Army officer accompanying Namal Rajapaksa, was caught with a weapon inside the “sterile” area

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s President has ordered a major shake-up in VVIP security with immediate effect following reports that the once elite Presidential Security Division (PSD) was linked to murders during the former regime.

The PSD of the police will be withdrawn immediately and replaced by a unit of the highly-trained Special Task Force (STF) which already has a small team of commandos forming the inner ring of security for President Maithripala Sirisena.

“The PSD will be completely replaced by the STF,” a government official said asking not to be named.

“The process is taking place as we speak. It will be completed in the next 48 hours.”

The move comes a day after government spokesman Rajitha Senaratne told reporters that three members of the PSD were responsible for the murder of a national rugger player Wasim Thajudeen, whose death in May 2012 was initially brushed aside by police as a road accident.

the threeFollowing fresh evidence, the authorities have reopened the Thajudeen case and a murder investigation is underway.

Former minister Mervin Silva’s notorious son, Malaka, was also attacked at the car park of the shoping arcade ODEL by the same group of PSD men, it is reliably learnt. Despite CCTV footage at ODEL clearly showing the perpetrators of that attack, police investigations had drawn a blank during the previous regime.

There had been nagging complaints over President Sirisena’s decision to retain the PSD of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa without making any changes. Even the head of the PSD, S. M. Wickaramasinghe was retained.

Senior DIG Wickramasinghe was severely criticised over a breach of security at a meeting attended by President Sirisena at Angunakolapelessa in April. Instead of replacing him, President Sirisena brought in another DIG to the PSD, but was seen inadequate to address the structural problems at the PSD.

In April, an army officer, who was from the former president’s security unit, was caught with a weapon inside the “sterile” area and free of any weapons. The army officer was said to have accompanied Namal Rajapaksa to the meet and the police PSD officers had failed to check him for weapons.

Following a media expose of the serious security breach, the army officer was later arrested along with two police officers, who allowed him into the venue without being checked. The case is continuing.

It was also alleged that some of President Sirisena’s conversations with party seniors as well as other aides were being leaked to the former president and political opponents by members of the PSD whose loyalties were in doubt.

Under the revamped system, the entire VVIP security will be handled by the STF and the police PSD is to be disbanded similar to what happened to the army’s PSD which was wound up on April 30.

Sirisena loyalists have warned him to take proper security precautions and not take anything or anyone for granted. (Colombo/Aug06/2015)