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Minister Thondaman with the police at Bogawanthalawa on Saturday (pic courtesy Water Supply and Estate Infrastructure Development Ministry)

By Nalaka Ratnayake and Norman Palihawadana

Police and Water Supply and Estate Infrastructure Development Minister Jeevan Thondaman have traded accusations over the latter’s intervention with the Bogawanthalawa Police, following the arrest of a 28-year-old person involved in a dispute with the manager of a state bank in the area. The police arrested the suspect in Bogawantalawa town on 22 June, hours after the bank manager lodged a complaint.

Police said Minister Thondaman and a group of supporters had arrived at Bogawantalawa on 24 June in the late afternoon and berated police officers for taking the suspect, named Kalaichelvam, into custody. Hatton District Judge and Magistrate M Farookdeen has remanded the suspect till 27 June, pending investigations.

When The Island raised the issue with Minister Thondaman’s Office, a spokesperson said that the Minister had called for an impartial inquiry as the police had allegedly assaulted the suspect when he was taken into custody. The Minister had taken up the issue because the police had allegedly committed an excess, he said.

Jeevan Thondaman successfully contested the Nuwara Eliya District at the last general election on the SLPP ticket. The CWC MP was accommodated in the Cabinet in January this year by President Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Sources said that Minister Thondaman had summoned the OIC of the Bogawanthalawa Police Station Chief Inspector Sampath Bandara and three police officers who carried out the arrest.

The Minister has demanded the immediate transfer of the three policemen out of the Bogawantalawa Police Station and to assign one of them to the CWC main office at Kotagala.

Minister Thondaman has threatened to discontinue water supply to the Bogawantalawa Police Station, unless his demands are met.Hatton SP H.N. M. Dehigama, who arrived at the scene, had told Minister Thondaman that the officers couldn’t be transferred until the conclusion of an internal investigation. The senior officer said that the investigation was based on video footage of the arrest now on social media platforms.

Sources said that the suspect had inquired about the bank balance of another person and an argument had erupted when bank workers declined to grant his request, pointing out that it was illegal to release such information to a third party.

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