On the eleventh anniversary of the end of the war in Sri Lanka, the President, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, intentionally promoted officers to the rank of Major General who should have been vetted and screened out of any official position, in accordance to Sri Lanka’s commitments under UN resolution 30/1 to security sector reform.
“The choice of these individuals is a highly politicised one which again sends a message to Sri Lankans and the international community that even lip service to reconciliation is off the agenda. This is yet another insult to victims and reeks of brazen impunity,” said the ITJP’s Executive Director, Yasmin Sooka.
The most striking promotion is of Andige Priyanka Indunil Fernando who was found guilty in absentia by a UK court of public order offences, while a Sri Lankan diplomat. He was convicted of making threatening throat slitting gestures at Tamil protestors outside the Sri Lankan High Commission building in 2018. Since returning to Sri Lanka he has been repeatedly promoted and hailed as a hero despite his criminal actions.
“The message to army officers – and diplomats – is if you go around the world insulting and threatening the Tamil diaspora you will be rewarded,” said Sooka. “It is also an acute show of disrespect for the judicial system in the UK”.
Another resounding blow for accountability is the promotion of former special forces commander, Harendra Parakrama Ranasinghe. He was identified in a video as one of the soldiers accepting the surrender of a female Tamil TV presenter known as Isaipriya in May 2009, whom a UN Inquiry found was shortly afterwards executed whilst in army custody. Ranasinghe to date has never been questioned about what happened though he’s clearly visible in the video with Isaipriya, whose semi-naked corpse was also seen in trophy photographs.
“One has to ask what it means to Isaipriya’s surviving family – driven into exile – to see a material witness to their daughter’s execution promoted to Major General,” said Sooka.
Channa D. Weerasuriya was 512 Brigade commander in Jaffna at a time when the unit, and other units, were allegedly involved in the detention and torture of Tamil suspects, some of whom the ITJP has interviewed.
The promotions come against a backdrop of increased militarisation and civilian jobs being given to retired and serving officers close to the President. A war commemoration event involving the armed forces was permitted to go ahead in Colombo this week despite concerns about Covid-19 but security forces used the virus as an excuse to prevent such memorialisation by Tamils in the north-east.
“What we are seeing is the “normalisation” of military influence in the civilian sphere,” said Sooka, “informal networks are becoming formalised under President Rajapaksa with the result that impunity is further entrenched”.
The Five Major Generals
1. Major General Andige Priyanka Indunil Fernando
Gemunu Watch, Staff Number: O/60847.
Promoted after the war in 2009.
2014: Commander 511 Brigade.
Priyanka Fernando was found guilty of a public order offence by a UK court after making throat slitting gestures at Tamil Protestors which he is appealing.
He was also active in frontline combat in the 2009 war.
Current Secretary of Defence, Kamal Gunaratne, said he commanded Brigadier Fernando in the 2009 war. In March 2019, well aware of the controversy over the throat slitting gesture, Kamal Gunaratne repeated the gesture himself on camera, indicating his support for Brigadier Fernando by saying the whole incident made his blood boil.
2. Major General Harendra Parakrama Ranasinghe
Special Forces, Staff Number: O/60846,
Promoted after the war in 2009.
571 Bde. commander in 2009: 17 Dec. 2008- 6 Aug. 2009. (See ITJP Dossier on Jagath Dias and 57 Division).
There is a video of the prominent Tamil TV broadcaster and singer known as Isaipriya surrendering unarmed at the lagoon edge in May 2009; photographs have also been published showing her corpse. The 2015 UN investigation concluded that Isaipriya was executed after surrendering to the Sri Lankan Army. Witness testimony has identified Lt Col Harendra Ranasinghe of the Special Forces in the video as one of the people accepting the surrender of Isaipriya; though there’s no indication he was responsible for her execution but he would likely know who was.
He went on to become the defence attache in Washington in 2014- 2015.
3. Major General T. Jagath Kodithuwakku
SLLI – Sri Lankan Light Infantry, Staff Number: O/60845,
Promoted after the war in 2009
10 SLLI: 2 Sep. 2006-30 Nov. 2008 – under 581/571 Bde. which is 58 and 57 Division respectively.
Present at Madhu church offensive in 2008. (see ITJP Dossier on Jagath Dias and 57 Division).
8 Dec. 2008-10: SLLI Centre Commander.
2017 – 512 BDE commanding officer.
2019: Military Liaison Officer of the MoD.
2019: 66 Division Commander.
2019: at the cluster munition meeting in Geneva representing the Government – this is where Sri Lanka claimed it had no cluster munitions victims from the war, which is contradicted by the testimony of survivors (see ITJP report).
4. Major General Channa D Weerasuriya
Sri Lanka Light Infantry, Staff Number: O/60877,
Date of Birth: 15 July 1968.
15 Feb. 2007-12 Dec. 2008: 4SLLI (631 Bde.). In 2009, 4SLLI was in frontline combat.
Promoted 2009 after the war, Brigadier in 2013.
April 2020: 22 Division Commander.
From 2008 on, according to his official biography: “As a Brigade Commander, he commanded 512, 523, 663 Infantry Brigades and Air Mobile Brigade”. [512, 513 & 515 Brigade Headquarters were under the 51 Division in the Security Forces Headquarters-Jaffna (SFHQ-J)].
On 3 Nov 2011 a media report has Channa Weerasuriya handing out scholarships in Jaffna and described as 512 Brigade commander.
512 Camp in Jaffna is notorious for torture. ITJP witness W15 was tortured there in early 2010 and again shortly after signing in at 512 Camp in 2011. ITJP witness W45 was based there after the war working for military intelligence identifying former cadres.
8 Aug. 2014: Commander, 542 Brigade”.
2013-15 SLLI Centre Commander based in Panagoda.
Nov. 2018: he conducted a study tour for foreign military students in Kilinochchi about ‘Kilinochchi reconciliation process and resettlement”. He is Centre Commandant of the Regimental Centre Sri Lanka Light Infantry.
2018: Brigadier General Staff SFHQ – KLN.
22 April 2020: General Officer Commanding, 22 Infantry Division.
5. Major General Chandana Udith Marasinghe
Staff Number: O/60753, Ordnance corps, SLAOC.
7 Jan. 2008 – 2 Nov.2009: Commanding officer Sri Lanka Army Ordnance Corps, 3 SLAOC. The corps’ website says: “The 3rd Ord. Regiment has been tasked to provide Ordnance backing to the Eastern theatre of the country”. 3SLAOC appears to have been based in Welikanda.
Jun. 2010: in Haiti as a logistics officer for UN Peacekeeping.
2014: Promoted to Brigadier (temp).
2019: Director SLA Ordnance Corps.
*Issued by The International Truth and Justice Project