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Sirisena sacks official probing Rajapakse loyalists

Updated November 20, 2018

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In this 2015 file photo, Sri Lanka's president Maithripala Sirisena gestures after being sworn in at Independence Square in Colombo. — AFP/File photo
In this 2015 file photo, Sri Lanka's president Maithripala Sirisena gestures after being sworn in at Independence Square in Colombo. — AFP/File photo

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s president ordered the remo­val of a police chief investigating alleged crimes by the family and associates of his preferred candidate for pri­me minister Mahinda Raja­pakse, officials said on Monday.

The Indian Ocean nation has been paralysed since October 26 when President Maithripala Sirisena controversially sacked prime minister Ranil Wickre­me­singhe and replaced him with former rival Rajapakse.

Wickremesinghe insists he is still prime minister, lea­ding to a constitutional deadlock in the Indian Ocean nation.

In the latest twist in the ongoing crisis, Chief Insp­e­c­tor Nishantha Silva was trans­­ferred from the Crimi­nal Investigation Depart­ment on Sunday as he pursued inquiries into the close family and allies of Rajapakse, an official said.

Since sacking Wickreme­sing­he, Sirisena has taken the police under his direct control.

Silva investigated the killing of 11 children between 2008-2009 and had secured an arrest order last week against the country’s top military official when he was shifted on Sunday, an official said.

“He was about to arrest Admiral Ravindra Wijegunaratne when his marching orders came,” a senior police official said.

“This is a serious blow to half a dozen high profile investigations.” Wijegun­ar­a­­tne has remained the chief of defence staff.

Silva was also pursuing the killers of editor Lasan­tha Wickrematunga and inves­tigating Rajapakse’s former defence secretary brother Gotabhaya, who is accused of defrauding the state.

Gotabhaya Rajapakse was indicted in September on charges of siphoning off over $250,000 in state funds to build a memorial for his parents.

Silva was also investigating an alleged corrupt aircraft purchase from Ukraine when Gotabhaya Rajapakse was in power between 2005 and 2015.

Sacked PM Wickreme­sin­ghe has accused Rajapakse of seeking to grab power again in order to sabotage the court cases against his family and associates.

In August, a special court charged Rajapakse’s chief of staff with embezzling millions of dollars from a state insurance firm.

Published in Dawn, November 20th, 2018

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