Controversial Attorney General (AG) Dappula De Livera PC ruffled many a feather in political circles last night with a startling announcement that the President Gotabaya Rajapaksa-appointed Presidential Commission of Inquiry on Political Revenge has no statutory or legal authority to order the AG to refrain from performing his statutory functions.
The Presidential Commission of Inquiry to investigate incidents of political revenge (Justice Upali Abeyratne Commission) instructed the AG to suspend the examination of cases involving former Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) Commander Admiral of the Fleet Wasantha Karannagoda and former Navy Spokesman Rear Admiral D.K.P Dassanayake, until investigations being conducted by the Commission are concluded, the PCoI announced yesterday (27).
“The Commission has arrived at this decision on January 23 after taking up two complaints made by former Navy Commander Admiral of the Fleet Wasantha Karannagoda and former Navy spokesman Rear Admiral D.K.P. Dassanayake on January 22, for consideration,” said a statement by PCoI.
“President Gotabaya Rajapaksa appointed this Commission of Inquiry to investigate allegations of political victimization as well as interference and undue influence on the judiciary and police during the past regime in the wake of the flood of revelations of interference in police and legal matters and other abuses of power during the previous government.”
The AG recently filed indictments against both Karannagoda and Dassanayake and a dozen of SLN operatives at the Permanent High Court-at-Bar over the abduction and disappearance of 11 youth in 2008/09.
President Rajapaksa appointed three-member PCoI chaired by retired Supreme Court Justice Upali Abeyratne and comprising retired Court of Appeal Justice Daya Chandrasiri Jayatilleka and Retired IGP Chandra Fernando as members; to look into alleged incidents of political revenge of public servants during the period from January 8, 2015 to November 16, 2019. As such the PCoI is mandated to probe into the alleged political victimization of government officials, employees of state corporations, members of the armed forces and the police, who held positions prior to the 2015 January 8 Presidential Election and the 2015 August 17 General Election.
Last October in an exclusive report Colombo Telegraph revealed that (then) Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) presidential candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa was fully aware of the rogue elements in Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) that had led to the abduction and disappearance but had not taken any action whatsoever to rein in impunity in the armed forces.
However it is further learned that Rajapaksa had no action to counter illegal and nefarious activities carried out by these elements nor advised highest ranking pro-Rajapaksa navy officials such as Admiral Karannagoda, Admiral Ravindra Wijegunaratne and head of the legal section of the Sri Lanka Navy President’s Counsel Shavindra Fernando to mitigate these crimes.There is no doubt in light of such dastard complicity, Gotabaya Rajapaksa would have no choice but to release the navy personnel who had been remanded in connection with the abduction and illegal detaining of the 11 youth at secret underground cells at Gunside, Trincomalee Navy Camp as pledged by him on the election platform recently.
Colombo Telegraph exclusively reported last August that in a bizarre turn of events, one of the highest ranking former legal officers and former Assistant Solicitor General (ASG) President’s Counsel Shavindra Fernando informed court that he was not in a position to reveal details of the 11 disappeared youth by rogue elements of Sri Lanka Navy (SLN).
When the case was called up on August 21, PC Fernando, who retired as an Additional Solicitor General of the Attorney General’s Department, appeared after failing to give his statement to the CID on five consecutive occasions, along with a team of counsels led by Nalinda Indatissa PC appearing for him, informing Court that the ex-ASG would not divulge information on the matter, taking cover behind ethics of confidentiality and attorney-client privilege provided for in Rules 31 to 38 of the Supreme Court (Conduct of and Etiquette for Attorneys-at-law) Rules of 1988. According to PC Fernando’s counsel although their client was supposedly agreeable to share information and had requested for instructions from Navy, SLN had denied permission, instructing him not to divulge any information whatsoever over the 11 youth disappearance case.
Sources told Colombo Telegraph that following Fernando’s dishonourable and dastardly complicity in the matter, the Attorney General’s Department too had taken a position of not safeguarding the ex-ASG, informing Court that the Department would neither intercede not appear on behalf of PC Fernando. The Magistrate had reportedly ordered that notice be issued to Navy in order to ascertain whether it had really instructed Fernando PC not to divulge information and meantime instructed the CID to proceed under Section 255 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CCP) enabling investigators to record a statement from the ex-ASG.
Earlier providing a statement to the CID, former Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) Commander then Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda told the investigators that once he got to know of rogue elements in the Navy, he at once informed PC Fernando who was heading the legal division in the Navy at the time, to take immediate action. However it has now come to light that not only Fernando PC failed to take any action but deliberately tried to cover up and hinder evidence by intimidating witnesses, pressurizing the Police to favour selected naval operatives and exerted duress (as prosecutor) in order for his name to be removed (as suspect).
Whilst Admiral Karannagoda was implicated in the case, President Maithripala Sirisena, who came to power in 2015 vowing to resolve these cases, shamelessly promoted Karannagoda to the rank of ‘Admiral of the Fleet’ in mid-August, which was criticized by many.
In addition, the promotion comes hot on the heels of Attorney General admonishing the Acting IGP for not completing and for the undue delay in the cases pertaining to the assassination of The Sunday Leader Editor-in-Chief Lasantha Wickrematunge, murder of ruggerite Waseem Thajudeen, abduction of The Nation Deputy Editor Keith Noyahr and the shooting of 17 aid workers in Mutthur along with the disappearance of the 11 youth.
The Gotabaya Rajapaksa regime recently promoted Dassanayake, a long standing friend of the Rajapaksa family, as rear admiral, with a view to making him the next Navy Commander, even as the naval intelligence official faces trial by a special trial at bar set to be appointed by the Chief Justice.
Last year, the senior-most serving military officer – incumbent Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Admiral Ravindra Wijeguneratne’s was charged for his alleged links to the abductors of 11 youth along with Karannagoda for having knowledge of the crimes. (By Sandeepa Perera)