The former Director of the Criminal Investigation Department and decorated police officer SSP Shani Abeysekara has been summoned to appear before the CID on Thursday (23) to provide a statement about his telephone call records. Colombo Telegraph learns that the summons is a mere pretense to facilitate his arrest, at the hands of two police officers whose strings are tightly held by the new regime.
The department he once led is now accusing him of being a ringleader of what they say was a plot to “fake” the 25 November 2019 abduction of Garnier Banister Francis, the migration officer of the Swiss Embassy in Colombo. Their “evidence” of this is that Abeysekara had received a phone call from then Lake House Chairman Krishantha Cooray on 18 November, a week before the abduction took place, and had placed another call to IP Nishantha Silva on the morning of 23 November, two days before the abduction and day before the latter fled to Switzerland.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa made no secret of his rage on 24 November at the fact that Nishantha Silva had successfully escaped the country before his government could figure out how to punish him. In a lengthy tirade at the Bellanwila Temple, the incoming President blasted Abeysekara as a cop whose transfer he had to jump through hoops to get executed, and lamented that Silva, who he called a corrupt officer, was able to escape to Switzerland. It was the day following this presidential tirade that Garnier Banister Francis found herself in the crosshairs of masked men demanding to know about Silva’s escape.
Abeysekera, who was interdicted from service less than two months after the new administration came into office, on account of his candid conversations with State Minister Ranjan Ramanayake, will be interrogated by the men he once led, and very likely arrested, accused of conspiring to fabricate the abduction of Francis.
What started off as an investigation into a complaint by the embassy worker that she had been abducted or held against her will and forced to reveal sensitive information on her mobile telephone, has taken a strange twist since. Executing a Goebbelsian propaganda coup, the Government and the CID managed to turn the alleged victim, Francis into a criminal, charging her with making a false complaint within two weeks of the investigation. She was remanded for two weeks in December. The CID team entrusted with the investigation has spent no time or resources on identifying the men Francis said detained her. Nor has the investigation focused on their accomplices or what motive the Swiss Embassy migration officer might have had to stage her own abduction. Government propagandists have focused on her purported desire to seek asylum in Switzerland, but it is common knowledge that local staffers attached to diplomatic missions over long periods are granted easy paths to migration without any need for such theatrics.
Be that as it may, SSP Shani Abeysekera, the detective whose feats of deduction spanned the presidencies of Ranasinghe Premadasa, Chandrika Kumaratunga, Mahinda Rajapaksa and Maithripala Sirisena, but suffered a swift fall from grace with the assumption of Gotabaya Rajapaksa as president in the November 16th election, may be the first professional public servant to face retribution for having done his job.
The CID, once Sri Lanka’s elite detective agency tasked with solving the most complex crimes in the country, has been gutted since Rajapaksa took office. SSP Tilakaratne, a former bodyguard to current Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, with no criminal investigation experience under his belt, now serves as CID director. The DIG appointed to oversee the CID is none other than Nuwan Wedasinghe, best known for his role at the CCD in covering up the investigations into the abduction of Keith Noyahr, the abduction and murder racket run by the navy and the bombing of Lanka-e-news.
SSP Abeysekera will be grilled by Chief Inspector Ranjith Moonesinghe and ASP Merrill Ranjan Lamahewa, both of whom boast checkered pasts and clear motives to dance to the government’s tune.
Merril Ranjan has long been a favourite of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. In 2010, by direct order of then Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Merril Ranjan was promoted as Chief Inspector. The promotion was irregular because Gotabaya Rajapaksa ordered that it should be backdated by nine years and Secretaries to the Ministry of Defence did not ordinarily engage with the promotions of junior police officers. The promotion was immediately implemented by the Senior DIG for Administration following the Defence Secretary’s 18 April 2010 order. (See documents)
While Duminda Silva was hiding in Singapore, Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa had ordered the CID to go to Singapore and record a statement from him exonerating him saying he had no recollection of what happened. Several officers refused to go, but Lamahewa eagerly volunteered and flew to Singapore to record a statement from Silva that sought to exonerate him, even though he was wanted for arrest.
Thereafter, Merril Ranjan was interdicted from CID for refusing to go to court to explain why he had not yet arrested Silva. Afterwards, he was reinstated against the vehement objections of IGP N.K. Illangakoon on the direct orders of Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
His brother, Emil Ranjan, is the former Prisons Commissioner who is currently on trial on 26 charges of murder in the 2012 Welikada prison massacre. Now brother Merrill Ranjan has been promoted to ASP, and brought back to the CID by the Rajapaksa government and put in charge of the branch handling the prison massacre, and in charge of all the officers who would have to testify against his brother at the trial.
Merrill Ranjan was handling one of the Avant Garde investigations at CID. Then Additional Solicitor General Jayantha Jayasuriya, who is now Chief Justice, who was supervising the investigation at the Attorney-General’s Department, had inquired from Ranjan why the CID was not taking action over the fact that 27 of the weapons seized from Avant Garde had their serial numbers partially filed off. Ranjan had said this was not a crime because it had likely happened from rusting with the weapons being at sea. Any police officer trained in firearms use and maintenance knows that serial numbers alone cannot deteriorate from rusting if the rest of the weapon is unscathed.
Jayasuriya immediately ordered that Ranjan be removed from the investigation. He was allocated to the CID branch in Jaffna. At this point, Minister Wajira Abeywardena called the CID DIG Ravi Seneviratne, and said Ranjan was a very close friend of his best friend Nissanka Senadhipathi, requesting that he be reinstated in that investigation. At this point, the CID and IGP decided to permanently transfer Ranjan out of the CID.
CI Moonesinghe who is due to retire on 18 April 2020, has been promised an extension of service, if he delivers the goods, puts Abeysekera behind bars and steers investigation away from the alleged abductors. Moonesinghe spearheaded the 30-hour interrogation of Garnier Francis that Swiss authorities said had been grueling for the victim who had passed out several times during questioning.
He made submissions in court on Tuesday, boldly charging that Abeysekara, former Lake House Chairman Krishantha Cooray, and Sunday Observer Editor Darisha Bastian had cooked the abduction allegation, without a shred of evidence other than that these individuals had telephoned each other. Moonesinghe has already requested a service extension and has told colleagues that he has been assured by Lamahewa and the CID Director that it will be granted by the Defence Ministry so long as they are able to “fix” the former CID head.
However, with no evidence on the table that Abeysekara even knew Francis, let alone conspired with her to fabricate an abduction plot, that CID’s efforts to secure a letter from the Attorney General’s Department ordering the arrest of the former CID director have come up empty, for now. (By Janakie Mediwake)