Chandrika hits out at moves to arrest security chief
By Nirupama Subramanian
COLOMBO, FEB. 2. The Sri Lankan President, Chandrika Kumaratunga, who is in tense co- habitation with a politically opposed Government, has lashed out at moves to arrest a senior police officer in charge of the Presidential Security Division(PSD) and said it was an attack on her office.
A court has issued an arrest warrant for Nihal Karunaratne, the Deputy Inspector-General of Police, who heads the PSD, for his alleged role in the violence during the December 2001 elections.
``The President is satisfied that the PSD has not been involved in any wrongdoing or irregular activities,'' her Secretary, K S Balapetabendi, said in a statement.
Besides allegations of being involved in violence during the election, the PSD has been mentioned in media reports on the killings of an editor and the Tamil politician, Kumar Ponnambalam, with the insinuation that the President was either behind these activities or aware of them.
Accusing the media of carrying out an ``organised campaign'' to paint Mrs. Kumaratunga and the PSD as ``a gang of murderers'', Mr. Balapetabendi said the President remained the supreme executive of the country for her elected tenure.
The statement said that in a meeting with the Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, the President had drawn his attention to the way in which ``these campaigns are likely to discredit the constitutional and supreme powers of the head of state``.
Mrs. Kumaratunga also informed Mr. Wickremesinghe of the harassment and arrest of supporters of the People's Alliance, of which she is the leader, the statement said.
After the elections in which the PA was defeated, Mrs. Kumaratunga handed over the day-to-day running of the Government to the victorious United National Front, but retained control of the PSD, an elite wing of the police. In a recent reshuffle in the senior echelons of the police force, the PSD was left untouched.
Crediting the PSD with saving Mrs. Kumaratunga's life when the LTTE made a bid to assassinate her in 1999, Mr. Balapetabendi wondered if the current accusations were ``a ploy to demoralise'' those who were responsible for the safety of the President within her house and during her travel on official and private visits.
``These allegations could also be considered as an attack on the office of Presidency created by the Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land,'' he stated.
The arrest warrant against Mr. Karunaratne was issued on a complaint by a police inspector alleging that he was intimidated and threatened with death by the DIG in the run-up to the elections.
The incident is said to have taken place in a police station in the constituency of S.B. Dissanayake, who joined the UNF after defecting from the People's Alliance.
A one-time confidant of the President, he is now one of her bitterest critics and is leading a campaign within the ruling coalition to have her impeached.
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