Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) General Secretary Dayasiri Jayasekera yesterday denied that he had used political influence to get several suspects released from the Hettipola police station, insisting his intervention was only to calm a rapidly escalating situation.
Jayasekera told reporters at SLFP party headquarters that he was informed of a large group of people gathering around the Hettipola police station on Monday morning, while he was holding a public day in his electorate.
“A weapons cache was found near a Muslim village in Kudaweva in Kurunegala, and a group of people from the nearby Sinhala village had attacked the village. Bingiriya police then arrested six people, and transferred them to the Hettipola station. Once they arrived at Hettipola, a crowd of about 3000 to 4000 people gathered outside the police station and demanded they be released. When I arrived at the police station, it was clear that a very serious situation was brewing,” he said.
The SLFP MP stated that when he arrived at the Hettipola police station, Namal Kumara was already onsite, and sensing that he was here to escalate the situation Dayasiri had asked Kumara to leave Hettipola with his supporters.
“It was clear that there were some other undercurrents causing this unrest. Gangs of young men were descending on the police station from all directions.
The situation was quickly getting out of hand. I spoke to the OIC and the DIG in the area, and appealed to them to transfer the suspects to another Police station, so the crowd would not storm the Police station. At one point, the crowd broke through the gates, but we managed to push them back. We were worried that if the suspects were transferred in a Police jeep, that vehicle would also be attacked, so I offered to transport them in my vehicle to the Bingiriya Police station,” he added.
Jayasekera insisted that the Police had independently arrived at the decision to release the suspects on Police bail, and he had not interfered in that process. He pointed out the suspects were transported with the full knowledge and support of the Hettipola Police and a policeman travelled with the suspects to the Bingiriya Police station, where they were handed over.
“Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not a racist. I’m not someone who believes that the Sinhala people should have precedence over any other community. I get along well with people of all religions. Even after we transferred the suspects, I visited many shops and mosques trying to calm the mobs. I went and spoke with the Muslim communities, and extended my support. I could have done nothing, but I felt that as a public representative it was my duty to do what I could.”
He also called on the Police and military to conduct systematic search operations around the country, especially in the Kurunegala area, stating that one of the reasons for tensions to flare in the region was the Sinhala people feeling that their safety was not a concern to the security forces.
“Zaharan’s wife is from this area called Kekunuwella, and the Sinhala villagers felt that there should have been a more comprehensive search operation of that village to ensure safety. They felt that the Police and military had not searched the places well enough. I also asked them to focus search operations more in that area, but that did not happen. This led to tensions between the two communities.”