When conspiracy theories and cover-up stories gather speed | Sunday Observer

When conspiracy theories and cover-up stories gather speed

The recent revelation of the alleged assassination attempts on President Maithripala Sirisena and former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa have rocked the Police department while at the same time generating a lot of hot air in political circles.

The allegations come from a person by the name of Namal Kumara, a Police informant and a self-styled anti-bribery activist. Kumara alleges that Deputy Inspector General (DIG) overseeing the Terrorist Investigation Department (TID), Nalaka Silva, was instrumental in hatching a plot to assassinate the President and the former Defence Secretary. Kumara alleges that he has evidence to back up his claims in the form of recorded telephone conversations.

The recordings of these conversations are now the subject of a forensic analysis. The hope is that the truth about these allegations will surface soon, once the investigations into the claim are thoroughly investigated. We do not wish to comment on the issue further- and we shouldn’t, because we are not privy to all the facts relevant to the case.

We are therefore, not in a position to declare anyone innocent; nor are we in a position to convict anyone. All that can be said at this juncture is that the matter is being investigated with the highest priority by the Criminal Investigations Department. What we would like to comment on though is the reaction of some political parties to this controversy.

As usual, they are resorting to the despicable strategy of gaining maximum political advantage out of this issue, regardless of the adverse consequences that it can have on the reputations of individuals and indeed, on the impartial conduct of the investigation itself.

The person who should be complaining most about this is none other than President Maithripala Sirisena, apparently being one of the alleged targets, if such a plot existed. However, to his credit, President Sirisena has kept his own counsel and maintained a dignified silence, allowing the officers concerned to get on with their job of finding out who was responsible for this incident. The biggest noise however is emanating from the Joint Opposition (JO), not unsurprisingly, given they have few scruples about making claims without proper justification.

Why, just the other day, their head honcho, Mahinda Rajapaksa himself, was caught out on video, claiming that parliamentarian Dallas Alahapperuma was a victim of food poisoning during the JO’s disastrous ‘ Janabalaya Colombata’ protest campaign. Rajapaksa was saying that Alahapperuma was seriously affected by the food poisoning- which the JO claims was orchestrated by the government which allegedly distributed contaminated milk packets- and had to return to hospital.

He was oblivious to the fact that Alahapperuma was standing beside him even as the words were coming out of his mouth, while others nearby were squirming in embarrassment at the gaffe.

This time around, it is Alahapperuma doing the honours. Playing judge, jury and executioner all by himself, Alahapperuma is claiming that DIG Nalaka de Silva is the mastermind of the alleged conspiracy and should be arrested forthwith. He also wants the members of the National Police Commission (NPC) to resign because, as he claims, Inspector General of Police (IGP) Pujith Jayasundera is not following their directions.

It is obvious to anyone who does not have a jaundiced view on this matter that this is a complex controversy because a very senior Police Officer is being accused of conspiring to assassinate the country’s Head of State and a former senior official who might be a future presidential candidate. An investigation into such a delicate matter should be handled with finesse and professionalism, so that its integrity is not compromised. What we do not want is bull in a china shop a la Alahapperuma trying to impose their two cents’ worth, so they could get some political mileage.

What Alahapperuma is trying to say here is that the Government tried to get rid of two potential presidential candidates. Of course, there is no evidence to support such a preposterous claim, but why not put that thought out there in the public domain so that at least some people will be fooled by the propaganda? That seems to be the JO’s and Alahapperuma’s strategy. Yes, it’s the milk packet saga all over again, but on a much larger scale.

It must be said though that the conduct of Police Chief Jayasundera has also not been exemplary in this matter. For an investigation into a sensitive issue such as this where a senior Police officer is a person of interest, justice must not only be done, it must also appear to be done.

Therefore, it is important that the officer concerned be stood down until all investigations are concluded.

That did not occur initially. All that happened was that DIG Silva was transferred from the TID to another department dealing with Information Technology. That was not the best course of action because we then had Alahapperuma and the JO jumping up and screaming that DIG Silva was sent there to erase the data of the telephone conversations between DIG Silva and Namal Kumara, who made the initial accusation. It took a lot of effort to persuade Jayasundera to send DIG Silva on compulsory leave. In fact, it had to come in the form of a directive from the Law and Order Minister Ranjith Madduma Bandara who requested the NPC to send DIG Silva on leave.

The NPC then ordered Jayasundera to do the needful. Needless to say, when there is such dilly-dallying, it doesn’t help matters, and leads to all kinds of speculation. That is when conspiracy theories and stories of a cover-up begin to gather momentum. This Government has under achieved in the matter of finding and dealing with those accused of corruption and abuse of power.

That is one of the major reasons why it is not leading in the popularity stakes today. Therefore, we must hope, it will get its investigative act together and probe this issue properly and promptly.

Not doing so will result in speculation gaining currency and rumour being accepted as fact- and the likes of Alahapperuma will have a field day spreading their tall tales. That is the moral of the story, at least for the Government.