By Asiri Fernando
Suspected drug baron Samarasinghe Arachchige Madush Lakshitha, alias ‘Makandure Madush’ was shot dead yesterday morning. Madush is the latest in a long list of organised crime related suspects who have been killed while in custody, raising questions about custodial deaths in the country.
His death caused controversy yesterday, as a number of opposition members questioned the Government in Parliament regarding the suspect’s death while in custody of the Police. Former state minister for law enforcement and Samagi Jana Balawegaya MP Nalin Bandara questioned as what will become of the investigation in to ‘Madush’s drug trafficking ring’ and the alleged politicians who had given him protection.
Bandara warned that if due process is not followed regarding organised criminals and that if suspects in custody end up being killed under similar circumstances, Sri Lanka risks losing much needed international cooperation to effectively dismantle criminal networks.
According to the Police, ‘Madush’ was shot dead in a cross fire between officers from the Colombo Crime Division (CCD) and suspected gang members, when they attempted to free the diseased from Police custody. Two police officers who were injured in the incident have been admitted to the National Hospital for treatment. The incident had occurred at Lakshitha Sevana apartment complex at Applewatta in Maligawatta, Police Spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said.
According to DIG Rohana, the deceased had accompanied CCD officers to the apartment complex in Maligawatta on a police operation to find a haul of narcotics. The CCD officers have found 22 kilos of heroin at one of the apartments at the complex. DIG Deshabandu Thennakoon said two suspected gang members had ambushed the CCD team who were accompanying the suspect, opening fire with pistols. Two pistols have been found at the crime scene. According to the police, the fleeing perpetrators had lobbed a grenade at a group of policemen who gave chase.
DIG Rohana said Madush was wanted for the 2006 murder of Southern Provincial Councillor Danny Hittatiya and for his involvement in other organised crime.
The police has long suspected Madush to be a major drug trafficker and have said that he is linked to several high-profile crimes, including murders over the years. The suspect has also been accused of organising drug trafficking operations and other crimes in the country while overseas. “Madush was arrested and deported from Dubai in February 2019 and has been held by the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) on detention orders since his arrival in the country. The suspect was transferred to the CCD from the CID for further investigations last week,” DIG Rohana said.
The post-mortem in to the suspect’s death was scheduled to be conducted last evening. The CCD will continue investigations, DIG Ajith Rohana said.
“A special team, headed by the OIC of the Maligawatta Police has been appointed to investigate the death. CCD is conducting further investigation to the motorbike that was found on the scene,” DIG Rohana stated.
The body of the suspect have been identified by his wife at the inquest and his remains will be released to his next of kin once the post-mortem has been concluded, DIG Rohana added.