by Jayampathy JAYASINGHE
Human smuggling operations have occurred again with several persons falling victims to smugglers who extort large sums of money from them to be smuggled to western countries.
Thirty two persons who made an attempt to sail illegally to New Zealand last Thursday from a Negombo sea coast were arrested by the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) of the Negombo police on a tip off, the Police Media Spokesman SSP Ranjith Gunesekera told the Sunday Observer.
A police party led by ASP Katupitiya from the Special Investigation Unit arrested 32 persons from the Northern and the Eastern provinces who attempted to flee the country in a boat from a small port on the Negombo coast.
According to SSP Gunesekera 14 persons from Vuvuniya, 10 from Mannar and 8 from Ampara were arrested on Thursday at 8.15 pm. However the boatman had escaped with the boat before the police arrived at the scene. Detention orders were issued on the 32 suspects to be questioned further. The suspects told police that they paid a sum of Rs 300,000 each to a smuggler from the Vavuniya area.
However the main suspect after collecting the cash from persons had escaped. Meanwhile the police are on the lookout for the main suspect to ascertain whether he was involved in terrorist activities, police sources said.
Last month, a millionaire businessman from Sri Lanka was taken into custody in connection with human trafficking. Police said his victims were Sri Lankans, Bangladeshis, Pakistani and Indians who had paid large sums of money to migrate illegally to Western Europe and Australia seeking greener pastures.
In 2003, 254 Pakistani men and five Sri Lankans were taken into custody by the police when they boarded a ship at Tangalle trying to flee the country illegally.