Police inaction to prevent arson attacks against SLPP politicians in the Western province on May 9 may have been due to orders not to carry weapons to deal with protesters, a new investigation has revealed.A review of the role of the police at the time showed Senior Deputy Inspector General Deshabandu Tennakoon had ordered all officers under him to ensure that no personnel were issued with arms and ammunition in the run up to the May 9 violence.
In his two-page instructions to DIGs, SSPs, SPs, ASPs and officers in charge of all stations in the districts of Colombo, Kalutara and Gampaha, Tennakoon had said no weapons or ammunition should be issued under any circumstances to officers deployed to deal with the protesters.
This order dated May 5 had not come to the attention of a three-member investigation panel headed by former navy chief Wasantha Karannagoda appointed to look into the security lapses. However, the panel had uncovered an order similar to that of Tennakoon issued by the then army chief Shavendra Silva.
Deploying police without even their own personal protection is seen as a violation of departmental orders and an internal investigation had begun, a top official source said.Meanwhile, the private residence of President Ranil Wickremesinghe was torched despite 400 air force men being deployed to protect it. The airmen did not open fire to deter a handful of attackers who scaled walls to enter the premises and set it on fire.
Instead of dealing with the arsonists, a police Special Task Force (STF) unit outside the Fifth Lane residence of Wickremesinghe attacked a television crew angering the protesters and encouraging more people to congregate there.
Several people identified through CCTV footage have already been arrested in connection with the arson at Wickremesinghe’s residence.However, action is yet to be taken against police and security personnel who failed to ensure law and order.