The Galle Magistrate has impounded the passport of former Defence Secretary, Gotabaya Rajapaksa over CID investigations into the controversial floating armoury.
The action was taken after the Attorney General’s Department consulted Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe with a recommendation that Gotabaya be taken into custody together with three others for alleged violation of the Firearms Ordinance and other laws. It is over the floating armoury owned jointly by Rakna Arakshaka Lanka Limited, a fully government owned company and Avant Garde Maritime Services Limited, a privately owned company.
Prime Minister Wickremesinghe has said that the former Defence Secretary should not be taken into custody. He has stated that an arrest would lead to problems for his government and directed that all other legal steps should be taken. Others whose passports were impounded today (Monday) are Vice Admiral (retired) Somatilleke Dissanayake, a former Commander of the Navy, Major General (retd.) K.B. Egodawala, Chairman of Rakna Lanka and Manjula Yapa, Managing Director of Avant Garde.
The CID is conducting investigations into how former Defence Secretary Gotabaya gave government owned weapons to a private company in reported violation of laws. A key Defence Ministry official whom the Police wanted to impound the passport, Damayanthi Jayaratne had left Colombo for New Zealand where her family is living. She has left before she was arrested. There are allegations that inside help were obtained. It is claimed that she issued all instructions to Avant Garde for handing over of weapons and that private company was enjoying the sole monopoly of renting state owned weapons to private parties overseas. Millions of dollars have been earned by this company. They had provided money and a fleet of vehicles for former President Rajapaksa’s presidential election campaign.
The owner of the Avant Garde company Yapa Nissanka Senadhipathi who retired from the Army is known to be a close friend of Gotabaya and has been spending billions of rupees for different tasks given by him. CID is this week expected to question Major General (retd)Kapila Hendawitharana, former Chief of National Intelligence over the scandal they are probing.
Senadipathi’s role in obtaining the support of important persons in the government has become a huge controversy. His passport remained impounded. However, Police did not object to bail when their counsel made an application to the Fort Magistrate to enable him to travel to Nigeria. In June 2014, Senadipathi had led a delegation to Nigeria which included Chief of the Defence Staff Major General Jagath Jayasuriya, Mrs Damayanthi Jayaratne and Hendawitharana. His power with Gotabaya was so much no one wanted to object to an official delegation going. Now, after Sri Lanka government began investigations, the Nigerian government is investigating whether any weapons from Sri Lanka have gone into the hands of terrorist group Boko Haram.
There was high embarrassment for two people who were openly supporting the Avant Garde case. One was Tilak Marapana PC, who is counsel for Senadipathi and also advisor to the Anti Corruption sub committee of the government. Other is Wijedasa Rajapakshe, Minister of Justice. At a meeting of the committee, when Anura Kumara Dissanayake, the JVP leader and Champika Ranawaka, the JHU leader raised questions, Solicitor General Suhada Gamlath could not keep quiet. He disclosed that Marapana directed him not to object when an application is made to have the passport of Senadipathi returned for him to travel to Nigeria. Gamlath said he checked with Justice Minister Rajapakshe. He had said he was asked not to object and go slow with the case.
This is how Anura Kumara Dissanayake told several public meetings that Rajapakshe was trying to black out the investigation. Of course Rajapakshe has denied this and goes on to give interviews to media that he is innocent. Leader of House Lakshman Kiriella told Parliament that operations of Rakna Lanka and Avant Garde were legal. Presidential inquiries had revealed that the reply which Kiriella read out had been prepared by Defence Secretary K.M.D. Basnayake. He is the same person who had granted leave for Damayanthi Jayaratne to travel to New Zealand.