POLICE in Malaysia have arrested five people in connection with the assault on the Sri Lankan envoy at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) on Sunday.
The New Straits Times (NST) reported that the authorities obtained a three-day remand order for the men, aged between 27 and 56, and are investigating them under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma), a preventive detention law that was recently enacted to replace the controversial Internal Security Act (ISA).
The arrests came after a group of men set upon Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to Malaysia, Ibrahim Sahib Ansar, reportedly after he refused to divulge details on the whereabouts of former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa during the latter’s recent visit to the country.
The attack later prompted the Sri Lankan Foreign Affairs Ministry to issue a statement condemning the incident “in the strongest terms”.
Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar was quoted in the NST as saying that police are investigating local groups who they suspect are Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) sypmpathizers who protested against Mahinda’s presence in Malaysia.
The authorities, Khalid said, are looking into the group’s possible funding links to the LTTE in the conflict against the Sri Lankan embassy.
Khalid added that more suspects behind the assault have been identified and are being tracked.
The police chief said the envoy suffered bruises on his face and body from the attack and had sought treatment at the Gleneagles Medical Centre.
“He is okay. We regret that this incident happened,” Khalid told a press conference.
“I want to warn these groups which support the LTTE that LTTE is a terror organisation that had been banned by the United Nations, and we, as a UN signatory country, can take action against them (LTTE supporters).”
A video of the attack at the airport from a closed circuit television (CCTV) camera has been making its rounds on social media.
In the footage, a group of five men can be seen cornering the envoy at a corridor, throwing punches and kicks before several auxiliary policemen arrived to break up the scuffle.
Many who watched the footage criticized the policemen in the video for not immediately arresting the assailants.
However, a police spokesperson said this was because the officers’ priority was to secure the victim and prevent further harm and that they did not know the identity of the envoy at the time.
Mahinda’s visit to Malaysia had drawn protests from a group of ethnic Indian Malaysians who have dubbed him a “war criminal” for atrocities and killings allegedly committed by the military during Sri Lanka’s civil war.
The quarter-century civil war ended in 2009 when government forces defeated Tamil Tiger rebels. The U.N. estimates that at least 80,000 people were killed.