May 09 retaliatory attacks: Dinesh suspects a wider conspiracy

Dr. Godahewa, Zuhair disturbed, disappointed

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Public Administration, Home Affairs, Provincial Councils and Local Government Minister Dinesh Gunawardena yesterday (29) said that the police or the intelligence services hadn’t at least bothered to inquire from him the alleged use of drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) by those who mounted a wave of violence against marked out individuals, looting and arson right across the country in the wake of the 09 May incidents in the Kollupitiya and Fort police areas.

The Leader of the House said so when The Island asked him whether law enforcement authorities sought clarification as regards his declaration in Parliament on 20 May that his Boralugoda house, as well as other residences of SLPP lawmakers had been ‘mapped out’ in the run-up to the -9 May eruption.

Gunawardena said that he was quite surprised and disappointed by the response of the police, as well as the State Intelligence Service (SIS) and the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) to his statement in Parliament.

Responding to questions, Mahajana Eksath Peramuna (MEP) leader Gunawardena said that he still couldn’t comprehend why the Army in spite of having a permanent detachment near his house, refrained from thwarting the attacks. MP Gunawardena said that his property had come under aerial surveillance, a few days before the incident.

Minister Gunawardena said that the way gangs had swung into action, in military style, soon after unprovoked attacks on those demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the Cabinet of Ministers, should have received special attention of the Inspector General of Police (IGP).

Acknowledging several of his parliamentary colleagues had raised the failure on the part of the police and security forces to respond to meticulously organised mayhem across the country, Colombo District lawmaker said the lynching of Polonnaruwa District SLPP MP Amarakeerthi Atukorale, in broad daylight, in the Nittambuwa police area, highlighted the gravity of the security crisis.

Referring to recent police headquarters statements pertaining to the ongoing investigations into the incidents during the second week of May, Gunawardena said that well over 2,000 had been arrested so far. Out of whom over 1,000 had been remanded pending further investigations, the Minister said, urging the top political leadership to ensure that those behind the violent campaign were brought to justice.

The Minister said that a retired military panel, headed by Admiral of the Fleet Wasantha Karannagoda, inquiring into the security forces response, could identify the lapses on the part of the command and control structure. Their failure to bring the situation under control couldn’t be excused under any circumstances. MP Gunawardena said a thorough no holds barred investigation was required to ascertain the truth.

Former Navy Chief Karannagoda confirmed investigations were on but politely declined to comment. The Board of Inquiry consists of Karannagoda, Marshal of the Air Force Roshan Goonetileke and retired General Daya Ratnayake.

Minister Gunawardena said that as the inquiry dealt with, a spate of incidents beginning with violent 31 March protest at President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s private residence at Pangiriwatta, Mirihana, the need to examine the possibility of external conspiracy couldn’t be ruled out. The MEP leader said that ordinary people, whatever the status of their anger, couldn’t have carried out countrywide attacks in such an organized manner.

Former PA MP and ex-Ambassador in Tehran M. M. Zuhair, PC, too, yesterday confirmed that his public statement made a week after Minister Gunawardena’s declaration in Parliament didn’t receive the attention of security authorities. The outspoken civil society activist said that Sri Lanka couldn’t ignore the continuing threat emanating from external elements. Minister Gunawardena’s warning should have received prompt response from the highest levels of the government.

Dr. Nalaka Godahewa told a recent meeting at the President’s House, chaired by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, the pathetic failure on the part of the government to recognize the threat posed by those who carried out so-called spontaneous retaliatory attacks with military precision. The former Media Minister warned the leaders to take action or face the consequences.

Dr. Godahewa yesterday told The Island that the government grappling with political, economic and social issues hadn’t heeded their concerns in that regard. “Of course, the members of the government parliamentary group aren’t happy with the progress of police investigations. Our justifiable expectations that the President, Premier and the Justice Minister intervened to ensure speedy investigations haven’t materialized,” the Gampaha District lawmaker said.

“Attack on the properties of SLPP politicians is an attack on democracy. Most of those whose houses were burnt down were first time parliamentarians or ordinary MPs without ministerial responsibilities,” Dr. Godahewa said.

Responding to another query, the former top private sector executive who himself is a newcomer to parliamentary politics alleged that the project was meant to discourage new entrants. Professionals would now think twice before entering politics at any level in the future, the MP said. One-time leading Viyathmaga activist said that in fact he had been disappointed and shocked at the way the government and the police handled this aspect of the investigation. Condemning violence perpetrated by all, Dr. Godahewa pointed out that some of those who had been concerned over attacks on anti-government activists were conveniently silent on MPs’ property. The government should convince ruling party lawmakers of its resolve to bring this particular investigation to a successful conclusion.

Dismissing the claim that ordinary people, angered by a goon attack on the Galle Face protesters, had carried out the retaliatory attacks, MP Wimal Weerawansa asked how ordinary people could trace all the properties owned by leading SLPP politician/businessman Johnston Fernando across the country and destroy them overnight. One such property, situated on the exclusive Lake Road Pelawatte, where mostly the super-rich reside, those living close by had not known whose house it was till it was attacked, looted and torched. While it was being attacked and torched by one set of attackers, people from surrounding areas who converged there had shouted that there were several dogs inside the residence, but a helmet clad group who were apparently overseeing the drama from outside had told those people that they had already chased away the dogs.

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