The Rajapaksa Government has decided to appoint a Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Matale Mass Grave, believed to be of victims who were killed during the 1988-1990 JVP insurrection. It has been alleged that Gotabaya Rajapaksa was among the senior officers of the Army commanding the area at the particular time.
With the discovery of the mass grave, a judicial inquiry was initiated by the Magistrate of Matale, where a large number of parents made representations. The Magistrate made several orders in order to secure evidence on the crime. The Bar Association of Sri Lanka intervened in the matter as an interested party. The Magistrate Chaturani De Silva made several orders directing the police to record statements from those who came forward to give evidence.
Colombo Telegraph has learnt that after consultation with Secretary to Ministry of Defence, the Attorney General, Chief Justice and the military, the President has decided to appoint a Presidential Commission of Inquiry consisting of retired Supreme Court Judge Imam, retired District Judge and former Secretary General of Parliament Dhammika Kitulagoda and Retired High Court Judge Atapattu former Registrar of Supreme Court. However the terms of reference have not yet been released.
Legal circles are surprised that the investigation has been taken away from the judiciary which is mandated by the Criminal Procedure Code to oversee such investigations. The legality of investigations by a Presidential Commission which has no powers under the Criminal Procedure Code, needs to be examined, a criminal lawyer told Colombo Telegraph.
In the mean time, the Chatirika de Silva, the Magistrate who conducted the investigation into the matter has been suddenly transferred to Colombo. The transfer of the Magistrate is not part of annual transfers and is intended only to prevent an effective investigation into the matter. The transfer of Magistrates is within the powers of the Judicial Services Commission headed by the de-facto Chief Justice Mohan Pieris who was previously the adviser to the Defence Ministry and the Cabinet. His close association with Secretary to Ministry of Defence Rajapakse is well known.
Last year, C. A. Chandraprema, political columnist, wrote ‘Gota’s War’ eulogising Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s contribution to the crushing of the northern insurgency, indirectly rubbishing claims that Sarath Fonseka, as Army Commander, was the principal architect of the military victory. The book was written and published before the discovery of the mass graves at Matale. In the book, in Chapter 28 titled ‘The Second JVP Insurrection’, the author makes an unintended revelation. He writes at page 173: “On 1 May 1989, with Colonel Wimalaratne being promoted to the rank of Brigadier, Gota was made the commanding officer of the 1st Battalion of the Gajaba Regiment…With this promotion, he was posted to Matale as the district coordinating officer tasked with bringing the JVP under control. The first Gajaba Battalion, which had been in Trincomalee for nearly one and a half years, was brought down to Matale. Lieutenants Shavendra Silva, Jagath Dias and Sumedha Perera were among his company commanders in Matale…(p 177) Gota remained the security coordinating officer of Matale until the end of the second JVP insurrection. In January 1990, he applied for three months leave and went to the USA to see his family.”