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WhatsApp messages could complicate EC threats investigation

WhatsApp messages could complicate EC threats investigation

2 months ago | BY Mirudhula Thambiah

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  • Police say international element could create data complications
  • PAFFREL slams delay in identifying or arresting suspects

Since a member of the Elections Commission (EC) had received threatening messages via WhatsApp, Police Spokesman Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Attorney Nihal Thalduwa said yesterday (29) that this could cause delays to the investigation, as there are international legal requirements to be met to obtain information from the relevant foreign organisations. 

When queried at a media briefing whether there could be potential inconveniences in carrying out investigations over the death threats on EC members, since the threatening messages had been sent via Whatsapp, he said: “WhatsApp is operated from abroad. Sri Lanka has no ownership. They should be contacted to obtain information. WhatsApp is established under a certain legal basis in the specific country. They are operating according to international laws. Therefore, there could be a delay in obtaining information.”

WhatsApp, which is one of the world’s most popular messaging mobile applications, is owned by Meta Platforms Inc., an American multinational technology conglomerate based in California, which also owns popular social media networks Facebook and Instagram, among other products and services.

He explained that there is a lengthy process involved in international investigations, unlike in a purely domestic probe.

“They might have all the information; there may be information that is lost, and they may keep the information to themselves. When they provide information, it would be according to the laws they followed when establishing the network, the country’s law, and the existing international law. They will also function according to the treaties that had been signed between countries. Therefore, it could take more time than if the investigations were being carried out within the country, and thereby cause inconvenience too,” he added.

He further said that the Criminal Investigation Department(CID) is currently carrying out investigations in this regard and it was revealed that the EC members were threatened by the same number.

“During further investigations, it was revealed this number was connected to an address in the Galle District. The owner of this number is not in the country. However, it has been observed that the calls are being made from a foreign country. Therefore, assistance from the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission and Sri Lanka Telecom is to be obtained for further investigations. However, the individual is yet to be identified,” he added. 

He also noted security had been immediately provided to the EC members by the relevant police stations from where the complaints were lodged.

Meanwhile, polls monitor People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) Executive Director Rohana Hettiarchchi told the media that there had been threats to these members for more than a week from the same number.

“There had been WhatsApp messages sent, but the perpetrators are yet to be arrested. It is a serious weakness. If this is being carried out by an individual, group, or political group, the Government has to take responsibility,” he added.

On 18 January, two members of the Election Commission, namely S.B. Divaratne and K.P.P. Pathirana, had received death threats, demanding that they resign from their posts, following which an investigation was launched by the CID.

On 27 January another member of the EC, M.M. Mohammed was subjected to similar threats over a phone call.

Additionally, Divaratne had received threatening messages via WhatsApp on the same day.

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