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Police, Armed Forces granted special powers to arrest troublemakers

The Police and Armed Forces on the ground have been granted with special powers to arrest individuals caught promoting or inciting racial violence and hatred under the State of Emergency declared yesterday afternoon.

The Presidential Gazette which brought into effect Section 2 of the Public Security Ordinance, has introduced new crimes under the State of Emergency, said Police Media Spokesperson, ASP Ruwan Gunasekera.

He was addressing a media briefing along with the spokespersons for the three Armed Forces at the Media Centre for National Security last night.

Accordingly, murder, injury, sexual attacks, damage to property, looting and attempts to create communal disharmony through the publication, speech and promotion of inciting material on social media will now come under the Section 2 of the Ordinance; carrying a sentence of 20 years and up to life imprisonment.

Further, individuals attempting or conspiring to commit such acts will also be arrested under the same Ordinance. ASP Gunasekera further explained that under Emergency, both Police as well as the armed forces have been entrusted with powers to arrest suspects. They however have to be handed over to the nearest police station soon after and produced before a Magistrate within 24 hours.

“Given the nature of the crime and if the police see a need to further question the suspect, the relevant DIG has been given the power to keep these suspects in remand for no more than 14 days for questioning”, said the ASP.

Any suspect remanded thus can only be given bail under special circumstances and they would be kept in remand prison until the case is complete. Relevant government officers have also been empowered to take action against individuals who spread misinformation, fear and hate through social media and promote information harmful to reconciliation.

The President had also informed the security forces that the police, army and other officers have a legal responsibility to ensure that these emergency regulations are not misused.

They are to be implemented with minimum disruption to public life and enforced with genuine intentions and to be enforced impartially regardless of their religious, ethnic or political affiliations, said ASP Gunasekara.

Responding to allegations that the Police did not act soon enough to contain the situation in Teldeniya, the ASP remarked that the police did arrest 24 persons with regard to the clashes but a special police team has been sent to Kandy to investigate into conduct of the police during the whole incident, “They will find out if the Police was at fault,”he said.

He however believed that through the Police curfew, mobile and foot patrols and the assistance of the army, they have been successful in containing the situation, “Not allowing the violence to spread was our main focus”, said the ASP.

The public has been asked to inform the nearest Police station of any attempts to arouse communal unrest in their areas.