Govt. okays tighter security for CBK

by Shamindra Ferdinando
The government has partially accepted a proposal to increase security to President Chandrika Kumaratunga, a senior government spokesman said yesterday.

"We have decided to extend the high security zone around Janadhipathi Mandiraya on a priority basis," he said, adding that the gazette notification in this regard has been prepared.

Responding to questions, he said, the decision was based on a written request made by Presidential Secretary Kusumsiri Balapatabendi on behalf of the president. "Citing a serious Tiger threat to the president, Balapatabendi wanted the government to enhance her security on a priority basis," the spokesman said.

Subsequent to high level deliberations involving Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe, Defence Minister Tilak Marapana and Defence Secretary Austin Fernando, the government decided to accept the proposal in part as it would be impossible to implement the president’s recommendation in full.

"We rejected the move to include the Galle Face green within the high security zone," he said. "That would be ridiculous. Closure of the green would inconvenience thousands of people," he added.

"We are ready to co-operate with the PA and extend the security zone but not to that extent," he said, accusing the PA of spreading lies by claiming that the government was planning to endanger the lives of the president and MP Lakshman Kadirgamar by removing existing barricades.

There was never a question of reducing their security, he said, adding that they continued to receive the best of security with an elite army VIP protection team in charge of Kadirgamar’s security, the only politician afforded the facility.

The government is committed to enhance the president’s security and maintain Kadirgamar’s despite the ongoing constitutional crisis triggered by the president’s unilateral decision to take over the Development Lotteries Board (DLB), he said.

The government has also allocated Rs. 5 million for Kadirgamar’s security for this year. The previous government did not allocate special funds. Instead funds from various places including the foreign ministry were utilised.

The government was forced to reveal this with a view to preventing the PA from spreading lies, he said, adding that it was all a part of their strategy to take advantage of the crisis triggered by the Tiger pull-out from talks.

The PA on Friday warned of massive protests in Colombo and the provinces if the government tries to prune their security. The PA repeatedly accuses the government of endangering the president’s life by targeting her bodyguards. Dozens of her bodyguards including her chief bodyguard face several criminal cases.