Moving with lightning speed, President Nandasena Gotabaya Rajapaksa has appointed convicted murderer Duminda Silva his Chairman of the National Housing Authority, dealing another crushing blow to his electoral pledge of “technocratic” “intellectual” governance.
A letter under the signature of presidential secretary Dr. P.B. Jayasundera, has notified the Secretary to the Ministry of Rural Housing and Construction of Silva’s appointment as Chairman of the Authority. Jayasundera’s letter is copied to the Chairman of the Urban Development Authority.
Duminda Silva, a long time Gotabaya-ally who was granted a presidential pardon last month, was convicted of the murder of SLFP strongman and trade union leader Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra and sentenced to death for the crime in 2016. The verdict was issued by a High Court Trial at Bar, and upheld by a five judge bench of the Supreme Court in 2018.
His appointment as Housing Authority Chairman vests state power in the drug kingpin and murderer and puts police investigators, prosecutors and Premachandra’s family at grave security risk. As Monitoring MP of the Defence Ministry in 2010-2011, Colombo Telegraph learns that Silva used his influence and power over the security forces to wage war against rival drug gangs, with a spate of murders being chalked up to “underworld wars” during that period. Highly placed sources told Colombo Telegraph that the brutal Welikada Prison massacre in 2012 was also in part connected to this drug-rivalry.
Silva’s appointment sparked outrage and derision on social media.
6.9 million on Duminda Silva appointment 😂😂😂 https://t.co/bamTXfATrT
— Muhammad Ariff (@AriffShihab) July 17, 2021
— dharisha (@tingilye) July 17, 2021
Politicians also weighed in on the appointment.
“Imprisonment, pardons and appointments by presidential fiat should not subvert the criminal justice system, nor be used as weapons against it,” tweeted Vice Chairman of the SJB Youth Wing and the party’s Chief Organizer for Weligama, Rehaan Jayawickreme.
I have known Duminda Silva for many years. But the rule of law, justice and the fundamental right to life are paramount. Imprisonment, pardons and appointments by presidential fiat should not subvert the criminal justice system, nor be used as weapons against it.
— Rehaan Jayawickreme(RJ)රෙහාන් ජයවික්රම (@RehanJayawick) July 17, 2021
Silva’s pardon was long expected under the Gotabaya Rajapaksa presidency with the two being intimately associated during the latter’s time as Secretary of Defence.
However, President Nandasena waited nearly two years before pardoning Silva, sources said because powerful sections of the ruling administration were vehemently opposed to the decision to release the convicted murderer.
The pardon was eventually issued after the Hiru broadcasting network revolted against the Gotabaya Rajapaksa administration, consistently airing footage of hunger lines and popular discontent against the President and his party. The attacks against the Gotabaya Government escalated soon after former CID Director SSP Shani Abeysekera, who cracked the murder investigation that got Silva convicted, was released on bail following an order of the Court of Appeal.
The network is owned by Duminda Silva’s brother Rayynor Silva, who performed yeoman service on behalf of the Sri Lanka Podujana Party (SLPP) in 2018-2019 in the run up to the presidential election that brought Gotabaya Rajapaksa to power. The channel’s focus while tearing down the Wickremesinghe-Sirisena Government was ensuring a SLPP Government would pardon and release Silva. For the same reason, the channel conducted a vicious campaign of slander and malice against top CID investigator SSP Shani Abeysekera.
Sources told Colombo Telegraph that Rayynor Silva was incensed by SSP Abeysekera’s release on the Court of Appeal under a Gotabaya Administration, while his drug-lord brother languished in prison for murder. Fearing a backlash that would bring down his government from the broadcasting giant, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa moved swiftly to pardon Duminda Silva. (Nimal Ratnaweera)