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Sunday, 3 February 2013





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Police torch ganja plantations, key suspects absconding

Although torrential rain in Udawalawe and Hambegamuwa during the past few months caused havoc and devastation to paddy crops incurring a colossal loss to farmers, the rain did not adversely affect the illicit ganja plantations in the forest reservations of Galamunna-Orukengala located six kilometres away from the electric fence in the Hambegamuwa area.

An informant from Hambegamuwa who turned up at the police Anti-Vice Squad, at Walana , Panadura last week tipped off that vasts swaths of the jungle land in the state forest reservation have been cultivated with Ganja plants, (Cannabis sativa) a cash crop bringing a steady income to farmers than cultivating paddy on flood ravaged fields. The informant said that a wealthy businessman from Hambegamuwa was the master- mind behind the secret operation to grow ganja in the forest reservations with the help of corrupt officials of the Wildlife Department.

Around 15-20 acres have been cultivated with ganja plants and they were ready for harvest at any moment. The police should raid the plantation before the ganja plants are uprooted by farmers,” he said.

As time was running out OIC Duminda Balasuriya brought the matter to the notice of SSP Palitha Fernando who in turn informed IGP N.K. Illangakoon through DIG Staff DIG Ajith Wickremasekera. When the green light was given to go ahead with the raid Inspector Duminda Balasuriya hurriedly arranged a squad of 21 policemen and left for Hambegamuwa on January 22 and reached the Galamuna state forest reservation around 1 a.m. The policemen had to trudge for nearly two hours in the elephant infested jungles to reach the ganja plantations. They also had to be mindful of the muzzle loading trap guns laid across the forest by ganja growers to deter intruders from entering the area.

The police team split into four groups and entered four estates where ganja was gown on a grand scale. During the predawn raid police found six men at a hut packing dried ganja. “Four men took to their heels while two men were taken into custody with a haul of dried ganja, a muzzle loading gun and four mobile phones”, police said.

When dawn broke out policemen fanned across the field and uprooted several ganja plants and set them on fire. Two policemen and two trackers set out to an adjacent estate to seize dried ganja when they were confronted by eight men. They accosted the two armed policemen and the two trackers to a valley and said they were officers from the Wildlife Department.

The policemen explained that they were conducting raids on ganja plantations, but the Wildlife men refused to believe them. Following a heated exchange of words between both parties the Wildlife officers snatched the two T-56 firearms and 30 rounds of ammunition from the policemen and tied their hands. Thereafter they assaulted the two policemen and the trackers and having gagged them marched them out of the jungle to a waiting vehicle.

The vehicle proceeded to Hambegamuwa and stopped at a spot where people congregated. The two trackers were then taken out of the vehicle and further assaulted. The Wildlife officials then told a wealthy businessman that the two trackers were informants of the police and beat them further.

According to police sources, the Wildlife officers had worked hand in glove with the wealthy businessmen to cultivate ganja in the State forest reservation of Galamuna Orukengala. Following the agonising ordeal the two policemen and trackers were bundled back into the vehicle and driven for 26 miles all the way to Mau-Ara reservation where they were held up in a bungalow that belonged to the Wildlife Department.

When the sudden disappearance of two policemen and the trackers was reported to Inspector Duminda Balasuriya, he promptly informed senior police officers to send a contingency team to rescue them. It was learnt the Wildlife officials had not informed any police station or their head office at Hambegamuwa about the arrest. When the matter was finally brought to the notice of IGP N.K. Illangakoon, he ordered the OICs of Udawalawe, Sevenagala and ASP Embilipitiya to proceed to the Udawalawe Wildlife Office and investigate the abduction of policemen and the two trackers. However, the Wildlife officials have not provided any information to the police party regarding the abduction. With the intervention of the Director Wildlife, the captives were rescued from a bungalow in the Malwana area.

A search operation is under way to arrest eight officers of the Hambegamuwa Wildlife Department who are absconding and have taken refuge in the thick jungle of Galamuna.“The most daring event was the grabbing of firearms and ammunition from police officers,” police said. Following the rescue the Walana Vice Squad resumed the operation on the second day to uproot ganja plants in other areas by deploying a police team from the Moneragala and the Police Special Task Force.

The operation resulted in the destruction of ganja worth millions of rupees. Police believe that the four suspects who ran away from the ganja plantation was the mastermind behind the operation. An operation is under way to arrest them, police said.



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