Several policemen, including two inspectors recently discharged by Maligakanda Magistrate Priyantha de Silva, are planning to file separate fundamental rights cases claiming illegal detention and persecution by police.
The Magistrate late last month released them after Rohantha Abeysuriya, representing the Attorney General`s Department, acknowledged that there was no reason to continue with the case. `We were pleasantly surprised.` Douglas Nimal who was interdicted last December along with six colleagues, said. `We were accused of aiding and abetting a woman heroin dealer Zulfica,` he said. `Now investigating officers acknowledge they did not have anything to continue with the investigation,` he said.
`The media crucified us. We were labelled the scum of the earth,` he said. `That was the undeniable truth,` he said, adding, `...they made the decision to target us, and it was irrevocable,` he said, levelling a series of accusations against a group of senior officers and their acolytes.
Shortly after their release the officers appealed to IGP Chandra Fernando to reinstate them. `We are confident the IGP would swiftly respond to our plea,` he said.
A former police commando with a nine-year unblemished service record, Nimal emphasised that he had not met Zulfica or at least given her a call let alone sleep with her as some speculated. He insisted that his victimised colleagues Inspector Devage Anura, Sub Inspector Pushpakumara and Constables Sunil Kithsiri, Duncan Fernando and S. R. de Soysa did not have anything to do with Zulfica or any other narcotics dealer.
Nimal had joined the police as a Sub Inspector on May 15, 1987. After initial training he had been attached to the elite Special Task Force (STF) deployed in the Batticaloa district. `For almost ten years I served with some of the best troops we ever had,` he said. `I was involved in a series of battles with terrorists. I served the commandos with distinction, subsequently commanded some detachments,` he said. His career with the para-military wing of the department ended on September 31, 1996.`
He acknowledged that in Batticaloa he knew the enemy. `But in the concrete jungle, you never know,` he asserted. He briefly recalled the timely detection and removal of time bombs set at Pottuvil Muslim Vidyalaya with the help of an officer identified as Wettasinghe.
What is now dubbed as the Zulfica affair started with a fax received by Inspector Douglas Nimal, in charge of the Vice Branch of Dematagoda Police, on December 27, 2005. He had been asked to report to the Colombo Crime Division (CCD) at 9 am the following day. The CCD indicated that my presence was required to facilitate an investigation conducted under the purview of DIG Colombo Pujitha Jayasundera. The fax had been signed by CCD Director SSP Sarath Lugoda.
At the CCD he had met four officers attached to the Borella Police, namely, Inspector Devage Anura, Sub Inspector Pushpakumara and Constables Sunil Kithsiri and Duncan Fernando. Constable S. R. de Soysa had been taken in subsequently.
`We were asked to enter the director`s office where seven CCD officers were seated. We were bluntly told of the decision to arrest us,` the interdicted police officer said. `We were ordered to take off our uniforms,` he said as five CCD officers walked out of the director`s office. `The remaining Inspector was asked to detain us. We were locked up with three armed policemen including a Sub Inspector guarding as if we would try to flee,` he said. `Our statements were recorded on December 28,` he said, claiming that they were not given anything to eat before they were taken to the Judicial Medical Officer on the following day around 2 pm. `There was only tap water,` he said.
`Shortly thereafter, we were produced before Maligakanda Magistrate and remanded till January 12,` he said.
`We were remanded in P ward where notorious goons were held. We protested prompting authorities to transfer us. Six of us were dispersed. I ended up at Mahara with Pushpakumara. We were locked up with a group of mental patients. There were about 40 of them. We suffered there for three weeks. Some days they harassed our relatives. They were kept waiting for hours and some days they were allowed in at 3 pm after waiting outside for six hours.`
He said that he faced numerous problems as he did not give in to unreasonable men. He revealed an incident in 2001 at Obeysekerapura where he confronted a group of PSD personnel and notorious gangster Baddegane Sanjeeva when they stormed a polling booth. `They came in six vehicles. We resisted. This triggered an exchange of fire,` he said, claiming that PSD stormed Welikada police as part of their tactics. Two wounded PSD personnel were rushed to Nawaloka before airlifting them to India. `But I did not receive any help. All of us were ignored,` he said adding that politicians and the top brass always looked after the interests of the wrongdoers.
He claimed that he was subjected to criticism over his vehicle colliding with Minister Arumugam Thondaman`s vehicle. Subsequently there was another incident with a co-ordinating secretary to the then Minister M. H. Mohamed. `I did not give in to political pressure and was transferred. Minister`s henchman vowed to transfer me within two hours. He transferred me but I sought Supreme Court intervention. The transfer was cancelled. Then there was another move to get rid of me. I again appealed to the Supreme Court.`
Once the cases were over he had launched a series of successful operations. Then again the officer had been transferred to four Colombo police stations between December 2004 and April 2005. `I was moved to BMICH, Wellawatte, Kotahena and Dematagoda,` he said, adding, `I was given normal duties and was not given the opportunity to crackdown on organised crime.`
He had been promoted to the rank of Inspector on September 1, 1993 on the recommendation of the then STF Commandant the late Lionel Karunasena.
He said that he was given the opportunity to go after organised crime after DIG Pujitha Jayasundera took over Colombo. `I pounced on known targets,` he said, adding that 500 gms of heroin was recovered on December 6, 2005. Six suspects were taken. Among the other raids were the detection of a major pilferage of medicine and equipment from the Castle Hospital and the arrest of several persons carrying out a major kassippu distilling operation behind Kolonnawa oil tanks farm.
Sub Inspector Pushpakumara had arrested over 2,000 persons during a three-year period.
Fielding questions, Nimal said that he led a raid on a hideout used by the underworld on October 22, 2004. He claimed that the raid angered some influential officers. `I was a marked man,` he said. Although he had brought this to the notice of the higher ups nothing had been done. But the last incident leading to the alleged frame-up had been the raid on a Kudu den in the Borella police area on August 19 last year. According to him the suspects had captured the lucrative market after police, particularly the STF, targeted the Olcott`s gang.
The Borella raid triggered petitions, he said. ` I was accused of aiding and abetting heroin dealers. I was questioned by a senior officer. I denied all charges,` he said.
According to him Zulfica had been arrested by Bambalapitiya police on December 16, 2005 with 500 packets of heroin. Under interrogation the suspect had revealed that she received her supplies from a person identified as Kosala, the elder sister of Kudu Noor and the wife of Shyam, a notorious heroin dealer arrested at his Ward Place mansion with 23 kgs of heroin. The woman also revealed her association with an interdicted Inspector.
But now all had been discharged leaving only Zulfica behind bars. Nimal said that he would fight for justice.