A highly placed Navy official said today that the secret torture camp the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) is referring to could be the one commander Sampath Munasinghe, the personal bodyguard of the former Navy commander retired Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda had kept Tamil youth who were abducted in Colombo.
The official said that he had no-knowledge of three Navy officers being arrested in connection with the recent revelations made by the UN working group, as claimed by some media. However he said that there was confusion within the Navy regarding the recent accusations.
The Navy officer pointed out that the UN groups claims during a media briefing in Colombo and the subsequent media reporting, especially by the foreign media drew a picture in the public mind that the said camp was a new finding, unearthed by the UN team.
Contrary to this notion the officer said that such torture chambers which existed during previous regimes time were discovered much earlier and was revealed in the media itself.
He said that the UN team was given wide access within the Navy base to visit any location they wished.
“The way the team presented facts before the media indicates that either they were highly excited about what they thought was a new finding or it demonstrates their lack of foresight and experience about local ground realities” he added.
The Navy official said that these torture chambers did not exist after 2011.
On October 21 the CID informed courts that 11 persons, mainly Tamil youth abducted by unidentified groups in Colombo and suburbs in 2008 – 2009, had been detained at the Trincomalee Navy camp.
In this case, the CID has named navy lieutenant commander Sampath Munasinghe, the personal bodyguard of the former Navy commander retired Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda as the main suspect.
CID informed courts that a group accompanied by Munasinghe abducted five youths in Dehiwela area in 2009. They have also demanded a ransom of Rs. 10 million from the relatives of the abducted youths.
The police had found the National Identity Cards of four missing youth and passports from Munasinghe’s room. The CID told that the men had been detained at underground cells at the Colombo and Trincomalee Navy camps.
The CID also said that the former commander (Retd.) Admiral Karannagoda was aware of the abductions and suspects including Munasinghe would not be able to carry out such operations without the knowledge of the former Navy Commander.
Meanwhile yesterday the government said it would investigate on the UN team’s submissions.
Foreign Ministry’s Official Spokesperson Mahishini Colonne said “we are willing to investigate what the UN Working Group saw in Trincomalee. They said they had visited the secret detention camp and the government provided complete access to wherever they wanted to go. Very few countries have done this. They were given access to meet all officers at the base. Even when any request came from them at short notice we provided assistance.”
During a media briefing on Wednesday the visiting UN group members said that they had visited a secret torture chamber in the Trinco Naval base, Members of the team said that some dates prior to 2011 had been carved into the walls. The team said that they believed prisoners were kept for prolonged periods while subjecting them to torture.
Meanwhile the Tamil National Alliance claims that torture camps had existed in Sri Lanka long after 2010.
The secret camp named “Gota” located within the Trincomalee Naval Base, had separately held 700 Tamils and 35 Tamil families, the TNA had said earlier.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had earlier said a couple off months back “after we took over the government, there are no secret camps. I cannot speak for the time before that”.
Meanwhile the International Truth and Justice Project – Sri Lanka (ITJP) today welcomed the visit by the UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearance (WGEID) to the secret detention site in Trincomalee Naval Base High Security Zone.
The ITJP in a statement said that the WGEID team’s remark that systematic torture had taken place in the underground cells in Trincomalee and that the detention site, which was in existence for some years, could not have operated “unnoticed” by other officials, should be investigated.
“ITJP reported in detail on the Trincomalee secret torture site in July 2015 , giving the GPS coordinates for its location (GPS: 8’33’26’13 N, 81’14’32’87 E) and the names of naval intelligence officers whom witnesses say were in charge of the site. This information as well as detailed site sketches by survivors was shared by ITJP with WGEID in a confidential written submission before their visit to Sri Lanka. We note the new Government of Sri Lanka has so far failed to investigate the allegations regarding the site in Trincomalee” the statement added.
The ITJP said that this raises serious concerns about the pervasive climate of impunity and the Government of Sri Lanka’s reluctance to investigate and reform its own security forces, despite promises to the international community to do so.
The ITJP also urged the government to broaden the scope of investigation beyond Samapth Munasinghe and groups activities in relation to the torture camp in the Naval base.
The ITJP also noted that the two marine intelligence officers allegedly in charge of the Trincomalee secret site from 2009-2012, Lt. Commodore Welegedara until 2010 and then a Lt. Commodore Ranasinghe should be questioned in addition to the overall commanders during the period 2009-2012 of the Trincomalee Naval base.
Also the group recommended to Question the Naval Commanders in office during this period to ascertain if they knew of the existence of this secret detention site. They are Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda (September 2005 to July 2009), Admiral TSG Samarasinghe (July 2009 to 1 January 2011), Admiral D. W. A. S. Dissanayake (January 2011 to September 2012)
Click here to read the full statement of the ITJP.