The arrest of SSP Shani Abeysekera is a witch-hunt against the highly respected police officer for his work to uncover the truth behind the murder of Wasim Thajudeen, the disappearance of Prageeth Ekneligoda and the abduction of 11 young men by a gang of Navy officers, Counsel for the former CID Director told the Gampaha Magistrate yesterday (20).
SSP Abeysekera was being held under the firearms act, despite the fact that the firearms connected to the investigation are registered to the Sri Lanka Police, in order to ensure he could be arrested on the charges, President’s Counsel Wasantha Navaratna Bandara who appeared for Abeysekera told the Magistrate’s Court.
“There are two reasons for the arrest of Shani Abeysekera. One is the need to save ex DIG Vass Gunewardane who was sentenced to death for murder, the other is to punish Abeysekera for investigating the murder of Thajudeen and the abduction of journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda,” said Navaratna Bandara PC.
When the case came up before the Gampaha Magistrate the CCD also requested for an arrest warrant to be issued for former CID inspector Nishantha Silva who fled to Switzerland a few days after the presidential election in November 2019. The Magistrate issued the warrant and ordered Immigration Department to notify the CCD if Silva arrived at the airport.
Counsel for SSP Abeysekera added that the arrest involved an investigation from 2013 and the documents pertaining to this case were with the Attorney General’s Department. “Even though this case was prosecuted by the AG a representative from the AG’s Department is yet to show up for this case – we had hoped that at least today the AG would send representation”.
Former DIG Vass Gunewardane was successfully prosecuted by the Attorney General for murdering businessman Mohammed Shyam in Bambalapitiya in 2013. Investigations and evidence laid out at Vass Gunewardane’s trial revealed that the former top cop aligned to the Rajapaksa administration had been using police officers and family members to run a contract killing squad. Evidence led at trial revealed that Vass Gunewardane’s contract killing team had been paid Rs 10 million to carry out the murder. The DIG’s son was captured on CCTV footage driving the vehicle in which Shyam was abducted before his murder. The Attorney General continued to defend its case before a 5 judge bench of the Supreme Court which due to return a judgment on Vaas Gunewardane’s appeal against his conviction by a HIGh Court Trial At Bar.
DIG Vaas Gunewardane was running the Colombo Crimes Division (CCD) at the time of the incident and his arrest. The CCD has now been put in charge of re-opening a probe into the investigation of the CID’s original Shyam Mohammed investigation.
In August 2019 president of the pro-SLPP National Lawyers Collective Manoj Gamage, irate that the CID investigations had cleared Dr Shafi Shihabdeen of wrongdoing in alleged conspiracy to sterilise Sinhalese women, vowed that Shani Abeysekera then CID Director would “have to wear a jumper” in the future.
Disgraced army soldier and attorney aligned to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Ajith Prasanna posing as a saviour of military officials under investigation for gross human rights abuses being investigated by the CID from 2015-2019 has repeatedly issued threats against SSP Shani Abeysekera prior to the 2019 presidential election. Prasanna accused Shani Abeysekera of “writing the screenplay” for the Ranawiru Dadayama (witch-hunt against war heroes).
An array of rabidly racist Buddhist monks have also been heavily featured on Hiru TV issuing threats against Abeysekera and his CID team including Inspector Nishantha Silva and others. The channel is owned by Raynor Silva the brother of convicted murderer on death row, and former MP Duminda Silva. The CID investigation into the murder of Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra led to Silva’s conviction. His appeal to the Supreme Court was also rejected.
Legal experts believe the arrest of SSP Abeysekera is linked to the new Government’s decision to pardon Vaas Gunewardane and Duminda Silva by discrediting the ex-CID Director and eroding the integrity of the investigations conducted into their crimes. (By Chinthika de Silva)