The prime suspect allegedly involved in instigating racially motivated mob violence in Digana and Teldeniya in the Kandy District was arrested yesterday (8), along with nine others, by the Terrorism Investigation Division (TID) of the Police, thus restoring normalcy in the Central Province.
Sri Lanka’s Special Task Force and Police officers stand guard near a burnt house after a clash between two communities in Digana, central district of Kandy, Sri Lanka March 6, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Police Media Spokesman Superintendent of Police Ruwan Gunasekara, calling a special media briefing, said the 10 suspects were arrested in Digana and Poojapitiya yesterday morning. The supposed leader of Mahason Balakaya, Amith Jeevan Weerasinghe, his accomplice Surendra Suraweera and eight others were arrested and charged with inciting racial violence, aiding mob violence, actively spreading hate speech in the form of leaflets and on social media and conspiring to instigate ethnic disharmony.
Gunasekara said that aside from these charges the suspects will be charged for violating provisions in the Public Security Ordinance as well. He added, the investigators have already uncovered essential information with regard to their organized criminal campaign in the Kandy suburbs that resulted in a State-wide emergency being imposed earlier this week.
The Police emphasized that out of the 10 arrested, only two are residents of Digana and Poojapitiya.
When inquired, the Police Spokesman claimed that there weren’t any political or religious figures among the arrested, as alleged by Co-Cabinet Spokesman Dr. Rajitha Senaratne on 7 March. Senaratne had claimed that such figures had been identified by the Police as being behind the racial violence in Kandy. Gunasekara however, noted that investigations are still underway.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, issuing a press communiqué noted that new directives were issued to the Police and Security Forces, during a meeting held yesterday with the freshly appointed Minister of Law and Order Ranjith Madduma Bandara. He also accepted that isolated violent incidents had occurred on 7 March night in Katugastota, Alawathugoda, Poojapitiya, Weligama, Giriulla and Kuruwita.
SP Gunasekara said that since 4 March to yesterday, the Police has arrested 71 suspects for riotous behaviour in the Kandy suburbs. He said that 30 suspects were arrested in Teldeniya, eight in Kandy, seven in Menikhinna, six in Katugastota, six in Wattegama, five in Thalathuoya and one in Pallekele. Following the District-wide 24-hour curfew that was imposed on 7 March, the Police have been able to arrest four suspects who violated the curfew. The suspects who were produced before the Kandy Magistrate yesterday were remanded until 21 March.
The Police Spokesman announced that a 12-hour Police curfew, that commenced yesterday evening, will be in operation till 6 a.m. today (9). This was following the termination of the 24-hour curfew that was called off at 10 a.m. yesterday.
The Police also noted that, despite various other reports, only two deaths had occurred during this time frame. One was of the body that was discovered in Kengalla, Pallekele on 6 March inside a burning house. One casualty was reported during the hand grenade explosion in Mullegama, Poojapitiya on 7 March. The deceased was a 28-year-old while 11 others were injured. Crime Scene Officers have observed the safety pin of the hand grenade near the corpse of the deceased.
The Police also recorded 45 cases of arson and the destruction of private residences and shops throughout the Kandy suburbs. The most number of cases (18) was reported from Pallekele.
Four religious locations have also been destroyed according to the complaints received by the Police. The Police Spokesman said that three such cases were reported from Katugastota and one from Poojapitiya.
One such incident was reported in Kuruwita yesterday where several individuals arrived on a number of motorcycles and pelted rocks at a religious site. Security officers had arrested three suspects who are said to be from Karandeniya and Meerigama, while one was a resident of Kuruwita.
At least 11 cases of intentional vehicle destruction have been reported too.
When asked as to whether a special security plan will be implemented in the country today, the Police Spokesman claimed that depending on the situation, security forces will be deployed, with great focus on areas that are deemed as risk zones around the country.