Thousands of police backed by Information Technology carried out a major search operation across the country yesterday (Saturday) and arrested over 650 wanted persons, but the high profile fugitive Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) leader, Galagodaatte Gnanasara, was not among them.
Police said in a statement that they completed the four-hour operation at 3.00 a.m. on Saturday and executed warrants for the arrest of 595 people wanted by courts while another 70 evading police summons were also rounded up.
However, Ven. Gnanasara, who is wanted for questioning in connection with several allegations of hate crimes as well as a warrant issued by a Colombo magistrate, was not netted during the search that involved 11,558 police, including 55 women constables.
Suspects who were rounded up during the operation were immediately screened using the police VPN (Virtual Private Network) which connects local police stations instantaneously with a central data base of finger prints, police said.
It was the first time that the technology was put to use in such a large scale. Nearly a thousand sets of finger prints were scanned. The prints revealed the identity of 62 registered criminals, police added.
The operation also targeted errant motorists, police said adding that nearly 500 people who were driving under the influence of alcohol were arrested along with over 300 who were driving vehicles without a license.
Nearly 200 were booked for dangerous driving and another 3,650 traffic violations were also detected.
Police said the surprise operation was initiated by Inspector – General Pujith Jayasundara and that there would be more such action taken by the authorities.
However, there was no sign of the Ven. Gnanasara who resisted arrest at Kurunegala last month and has gone underground since May 26 when police wanted to question him in connection with a string of hate crimes.
The warrant for the monk’s arrest was in connection with an allegation that he insulted the Koran in April 2014, months before the outbreak of deadly religious riots at Aluthgama where four people were killed and hundreds of homes were damaged in rioting.
The magistrate ordered his arrest after he failed to appear for a court hearing into the matter on Thursday.
Last week, police announced the first arrest of a BBS member in connection with four arson attacks in a Colombo suburb.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe vowed on Wednesday that he would not allow a repeat of 2014 anti-Muslim riots. With frequent stoning and desecration of Muslim-owned places, the government faces international criticism over its failure to tackle the violence and rein in the BBS.
In a video message released last week, the BBS denied any involvement, but accused the government of allowing Islamic extremism to flourish in the Buddhist-majority nation.