Govt. stops deployment of security forces for protection of politicos

by Shamindra Ferdinando
The government has ruled that security forces would not be deployed for the protection of politicians in a bid to prevent reoccurrence of widespread abuses similar to the violations that occurred under the previous government.

The Ministerial Security Division [MSD] would be in charge of their security.

There would be one exception with regard to Former Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar whose security was likely to remain in the hands of army commandos.

Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe on Friday informed the UNP led United National Front [UNF] government’s parliamentary group, that security forces would not be made available to them, party sources said yesterday. The premier has implied that he was prompted to take this decision with a view to preventing Udathalawinna types incidents and widespread abuses involving some VIP security units.

A platoon of Vijaya Infantry Regiment [VIR] troops including the platoon commander had been detained in connection with the parliamentary polls day massacre where 10 supporters of SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem were shot dead at Udathalawinna about an hour after the polling ended.

At the time of the incident, the platoon had been attached to the bodyguard of then Deputy Defence Minister Anuruddha Ratwatte. The former minister’s sons, Lohan and Chanika too were alleged to have been involved in the massacre.

Ratwatte has been questioned but his sons continue to dodge SP Kulasiri Udugampola in charge of the investigation. The previous government permitted PA politicians to include security forces and in some cases police commandos in their security contingents.

While implying that some members of the parliamentary group sought security forces protection, the premier has said that the MSD would be responsible for their protection.

DIG S.A.B.R. Solangaarachchi was recently appointed the officer in charge of the MSD. SSP Jayantha Jayasinghe will continue to be the director of the MSD.

"The MSD would be in charge of security of all except a few," an authoritative source said. Defence Minister Tilak Marapone, Interior Minister John Amaratunga and Opposition Leader Ratnasiri Wickremanayake would be guarded by the VIP protection unit of the elite STF.

SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem’s security would also be in the hands of the police commandos when he visits the Ampara-Batticaloa region or any other operational area. They would continue to be in charge of the security at Temple Trees, the source said.

The source explained that Wickremanayake had a bigger STF contingent when he was the premier. His contingent has been reduced, the source said while revealing that Anuruddha Ratwatte continue to retain part of the STF contingent he had with him at the time, the PA lost the parliamentary elections. The government was likely to consider any further deployment of the STF for Ratwatte’s security.

The STF especially those engaged in the VIP protection would be benefited by the ongoing US conducted programme aimed at improving skills of trainers from friendly countries. Two ASPs and two Chief Inspectors following their return from the US would be conduct training for others, the source said adding that 18 officers from the PSD, MSD, STF and the Prime Ministerial Security Division [PMSD] would be leaving for the US next month to take part in an advance VIP protection programme.

Jayantha Gamage has been appointed DIG in charge of the PMSD. ASP H.S.Wickremesinghe who was in charge of the premier’s security contingent when he was the Opposition Leader has been made director of the PMSD.

The STF would also continue to be in charge of the IGP’s security. The STF was brought under the IGP during the first term of the PA when the STF was accused of carrying out some extra-judicial operations against undercover LTTE operatives in Colombo.

The STF has been asked to provide additional muscle to the PSD over the past few years especially during elections time. However, this practice was likely to come to an end.

Police headquarters did not seek to implement changes in the PSD when the government ordered well over 100 transfers over the past three weeks. Controversial head of the PSD Nihal Karunaratne remains its director while DIG N.K.Illangakoon who replaced DIG Victor Perera following the LTTE assassination bid on the president in December, 1999, as the DIG, PSD too would continue in the same post.

The sources implied that President Kumaratunga has indicated that she did not want changes in the PSD.