Inspector General of Police Mahinda Balasuriya launched an internal inquiry into the conduct of officers of the Slave Island police station regarding the action they took to control Monday’s mob attack on the Maharajah Broadcasting Company/Sirasa TV and radio headquarters at Braybrooke Place Colombo 2.
A senior police officer told the Sunday Times the IGP appointed a team to probe the matter in the backdrop of high ranking politicians and pressure groups requesting him to investigate the incident.
The officer said one of the matters which is being investigated was why the Slave Island police used newly passed-out police officers who lacked experience in crowd control at last Monday’s attack on the Sirasa headquarters.
|Sirasa office employees gather at the gate after the attackers fled the scene
The Sunday Times also learned hours after the incident, a close aide of Minister Mervyn Silva met the Officer-in-charge of the Slave Island police station -- Chief Inspector Marlin Perera.
The Slave Island police eventually granted police bail to the 16 suspects who were arrested before the case was taken up last Tuesday at the Colombo Fort Magistrate’s Court.
While no other suspects were arrested or even identified, police requested the video tapes claiming they wanted to identify those responsible for the attack.
The Colombo Fort Magistrate Lanka Jayaratna on Thursday ordered the 16 persons released on police bail be produced in Court on April 1.
OIC Slave Island police Marlin Perera told the Sunday Times the mob that attacked Sirasa TV could be tried for unlawful assembly, assault and mischief.
“We got their statements and released them as they said they were not involved in the matter. We are probing the case so we cannot come to any conclusion as to who may have been responsible,” he said.
However, a senior police officer said unlawful assembly, assault and mischief, fall under the category of grave crime which the police in most cases have to produce the suspects before Court. He said the police had no power to grant bail in offences related to grave crime.
Akon’s use of scantily clad female dancers performing in front of a statue of Lord Buddha caused outrage amongst sections of the country’s Buddhist community.
The 16 persons who were arrested at the scene told police they were members of the Youth Buddhist Organization from Kelaniya.
They said they were not part of the mob which attacked Sirasa, but were peacefully demonstrating.
They added while protesting, Sirasa TV employees started to jeer and provoke them by lighting fire crackers and pelting stones.
However video footage of the incident contradicts the statements made by the suspects.
Last Monday a mob arrived at the Sirasa headquarters in two SLTB buses which operate from the Kelaniya bus depot. They had paid Rs.10, 000 to hire both busses.
The mob made attempts to break into the complex.
Sirasa TV security personnel had stopped the mob by retaliating — throwing the very rocks that were thrown at the complex. They then used high powered water cannon – meant to extinguish fire – and prevented the mob from entering. The mob was later seen falling behind and scattering all over Braybrooke Place.
Police arrived at the scene one hour after they were notified of a mob gathering near the Sirasa headoffice.
The rest got into the SLTB buses and left the scene. It is learnt two police bikes tailed behind one of the busses and stopped it near the Vihara Mahadevi Park. The officers who stopped the bus eventually let them go.
Among the mobsters caught on video footage pelting stones at the complex were Kelaniya Pradeshya Sabha members Chathua Dhanushka, Sarath Chandra Dias and Hasitha Madawalla. Another individual has been identified as Ranjith Samarasinghe.
The Managing Director of Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau, Dilip Mudadeniya told the Sunday Times they played no part in organizing the event and were only providing logistical support.
“The main organizers Platinum Entertainment asked us for our assistance. Normally when major international artists visit Sri Lanka the organizers ask for logistical support from the Tourism Ministry.
We were never part of the organizing team and we are bound by a government directive of not issuing a visa to Akon,” he said.
SLPI deplores attack on MBC offices
The Sri Lanka Press Institute (SLPI) condemned the attack by a mob on the offices of the Maharajah Broadcasting Company on March 22, and called on the authorities to ensure those identified are severely dealt in accordance with the law and to take all steps to prevent such violent occurrences against the media.
Issuing a statement the SLPI said violence against the media was alarming and this could be construed as an attack on democracy. “This attack endorses what newspaper editorials have been highlighting for some time now - a breakdown of the rule of law. This certainly cannot create an environment conducive for investment for local or international business,” the statement said.
The statement said published reports indicated the mob arrived in a bus during daytime and proceeded to throw stones while trying to force their way into the office grounds.
The SLPI further added reports indicate the police had taken over an hour to arrive at the scene giving time to the mob to cause damage to the offices.
“It is now reported that the suspects arrested by the police were later released on bail inspite of these violent and illegal activities that caused damage to a legal business entity. Surprisingly the assailants were not produced before Court.”
“That such an attack could be carried out by these persons coming into the heart of the city despite the presence of check points and the prevailing emergency regulations to attack a legitimate business is, in itself, a matter for great concern”, the statement said.
The statement recalled the MTV/MBC television stations at Pannipitiya were destroyed in January 2009 without the assailants being brought to book.
SORRY, NO REFUNDS
With the cancellation of the visa of Grammy nominated American rapper Akon who was due to perform at the SSC grounds on April 24, the main organizers Platinum Entertainment have refused to refund tickets sold for the event.
Many disgruntled ticket holders called at the Platinum Entertainment office in Colombo in order to request for a refund, but were told that tickets would not be refunded.
One ticket holder who bought five Rs.2,500 tickets told the Sunday Times he had called on Platinum Entertainment to get a refund, but was told they were not refunding ticket as they were hoping to bring down replacement artistes
We bought the tickets expecting to see Akon. Now they are refusing to make payment.
Platinum Entertainment has cheated us. They should be responsible and refund the tickets and protect the reputation of their company,” he said. The Akon concert tickets were priced between Rs. 2,500 and Rs. 25,000.
The Sunday Times learns Platinum Entertainment is trying to come to terms with the Tourism Ministry to bring other artists such as Kelly Rowland, Pit Bull and Jay Sean to perform on April 24.
Despite many efforts made by the Sunday Times to contact Lasantha Samarasinghe, Director Platinum Entertainment and find out why his company was not refunding the tickets, Samarasinghe was not available for comment.