BY Gagani Weerakoon
Police media spokesman SSP Ajith Rohana is often under attack by various parties in society, including politicians. He has been called a parakeet of the incumbent government. But, Rohana said the police were not afraid to take action against any criminal following investigation showing him guilty.
Rohana justifies the delay in taking action against member of Parliament Duminda Silva, implicated in a case, by ‘Wele Suda’, which involves massive financial dealings in narcotics.
Following are the excerpts of an interview:
People say there is an increase in the crime rate at present. According to the view of police, is there an actual increase in the number of crimes or is it the severity of crimes and the crime trend that has increased?
A: This belief is not factually correct. It is true that the exposure of crime gets in media has increased. But when you compare facts and figures we have, there is a drastic drop in the rate of crime from 2002 to 2014.
Murders are considered the biggest crime all around the world and if we take figures in Sri Lanka, there is a remarkable decrease in murders over the past few years.
There is a 120% decline in Sri Lanka’s homicides rate when compared with statistics of 2004 to 2014. For instance, the number of homicides has dropped to 438 in 2014 from 1,288 in 2004.
I think there is no such noticeable crime trend in the country after the war ended. Also, when you compare the crime rate with other countries in Asia, Europe and Africa, the crime rate in Sri Lanka had not increased.
There were a series of killings in the Kotakethana area in Kahawatta in 2012 and you, as the police media spokesman at that time, said those incidents needed to be studied at length with the assistance of social scientists. Have you completed the research and what are the conclusions?
A: Yes, the Police at the time thought of doing a thorough research into the matter in order to identify whether there were any other social causes that were confined to the area. But finally our police teams were able to apprehend all those who were behind these brutal murders and the final outcome was that there were no other reasons other than the intention of committing a crime.
A: The complaint about certain missing vehicles was made by the Presidential Secretariat to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) on 14 January 2015, six days after the Presidential Election. Accordingly, investigations started on the matter by a police team led by an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) and that team went through certain sets of files that had been maintained by former Transport Director of the President’s Office. According to the details available in those, the investigation team realized that some 748 vehicles have gone missing. When investigations were continuing the former director Keerthi Samarasinghe Dissanayake was arrested, as he was unable to account for three missing vehicles out of the 748 that have gone missing.
The value of these vehicles collectively is Rs 5 million rupees and the vehicles included a Kyron jeep, an old Mercedes Benz car and a motor cycle. He is charged under the Penal Code and the Public Property Misappropriation (amendment) Act.
In addition, the CID also went through the data available with the Motor Traffic Department to check how many vehicles were registered under the Presidential Secretariat and it was revealed that there are only 670 registered vehicles. Now you may have got confused as I mentioned there were 748 vehicles and there is a contradictory figure of 78. There are 670 registered under the Presidential Secretariat and there are vehicles registered under other ministries, but were later handed over to the President’s office and the total sum up to 748.
However, Keerthi Dissanayake was arrested because he failed to account for three vehicles which were under his custody.
But, when we look through details we found that out of the 670 vehicles registered under the Presidential Secretariat, 44 are still missing. Dissanayake may not be responsible for those missing 44 vehicles, but we are still carrying out investigations to find out who should be responsible. From investigations carried out thus far, the CID realized that the President’s Office has failed to maintain an inventory which had led to this chaotic situation. Even if we did not have files, and still were able to go through an inventory we could have located who has which vehicle in possession. Files are there, fuel has been issued for vehicles but, the officials have failed to follow a salient requirement under fiscal regulations in the country – that is to maintain an inventory.
Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, in a statement, said that it was as a result of mudslinging campaign to tarnish his image and especially those two vehicle yards found in Pitakotte and Borella in fact belonged to Presidential Secretariat. What have you got to say about this?
A: Of course, the police maintained that those vehicles were located from a vehicle yard belonging to the Secretariat. If anyone has a doubt about what stance the Police maintained, they can refer to voice cuts and statements I issued to media.
Drug kingpin ‘Wele Suda’ implicated a Parliamentarian when he was questioned by the CID. Now everyone is questioning as to why that MP was not taken into custody. What actually delays the arrest?
A: Earlier the question was why police are delaying to record a statement from Parliamentarian Duminda Silva and now this. The CID questioned MP Silva for more than 20 hours on three days and has set up another three police teams to investigate what he revealed when we were recording his statement. One team is looking into his bank accounts, the second is investigating individuals with whom he claimed to have certain dealings and the third police team is investigating about the MP’s donations, especially financial donations and from whom he got those contributions.
As part of the third police team probe, some 21 event organizer of MP Duminda Silva were questioned as they had organized events in Kolonnawa and other areas of the country where the MP went and donated money to people.
I am sure he will be tried either under the provisions of the Anti-Narcotic Act or the Money Laundering Act.
These investigations cannot be concluded in a hurry as we are dealing with financial transactions. But, I must tell people of this country that the Police will definitely bring those who are found guilty to book, irrespective of their social or political background.
There is a clear case against Shashi Weerawansa, wife of former minister Wimal Weerawansa, of possessing two passports, especially a diplomatic passport. Why have the police failed to take action against her? Are you scared to take action?
A: Police are not scared of anyone. We have carried out the investigations and people might hear a favourable answer soon.
Are you implying legal action would be taken against her?
A: Yes. We will pursue legal action against her within the next 48 hours.
There is an allegation that police gave special privileges to the former Defence Secretary when he was questioned on the floating armoury. Is there any ground for this allegation?
A: Absolutely not. CID or any police team can either go to an individual to record a statement or can summon that individual to the police station. Normally, the CID summons someone to the CID if we need to question that individual after showing a Court product. There was no such need for it and that is why CID went to former defence Secretary’s residence to record a statement.
Will the CID question former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa once more?
A: Yes. When we went to record a statement last time, he said that he needs to check on certain issues further in order to give a comprehensive statement. Since we are carrying out investigations under provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure, we are liable to give time for an individual if he/she requests more time to collect details. Since we are investigating under which procedures the Defence Ministry issued licences to operate a private floating armoury and issue weapons to Rakna Lanka security firm and Avante Guard. Our initial investigations suggested that officials of the Defence Ministry gave the permission on a special order issued by the former Defence Secretary.
Did he admit the same?
A: Yes. He said he recommended the issuance of licences to these two firms.