State Intelligence Services (SIS) Chief Suresh Sallay has ordered the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) Director to arrest prominent Catholic priest Father Cyril Gamini Fernando, Colombo Telegraph reliably learns.
Major General Sallay directed CID Director SSP Rohana Premaratne to make the arrest before the Catholic church commences a wave of protests against the SIS Chief for threatening reprisals against its clergy for raising questions about the involvement of state intelligence operatives in the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings.
Authoritative sources told Colombo Telegraph that Sallay had promised SSP Premaratne that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa would promote him as DIG CID in short order if the CID Director arrested the Catholic priest immediately. Interestingly, none of the four CID directors appointed by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa have locked horns with Major General Sallay and survived to tell the tale.
Earlier this week the SIS Director lodged a token complaint against Father Gamini with the CID as a pretext to facilitate the arrest. Father Gamini had made a presentation at a webinar on October 24, 2021 outlining the links between the Easter Sunday bombers and state intelligence operations.
Colombo Telegraph learns that Sallay had used his close relationship with Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa to prevent a coordinated opposition response to reports that the Government’s intelligence chief was harassing the Catholic clergy. There has been zero response from the Samagi Jana Balawegaya against this blatant intimidation of religious leaders from the head of the country’s intelligence services.
Sallay similarly advised Premadasa not to make an issue of the illegal raid of SJB MP Harin Fernando’s home in June this year.
A man who has remained in the shadows of the security establishment for much of his career, Major General Sallay has been a staunch loyalist of Gotabaya Rajapaksa since when the current President served as Defence Secretary. Since Rajapaksa assumed office as President, Sallay has assumed full control of the state security apparatus. Colombo Telegraph learns that even the President’s innermost circle remain wary of crossing the powerful SIS Chief.
The CID and the Attorney General also function under his direct authority.Under the Gotabaya Rajapaksa presidency, the CID has been reduced to little more than a king’s guard. Their primary focus has been exonerating high profile criminals with ties to the Rajapaksas such as MiG dealer Udayanga Weeratunga, former SriLankan CEO Kapila Chandrasena who was implicated in the airbus corruption scandal, bond scammer Arjun Aloysius, and accused murderers Pillaiyan and Wasantha Karannagoda.
The CID has prioritized political witch-hunts directed by Major General Sallay, including the persecution of attorney Hejaaz Hizbullah, SJB MP Harin Fernando and former CID Director SSP Shani Abeysekera.
In return for Sallay’s bidding and keeping the Government’s allies out of jail, the CID leadership has been allowed to turn the once elite detective agency into a for-profit enterprise. In exchange for large sums of cash, businessmen with deep pockets have frequently used the CID to arrest opponents in civil disputes and charge them in criminal courts. It has become a common practice for the CID to threaten civil litigants in business disputes with arrest and for the threats to be withdrawn after what amounts to a ransom is paid to the businessmen who retained/hired the CID. The practice has flourished since the recent appointment of Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s fifth CID Director Rohana Premaratne who is known among his peers for having married wealthy women several times and using the civil courts to divorce them and keep their assets. Premaratne is now able to apply this skill-set at scale in partnership with unscrupulous businessmen, to profit from turning the CID into a private mafia.
So long as the CID continues to faithfully hunt those who speak out against the Gotabaya Rajapaksa regime, like Father Cyril Gamini, Hejaaz Hizbullah, Rishard Bathiudeen, Champika Ranawaka, Harin Fernando, Rajitha Senaratne, Eran Wickremaratne and Shani Abeysekera, President Rajapaksa and his inner circle will turn a blind eye to the misdeeds of the agency’s leadership.
With the main opposition SJB evidently under Maj. General Suresh Sallay’s thumb it remains to be seen whether the Catholic community alone can muster sufficient support to keep Father Cyril Gamini and his fellow Catholic clergymen from facing a vicious reprisal for daring to ask glaring questions about the bomb attacks that killed 260 people in 2019. (Nimal Ratnaweera)