It is now revealed that 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, the Colombo Telegraph learns.
In a B Report filed before Colombo Fort Magistrate’s Court last Wednesday (October 09) based on a statement none other than former Sri Lanka Navy Commander then Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda, Police Criminal Investigations Department (CID) states that investigators have ascertained that one-time Secretary to the Ministry of Defence Gotabaya Rajapaksa was kept well aware of the nefarious activities of rogue elements of the Navy.
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.
The Colombo Telegraph exclusively reported that 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 slected 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.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.
In February 2019, in a bizarre turn of events, CID informed Court that telephone records of certain accused in the case, accessed and available only to the private telephone operator in question has been inexplicably deleted for unknown reasons via high-profile intervention.
This is not the first time that evidence and / or witnesses had been tampered with, in this particular case, as Lt. Commander Galagamage Laksiri who is a key state witness in case was assaulted by CDS’s own security detail in front of none other than CDS himself on November 25, 2018. When Lt. Cdr. Laksiri later arrived at the Fort Police Station to record a statement, naval officers pressurized the Police not to record the same and when the Police visited the Navy Mess the next day, it was found out that CDS’ aides had tampered with vital CCTV footage.
Earlier Admiral Wijeguneratne was arrested on 28 November 2018 and remanded him until the 5 December. Before his arrest, it was reported that the CID unearthed fresh evidence of how Admiral Wijeguneratne harboured and protected Navy Sampath from arrest.
Startling revelations point out that the suspect Navy Sampath who was attached to the Trincomalee Naval Base had resided in the Officers’ Quarters at the base after fleeing lawful custody with the backing of certain officials of Sri Lanka Navy with the concurrence of the incumbent CDS, the CID further informed the Court.
The Police had brought to the notice of the Court that Admiral Wijeguneratne had provided facilities, securities and instructions to the suspect in order avoid lawful arrest.
In addition, under auspices of the Admiral, a sum of rupees five hundred thousand had been handed over to the suspect by Rear Admiral Hettiarachchi from an account maintained by the Commander of Sri Lanka Navy, for the suspect to travel abroad.
During the 51-day illegal coup regime, one of the first moves of President Sirisena was to order the transfer of the Officer in Charge (OIC) of the Organised Crimes Unit of the (CID) – Inspector of Police Nishantha Silva to the Negombo Police Division who investigated this matter along with other high-profile cases, bypassing the National Police Commission.
Colombo Telegraph reported that Director CID Senior DIG Ravi Seneviratne informed the National Police Commission that President Sirisena ordered the transfer of Silva after Chief of Defence Staff Admiral Ravindra Wijegunaratne, a suspect in the Navy abductions case, fabricated false allegations against the CID officer at a National Security Council meeting. The move to transfer the CID finally proved to be futile as the National Police Commission made a swift intervention compelling IGP Pujith Jayasundara to issue a backdated letter in order to withdrew the transfer of IP Silva. (By Special Correspondent)