Police stand their ground, clear ex-commando of wrongdoing

* Political bid to transfer Moneragala DIG thwarted

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The police have thwarted an attempt by some politicians, representing the Moneragala District, to engineer the transfer of DIG M. R. Latiff, the senior officer in charge of the area.

Police headquarters on Wednesday (13) cleared DIG Latiff of misconduct while strongly endorsing ongoing police action against politically influential criminal elements. Police headquarters spokesman SSP Prishantha Jayakody confirmed the decision taken by the headquarters.

Police headquarters alleged that the arrest of several politically connected persons involved in illegal sand mining at Kumbukkan Oya on Dec. 27, 2012 had triggered the ongoing dispute.

In spite of heavy political pressure to quietly drop the case, the police had gone ahead with prosecution, police headquarters stressed.

DIG Latiff, formerly of the elite Special Task Force (STF) incurred the wrath of some politicians for going all out against lawbreakers regardless of political pressure. Latiff moved to Moneragala in Oct. 2011 after the conclusion of the conflict in May 2009.

IGP N. K. Illangakoon, also formerly of the STF, has strongly defended measures taken by Moneragala police in the face of various interested parties making allegations against the police.

The Island learns that the campaign directed against the DIG was led by a minister, who had unsuccessfully intervened on behalf of the illegal sand miners. Much to the anger of the politician

concerned, the police produced the suspects before the Moneragala Magistrate and they were fined Rs. 170,000.

Amidst the dispute over the police action against those who had been engaged in illegal sand mining, the Moneragala police arrested four persons, including the brother of a prominent local government politician for attacking two police constables in the early hours of January 30, 2013. Despite the politician and his associates making a desperate bid to settle the case out of court, the police prosecuted them. The police said that the politician’s brother had been given a suspended sentence for obstructing a senior Wildlife official.

The police said that a section of law-breaking government politicians recently launched a protest campaign demanding the transfer of DIG Latiff after having failed to get him moved out of the region.

A senior police official told The Island that there had been a concerted bid to tarnish the image of the DIG due to tough measures taken by Moneragala, Badulla and Bandarawella police divisions against lawbreakers. DIG Latiff, who had served two stints with the STF and in between the intelligence, had insisted that the police were there to protect the law abiding populace.

The police said that law enforcement operations would continue against illegal sand mining, ganja trade, treasure hunters and various other vices.

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