A Muslim woman reacts next to a burnt motorbike and her house after a mob attack in Kottampitiya, Sri Lanka May 14, 2019. REUTERS
Sri Lankan Catholic priests walk past a damaged shop after a mob attack in Minuwangoda on May 15, 2019 - AFP
- Says arrests will continue as Police peruse CCTV footage, expand investigations
- Public and private sector employees among the remanded
- Police to send letters requesting disciplinary action to employers
- Over 5,500 Police deployed in North Western Province
- Curfew re-imposed in North Western Province and Gampaha as region remains restive
- Military opens investigation into Thunmodara video
- Dan Priyasad released on bail, Amith Weerasinghe jailed till 28 May
Police arrested and remanded 78 suspects involved in the anti-Muslim violence that swept through at least three districts, and re-imposed curfew in the Gampaha District and North Western Province yesterday as investigations into the attacks continued for a second day.
Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera, releasing a statement, said the arrests will continue as Police comb through stacks of CCTV footage to identify members of seemingly well-organised groups that rampaged through a number of areas, including Bingiriya, Hettipola, Kuliyapitiya, Dummalasuriya, Kobeiganai, Nikawaratiya, Minuwangoda and Panduwasnuwara.
“Employees of both the public and private sector have been arrested and remanded by Police. Not only will the Police continue to make arrests but they will take steps to notify the companies and State institutions those arrested have been employed and request the management to take disciplinary action against them as well,” Gunasekera said.
Over 5,500 Policemen were deployed in the North Western Province alone as the region remained restive despite assurances by security forces that the situation has been brought under control. Policeusually engaged inrecording complaints from the public, policing traffic, and apprehending illicit drugs and alcohol had to be pulled from their usual duties and deployed in Gampaha and the North Western Province to provide security.
“Some of these officers were engaged in conducting investigations. They were occupied with tasks integral to national security after the Easter Sunday attacks, but they had to be deployed to patrol these areas because of the violence caused by these groups,” the Police spokesman added.
Gunasekera also praised the support given by the military and other forces to restore calm in the affected regions.
Meanwhile three Superintendents of Police (SP), including Kuliyapitiya Division SP Oshan Hewavitharana, were transferred to new posts after approval from the National Police Commission (NPC).Kuliyapitiya Division SP Hewavitharana was transferred as Deputy Director of Kalutara Police Academy, while Nugegoda Division SP S.L. Sigera was transferred as SP to Kuliyapitiya. SP W.M.A.R. Fernando was transferred to the Nugegoda Division from the President’s Security Division.
In addition the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID), which was earlier under the purview of the Inspector General of Police (IGP),wasreassigned to Criminal Investigations Department (CID) Head Senior DIG Ravi Seneviratne. This was done by acting IGP C.D. Wickramaratne, Police said in a short statement on Wednesday.
The Army also launched an investigation into a video posted on social media that showed a man dressed as a soldier walking away seconds before a mob attacked a building in Thunmodara. In the video, a man wearing what appeared to be an army uniform stands outside a building and then walks away. Seconds later, about two dozen people, including young men wearing motorbike helmets, run over and throw stones at the building.
“The attention of the Army has been drawn to a video clip where a person dressed in uniform similar to that of the Army was watching while a group of violent saboteurs were in action in the general area of Thunmodara,” the Army said in a statement announcing the investigation. Two residents of Thunmodara told Reuters that a mosque and some Muslim-owned shops were attacked in the town in Kurunegala district that was hit hardest by the rioters.
Mahasohon Balakaya Leader Amith Weerasinghe, who was arrested on Tuesday, was remanded till 28 May by Colombo Additional Magistrate Shalani Perera. He was arrested on charges of breaching religious reconciliation and public peace. Weerasinghe was also arrested on similar charges last year, but was released on bail in October 2018.
However, Nawa Sinhale National Organisation Director Dan Priyasad was released on two sureties of Rs.500,000 each by Colombo Additional Magistrate Priyantha Liyanage. He,too,was arrested on Tuesday by the Colombo Crime Division (CCD) over his alleged involvement in the attacks. Priyasad was also ordered to appear at the CCD between 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. each Sunday