The Army’s Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Jagath Dias who was put in charge of the army inquiry into a violent military crackdown against civilian demonstrators in Weliweriya on August 1 has been rejected by the United States for training programme on account of his implication in alleged war crimes during the final days of the war.
The military inquiry into Weliweriya was handed over to the Army Chief late last evening after the initial two weeks deadline lapsed and the special board of inquiry said it required more time.
Major Generals Dias and Sudantha Ranasinghe were turned down for US training because of alleged complicity in certain human rights violations during the Wanni battles. The Government has reacted strongly to the move denying the allegations against Dias and Ranasinghe. Chief of Defence Staff General Jagath Jayasuriya who addressed a media conference yesterday said that Ranasinghe had initially been cleared for a US training after he was rejected on a previous occasion. “It is not clear why he was rejected again,” Gen. Jayasuriya said adding that in the case of Dias, he had been refused a training at the National Defence College as well because of his involvement in the 57 Division. “I think until that issue is cleared, that problem for him will keep resurfacing,” the former Army Commander admitted. “With regard to Maj. Gen. Dias a decision has to come from the top,” Jayasuriya added.
Gen. Jayasuriya said that in the case of Maj. Gen. Ranasinghe, he had raised the issue with the US Defence Attache during his tenure as Commander. “There is a problem with his Division – the 53 Division. But he was appointed to head that division very recently, not during the war, but in the case of certain divisions the whole unit is affected” he explained.
Dias who served as Sri Lanka’s deputy ambassador to Germany, accredited to Switzerland and the Vatican was hastily recalled to Colombo in 2011 after the Swiss Attorney General nearly opened a criminal investigation following a complaint filed by two Swiss human rights advocacy groups.
“The federal judicial authority considers that “the existing suspicions against him are enough to justify the opening of a criminal investigation” in the event that Mr Dias comes back to Switzerland,” the Swiss Federal Attorney General said in 2011. The complaint did not proceed to investigation stage on the grounds that Maj Gen. Dias was no longer present in Swiss territory.
Maj. Gen. Jagath Dias who commanded the 57th Division of the Sri Lankan Army, which is accused of intensive shelling of civilians, hospitals and religious sites, the Swiss criminal complaint against him said, calling him a war criminal.
Dias is closely linked to Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. In C. A. Chandraprema’s book ‘Gota’s War’ that was published prior to the discovery of mass graves in Matale, the author makes a reference in Chapter 28 to Gotabhaya Rajapaksa being 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,” the author writes.
Click here to listen Chief of Defence Staff General Jagath Jayasuriya’s media conference yesterday