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Sri Lanka reinstates top detective after outcry

Sri Lankan soldiers walk outside the prime minister's official residence in Colombo. Photograph:( AFP )

AFP Colombo, Sri Lanka Nov 20, 2018, 04.44 PM (IST)

Sri Lankan police reversed on Tuesday a decision sacking a top detective investigating a string of high-profile gruesome cases involving the rich and powerful, following intense protests.

The island nation has been politically paralysed since October 26 when President Maithripala Sirisena controversially sacked prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and replaced him with former rival Mahinda Rajapakse.

Removing detective Nishantha Silva was seen as the latest twist in the ongoing crisis as Sirisena struck up a new alliance with Rajapakse.

An internal memo by police chief Pujith Jayasundara -- seen by AFP -- said that Silva was being transferred back to the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) to meet "urgent service requirements".

Jayasundara had removed Silva on Sunday.

This came after Silva had secured a court order to arrest Admiral Ravindra Wijegunaratne, the country's most senior military officer.

Wijegunaratne is accused of protecting a navy intelligence officer who is the main accused in the abduction and killing of 11 children between 2008 and 2009.

Despite the court order, Wijegunaratne is evading arrest while holding on to his official position. He denies the charges.

Silva'a removal sparked a chorus of protest.

He is also lead investigator in several other high-profile cases involving the family of former president Rajapakse.

Silva was also investigating the 2009 assassination of high-profile editor Lasantha Wickrematunga. Military intelligence has been implicated in that killing, which drew widespread international condemnation.

Following Silva's removal, Wickrematunga's Melbourne-based daughter Ahimsa in a scathing open letter accused President Sirisena of sabotaging the investigation.

"Mr. President, if you try to stand in the way of justice for my father and other victims of brutality, you will fail," Ahimsa said in her four-page letter, released to the media on Tuesday before Silva's reinstatement.

Story highlights

The island nation has been politically paralysed since October 26 when President Maithripala Sirisena controversially sacked prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and replaced him with former rival Mahinda Rajapakse.