Calls were anonymous but I recorded the numbers and the details and informed my superiors. They threatened to destroy my wife and kids and said I was playing too much (‘dagalanawa wedi’ in Sinhala).

While all this work was going on the Deputy Mayor of Ratnapura assaulted a Police Sergeant in the middle of the town. I was at the Peradeniya University to conduct an interview for a security manager on the instructions of the IGP. I was informed by my police officers about the assault and I instructed them to arrest the deputy mayor immediately.

It was an attack on the entire police. But could not arrest him as he was hiding behind powerful politicians.

After three days I was able to arrest him when he was admitted to the hospital. I informed the Magistrate and through the Magistrate he was imprisoned. This made the political hierarchy very angry. They were angry with me. And these politicians did have the support and backing from some of the so-called highly respected senior police officers.

Q: So you mean to say that he was well connected to the top-most position of the political hierarchy of the country – even blessings of the then President?

A: Yes. They had all the networks connecting to the top-most position going up to the Ministry of Defence. That was the biggest problem.

Q: Then what happened?

A: Thereafter, Embilipitiya Pradeshiya Saba Chairman M.K. Amila attacks two police officers on foot patrol with T56 weapons in Panamure area. He was a main actor in the then Government’s ‘Nil Balakaya’ and the son of famous thug Beliatte M.K. Ranjith elder brother M.K. Sugath who was Hambatota Provincial Council member and a close associate of MP Namal Rajapaksa.

He had to be immediately taken under arrest. But he hides. After one week he appears in Embilipitiya Police through a President’s counsel who was a very close associate of the President. He came in with the intention of obtaining a bail but I believe the Courts could not find any provisions to grant him bail. Thus, he was imprisoned. For a few weeks he was in the prison and managed to bail out. Then when he was out he called me on my mobile and threatened me saying that I play too much, that it is their government ruling and they know all my details and told me to prepare my coffin.

I informed my superiors including the IGP but with the Political atmosphere back then, no one was able to take action.

Q: When you issue a media statement it is done with the full knowledge of the IG of the Police. Isn’t that the correct procedure?

A: Yes, that is how it works. But all the documents are released under my signature. The police department is functioning and paid by the tax paid by the common man of the country. So the citizens have a right to know. And I’m happy to see that there is an attempt to bring a Right to Information Act.

Q: What do you have to say about the accusation on the role of the spokesman? Doesn’t he or she has to do cover up stories though which wrong information reaches the public?

A: In my case I did a fair job being unbiased. I did not look in to how others have worked. But I believe if wrong information is given to the public then it is wrong. The information should not disrupt the on going court cases and investigations relevant to the incident. The information should not destroy the validity of the evidence produced to the courts and should not have any effect.

Q: You said you took leave from the Police department to visit Australia and it had been only for two weeks. Were you intending to seek political asylum or did you think that staying away from the country for a short while will ease the situation?

A: I had no intention of migrating to another country. I always had the intention to serve my motherland. But I never wanted to live according to others’ orders and get killed by corrupt people in the middle of the road. The previous political structure was so strong that even President’s consultants were killed on the roads.

GOTHA 2Q: Couldn’t you take legal action against these threats?

A: It was not a conducive environment even to make a complaint. Impossible.

Q: How was the Australian life?

A: I went to Australia in June 2013. It was a very difficult life. Initially I stayed in Melbourne. But the human right organisations who were supporting me alerted me that a henchman of the previous government is trying to find my whereabouts. So I had to live in Sydney and Perth alternatively. I feel very happy and contend to be back in my country with my family.

Q: What was the situation of your family?

A: They underwent a lot. They received death threats too. We lost almost all our assets. My wife and daughter did not live in our house. They moved from one place to another. My daughter scored marks to enter University last year but she could not proceed further because of all these security problems. So now I’m working to give her higher education.

Q: Were you invited to return to Sri Lanka by certain political factors that worked to bring the current regime to power?

A: Invitations were all from my family and friends. But I was waiting for a peaceful chance for me to return to my country. There was no political invitations.