Top official of Sri Lanka’s independent police commission held

COLOMBO: A top official of Sri Lanka’s independent Police Commission was arrested on Thursday for allegedly being involved in a case relating to illegal gun-running and money laundering, the police said.

Saman Dissanayake, Secretary to the National Police Commission (NPC, was arrested on the orders of Attorney General (AG Dappula de Livera in the case, making him the second high-ranking police official to be arrested within a month.

The AG on July 5 directed acting police chief Chandana Wickramaratne to immediately arrest Dissanayake and seven others and produce them in a court after the Supreme Court rejected their petitions on July 4 to block any police action against them.

The case is related to the alleged illegal transfer of government weapons to Avant Garde, a private firm, from the Sri Lanka Navy. Avant Garde operated a lucrative business of providing sea marshals to protect merchant ships from Somali pirates in the high seas, during former President Mahinda Rajapaksha’s regime.

It is alleged that Dissanayake, the then Additional Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, had authorised the illegal transfer of weapons to Avant Garde. Dissanayake is accused of carrying out verbal instructions of the then Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, whose then deputy Damayanthi Jayaratne was also named as an accused in the case.

The private firm’s chief Nissanka Senadhipathi is the main suspect in the case and yet to be arrested. He is believed to have fled the country. Dissanayake is the second high-ranking police official to be arrested in the island nation.

Earlier, former Police chief Pujith Jayasundera was arrested for his alleged negligence in preventing the Easter Sunday bomb blasts by a local group despite having prior intelligence inputs.

Over 258 people were killed and around 500 others injured in the serial blasts carried out in the country’s three churches and as many luxury hotels on April 21. The National Police Commission is a key institution, set up after the enactment of the 19th amendment to the country’s Constitution in 2015.

The Commission is responsible for appointing, promoting, transfer, disciplinary control and dismissal of police officers other than the Inspector-General of Police. It also establishes procedures to entertain and probe public complaints and complaints of any aggrieved person made against a police officer or the police service and provide redress as provided by law.