Extortionists warned, quit or pay the price


By Don Asoka Wijewardena

The police yesterday warned extortionists that if they ever tried to extract protection money from anyone, they would have to pay a very heavy price.

Deputy Inspector General of Police Anura Senanayaka issued the warning at a meeting with wholesale and retail fish traders at the Peliyagoda complex.

He told them that President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Defence Secretary Gotabhya Rajapaksa and IGP Mahinda Balasuriya had instructed him to eliminate all extortion gangs who were terrorising the wholesale traders from Trincomalee, Chilaw, Negombo and the North.

Senanayaka said that 18 extortionists had been remanded after the STF and the Police caught them red-handed on Wednesday. He said any fish trader, wholesale or retail, could contact the STF if they were troubled by extortionists. Security at the fish market complex was intensified with additional STF and police personnel.

He added that some police officers were supportive of extortionists. It had been revealed that on several occasions, before the police conducted raids, information had been passed on to the criminals by some corrupt police officers. The police could not depend on all officers, but a majority of officers were performing their duties with a sense of responsibility and dedication, the DIG said.

He said that the STF would be deployed to protect the fish traders. Extortionists who had dominated the St. John’s fish market in Pettah would not be allowed to operate at Peliyagoda, he added.

A trader from Chilaw told The Island: "We come to the fish market early morning with a lorry-load of fish, but some extortion gangs come and demand money. If we do not give them money, they threaten and cause many problems. Sometimes they may even kill us. We are afraid to complain to the police for fear of reprisal.

Another wholesale trader, on condition of anonymity, said: "We are not satisfied with the security at the new Fish Market because when security is withdrawn the extortion gangs will creep in. As long as the STF is on duty no extortion gang will operate, but they will make a comeback.

Another wholesale trader said: "Fish traders have to pay Rs. 100,000 for one wholesale fish stall while a retail fish trader had to pay Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 20,000 for a stall. This is not reasonable at all."

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