A leaked copy of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) on political victimization reveals that it has been used to exonerate, white-wash and acquit without charge perpetrators of the most heinous crimes committed in Sri Lanka in the recent past and in many cases reward murderers, abductors, and money launderers with compensation by the state.
The report, first leaked on social media and thoroughly perused by Colombo Telegraph revealed that the Commission unanimously decided that the charges and indictments against every accused in so-called emblematic cases highlighted by the UN, including the murder and abduction of journalists, should be dismissed, the indictments in currently active trials quashed and the complainants acquitted and released.
These cases include the murder of Lasantha Wickrematunge, abduction, extortion and murder of 11 Tamil men allegedly by the Sri Lanka Navy, Welikada Prison massacres, the assassination of Tamil MP Joseph Pararajasinham, the assaults on journalists Upali Tennekoon and Keith Noyahr among many others.
Going a step further, the Commission has also recommended tough legal action against “respondents” in the complaints – including police officers, former commanders of the military, members of parliament, former ministers and deputy ministers and prosecutors attached to the Attorney General’s Department. The list of respondents recommended for prosecution also includes former Foreign Secretaries Prasad Kariyawasam and Ravinatha Aryasinha for their roles in the Jaliya Wickremasuriya investigation and president’s counsel J.C. Weliamuna and Upul Jayasuriya for their roles investigating the Navy 11 abduction and extortion racket and the Avant Garde weapons smuggling fiasco respectively.
The Commission has also recommended “compensation” for complainants facing trial for murder, kidnapping and extortion in Sri Lankan High Courts, that includes, inter alia, back pay, promotions, foreign workshops and “popular” school or university enrollment for their children.
The report reveals that the Commission has decided to acquit complainants from the highest-ranking military officers accused of conspiring to murder in the High Court, to sergeants and sailors who ran kidnapping and extortion rackets or abducted and assaulted renowned journalists.
Bar none, every suspect and accused in cases linked to atrocities committed when the Rajapaksa regime was last in power, have been exonerated through “evidence” led before the Commission, but largely based on hearsay and statements by the complainants themselves or witnesses on their behalf.
While investigators and prosecutors were summoned to appear before the Commission, these testimonies have not made an impact on any of the decisions and indeed, do not even get a mention in the report.
The Commission was chaired by the disgraced Supreme Court Judge (rtd) Upali Abeyratne and comprising retired Court of Appeal Judge Chandrasiri Jayathilake and pro-Rajapksa former Inspector General of Police (IGP) Chandra Fernando. The Abeyratne Commission has also acted to exonerate and recommend the acquittal of several Rajapaksa family members and close associates including Rajapaksa cousins Jaliya Wickramasuriya and Udayanga Weeratunge and the gun-runner former army major Nissanka Senadhipathi who owns and operates the controversial Avant Garde Maritime Security firm accused of smuggling Sri Lanka Government issue weapons on the high seas.
Wickramasuriya was facing charges of criminal misappropriation to the tune of USD 300,000 when he was serving as Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the US when his first cousin Mahinda Rajapaksa held office as President. Sri Lanka’s own investigation into the same charges was originally led by former Additional Solicitor General Yasantha Kodagoda, now a Justice on the Supreme Court. Ironically, the Commission has recommended charges against Wickramasuriya be dropped in the Sri Lankan courts, and the Sri Lankan Government work to restore his immunity as a diplomat through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and a lifting of the travel ban imposed on the disgraced former diplomat.
Ironically Wickramasuriya was indicted by a Grand Jury in Washington DC over the same controversial financial misappropriation in 2019. The Rajapaksa cousin was indicted in five counts including money laundering, wire transfer fraud and visa fraud. For years Wickamasuriya was a fugitive from justice in Sri Lanka and the United States. The other Rajapaksa cousin, Weeratunga was also a fugitive from justice for several years and the subject of an Interpol Red Notice before being captured and extradited from the United Arab Emirates following a lengthy extradition trial last year.
Alarmingly, the exoneration of perpetrators accused of grave human rights violations by the politically tainted Commission comes at a time when Sri Lanka faces mounting international pressure over its human rights record. Even as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet calls for justice to be served against perpetrators internationally, including at the International Criminal Court, the Presidential Commission on Political Victimisation provides the best evidence for the absolute necessity for international jurisdiction to take effect against those who violate human rights with impunity in Sri Lanka, human rights activists said.
In her report on Sri Lank to the 46th Session of the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva wchich will take place in February and March this year, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet made note of the Presidential Commission on Political Vicitimization, saying the Commissioner had “undermined police investigations and court proceedings related to several high profile human rights and corruption cases.”
“While the criminal justice system in Sri Lanka has long been the subject of interference, the current Government has proactively obstructed or sought to stop ongoing investigations and criminal trials to prevent accountability for past crimes,” the report states. The High Commissioner also warned that the Government may have worked to destroy evidence in these cases.
Colombo Telegraph will make the leaked report public to its readers and continue to peruse the 2000 page findings of Nandasena Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s Presidential Commission that has served as an instrument to help him to help his friends and family to escape justice in Sri Lanka. The report contains three volumes and is available here. Detailed summaries of the Commission findings particularly pertaining to high profile suspects and criminals will be published on this website in the coming days.
Based on our findings, the following persons accused of high crimes in Sri Lankan courts, have been exonerated by the Presidential Commission on Political Victimization and recommended for acquittal and released by the justice system. Compensation to the accused has been ordered in most cases.
Emblematic Case: Abduction of 11 Tamil youth by officers of the Sri Lanka Navy
Accused: Wasantha Karannagoda, Admiral of the Fleet, former Navy Commander
Status: Indicted in the Permanent High Court at Bar, Colombo for abduction, torture, extortion and conspiracy to murder 11 persons in 2008-2009
Emblematic Case: Journalist Prageeth Ekneligoda abduction
Accused: Shammi Kumararatne, Lieutenant Colonel, Military Intelligence 13 others
Status: Indicted in Permanent High Court at Bar on charges of abduction, conspiracy to murder and the Homagama High Court for the same.
Emblematic Case: Assassination of the Sunday Leader Editor Lasantha Wickrematunge
Suspect: Premananda Udalagama, Sergeant Major Retired, Sri Lanka Army (Intelligence)
Status: Facing charges in the Mount Lavinia Magistrate’s Court for his role in abducting Wickrematunge’s driver and involvement in the Tripoli Platoon which the CID found had been contracted to carry out the journalist’s murder in January 2009. Arrested and released on bail.
Emblematic Case: The abduction and torture of Journalist Keith Noyahr
Suspects: Amal Karunasekera, Major General and former Director, Directorate of Military Intelligence
Lt. Col. Prabath Bulathwatte, Lieutenant Colonel (promoted by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa) and former Commanding Officer, Tripoli Platoon, Military Intelligence unit07 other military officials
Status: Facing charges at the Mount Lavinia Magistrate’s Court for abduction, conspiracy to kidnap and torture of The Nation Deputy Editor Keith Noyahr, who was severely beaten at a Military Intelligence safe house in Dompe, Gampaha in May 2008. Arrested and all suspects released on bail, some continue active military service.
Emblematic Case: Assassination TNA MP Joseph Pararajasingham
Suspects: Sivanesanthurai Chandrakanthan alias Pillaiyan, former LTTE commander, current SLPP MP
Status: Accused of murdering MP Joseph Pararajasingham in a Batticaloa church on 25 December 2005. Charges against Pillaiyan in this murder case have already been dropped in the Batticaloa Magistrate’s Court and the Batticaloa High Court by the Attorney General before the Commission released its findings. (By Nimal Ratnaweera)