COLOMBO, Sept 16 (Reuters) – On an island rife with drugs, the arrests of three police officers had sobering consequences.
The arrests came one day after separate four-hour dash-bys by the two national police services in the eastern region of Galle, region where the drugs trade is booming.
The Defence Force, which spent several hours at a river boat launch on Saturday stopping bad-mouthing crowds of people and trying to calm down locals and tourists, said a day later that it had arrested two female squad members.
The home ministry said it had remanded two of its troops who served in Colombo’s Batticaloa district until Tuesday after a month-long assessment of the drug trade there.
“Problems in patrolling missions have increased but we are also making adjustments by increasing the number of police officers and by extending the hours and distances for patrol missions,” the ministry said in a statement.
The arrests come amid an ongoing power struggle between President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in which Sirisena and Wickremesinghe have accused each other of corruption and incompetence.
Since Sirisena took power in January 2015, an army of men and women have taken up positions in security capacity, including in defence and law enforcement.
Critics have questioned the security forces’ ability to stop the drug trade in high-profile places like Galle.
But the commandos who also caught the police officers said it did not appear the sums of money involved in the drug trade meant they could not stop the city’s drug trade.
“This is not the money of the drug lords. The money is here in a room that we have saved,” said Naiparatne, a commanding officer of the security forces at the parade in Galle.“Sometimes, you can help this act from the inside, from the hands of a brother or a son. You can assist them.”
Despite complaints that security forces have been accused of corruption in the past, a new joint field force which was launched in June is said to be more committed than the national force.
“We can not say that we are the experts,” said Udaya Nanayakkara, commander of a joint force that is tasked with fighting organised crime and stopping drugs.“But once we know the rules of law, we will do it.”
The joint forces, which join a former elite counter-terror operation known as Eelam Rajya Swaraj, started with six recruits and are recruiting another 15.In Galle, the army’s wing has three patrol officers working alone, who say they have helped their counterparts at the police. (Additional reporting by Aradhana Aravindan; Editing by Paul Tait)