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Midweek Review

Predicament of war-winning Sri Lanka military

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Maj. Gen. Udaya Perera

By Shamindra Ferdinando

In spite of issuing a five-year multiple visa to retired Maj. Gen. Udaya Perera in Aug 2019, the US, in early Dec, 2021, barred him from entering the country. The US ordered Singapore Airlines not to permit the Gajaba Regiment veteran to board the Singapore-bound flight, from where he, his wife and a son were to continue their journey to the USA. Maj. Gen. Perera, who had retired in 2017 after having served the Army for 36 years, suddenly found himself categorised among war criminals. One-time Sri Lanka’s Deputy High Commissioner in Malaysia (2009-2011) Maj. Gen. Perera was about to board the flight (Colombo/Singapore/Los Angeles) with the final destination being California, to see his granddaughter. However his wife and son departed as planned, whereas the ex-top combat officer of the famed Gajaba regiment had to return home dejected at having been humiliated at the country’s main international airport by such crass behaviour of the self-appointed world policeman. We could forgive such behaviour as a mistake if it came from a country that has clean hands, but certainly not from one that has shed so much innocent blood around the world and continue to do so at will.

The highly embarrassing snub, in full view of the public, of Maj. Gen.Perera, who had received his Master’s Degree from the prestigious US Army War College, a couple of years after the successful conclusion of the war, didn’t attract the attention it deserved. The government and the Opposition conveniently refrained from at least issuing a statement as regards the development. Perhaps they felt there was no point in trying to complain against two members of the self-appointed international community, as the US and Australia imposed similar travel restrictions earlier on Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, General Shavendra Silva and Maj. Gen. Chagie Gallage et al over unsubstantiated war crimes accusations and they, too, were left unanswered.

Maj Gen Perera received the prestigious United States Army War College Alumni Award for his academic performances and in recognition of his services as the International Fellows Class President at the US Army War College and is a lifetime member of the US Army War College Alumni Foundation.

During his tenure as the Deputy HC in Malaysia, Maj. Gen. Perera played a significant role in the extradition of Kumaran Pathmanathan alias ‘KP.’ It would be pertinent to mention that the Eelam War IV time Director Operations, received the diplomatic appointment in April 2009, a few weeks before the military eradicated the top LTTE leadership.

The incident involving Maj. Gen. Perera that happened on the night of Dec 5 at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) remained under wraps till Dec 26. Perhaps the incident could have gone unreported at all if not for some concerned party bringing it to the notice of The Island. But the issue failed to attract sufficient interest of the print and electronic media, including social media.

Need for US clarification

The Foreign Ministry should seek an explanation from the US Embassy, in Colombo, as regards the punitive measures taken against Maj. Gen. Perera. Only the US can explain why Maj. Gen. Perera, now a top employee of a prominent private sector enterprise, did during the Eelam War IV to be categorised as a war criminal. Eyebrows have been raised over the ex-officer’s predicament as he hadn’t been assigned to fighting formations on the Northern front (2007-2009) or involved in the Eastern campaign (2006-2007) or commanded the divisions after the war. Australia found fault with Maj. Gen. Gallage for commanding the 59 Division after the conclusion of the war.

What did the US find unacceptable about Maj. Gen. Perera’s conduct after the issuance of five-year multiple visa in August 2019? The US has issued the visa over two years after his retirement and eight years following the end of the war. Maybe, the US wants to expand the proscribed list as part of its overall strategy to intensify pressure on Sri Lanka to bring it to its knees for daring to get financial and other assistance from China that has helped us in numerous ways in the past, especially when the West attempted to throttle us on the military front by putting an arms embargo.

No doubt India, too, helped us at crucial times, but as we have said before what Beijing did by helping us to defeat the LTTE in actual fact was a favour done to Delhi because initially the ultimate goal of the Eelam project was the breakup of India, but with the collapse of the Soviet Union the equation changed with America also wanting to have a solid friend for Tel Aviv in India for increasingly arrogant and unpopular Israel among a sea of Arab masses.

The Foreign Ministry should be mindful of the growing threat posed by the continuing Geneva agenda meant to weaken the country. Over two years after the last presidential election that brought wartime Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa into power in Nov 2019, the incumbent dispensation is yet to properly address the accountability issues. Sri Lanka’s pathetic response has facilitated the despicable Geneva agenda intended to weaken the Sri Lankan State.

May be it is time that we raised such issues as justice for victims of West in places like, for example, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Palestine, etc., especially due to false flag operations like the one staged on entirely staged weapons of mass destruction that supposedly Saddam Hussein had. Then what about justice for victims of hundreds if not thousands of hell fire missiles that rained death and destruction on innocent wedding parties, funeral processions, etc., in those countries, in the guise of killing terrorists. Where are you UNHRC?

The political leadership needs to realize that humiliation of the military is part of the Western strategy. That is the undeniable truth. Geneva wants to tarnish the image of those who spearheaded the actual military campaign against the LTTE, service commanders and selected senior as well as junior security forces officers.

Both Canada and Italy snubbed Sri Lanka over the latter’s proposal to name retired Air Force Commander Air Marshal Sumangala Dias as High Commissioner. Regardless of AM’s clean war record, Canada rejected him. Having allowed the LTTE rump a free hand over a period of time and undermined the war-winning Sri Lanka at every turn, the Canadian rejection of AM Dias was meant to degrade the country.

Human rights crusader Canada, member of the Sri Lanka Core Group in Geneva recently attracted massive media attention following the shocking revelation of how thousands of indigenous children perished in government-run schools. These schools were meant to erode indigenous culture, language and family and community ties. Politically motivated racial project was notorious for the neglect and abuse of the children compelled to attend them. Thousands of Indigenous children died therein and had been interned in unmarked graves on grounds of such schools among other places, obviously hoping such dastardly deeds would never come to light.

An utterly contemptible Canadian decision to back Tamil Diaspora propaganda pertaining to genocide in Lanka by way of a Private Member Bill 104 on ‘Tamil Genocide Education Week’ in the Ontario Legislative Assembly should be examined against the backdrop of Ottawa’s rejection of AM Dias. Instead, Canada swiftly accepted prominent civil society activist Harsha Kumara Navaratne as Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner. The writer recently dealt with the Navaratne’s appointment in an article titled ‘From meeting Pottu, Balraj and Soosai to being Sri Lanka’s top envoy in Canada’ in the Dec 22, 2021 issue of The Island.

Foreign Ministry bid to save precious dollars

Cash-strapped Sri Lanka on Dec 27, 2021, announced a long overdue decision to close down some missions. Declaring that the Sri Lanka High Commission in Abuja, Nigeria, the Consulate General of Sri Lanka in Frankfurt, Germany; and the Consulate General of Sri Lanka in Nicosia, Cyprus, would be closed down with effect from 31 December 2021, the Foreign Ministry announced that the Cabinet of Ministers approved the move. The Foreign Ministry asserted that foreign reserves could be saved by minimising expenditure on the maintenance of diplomatic missions. Perhaps, the Cabinet of Ministers should have considered closing down many more missions than those at Abuja, Frankfurt and Nicosia.

Over the years, Sri Lankan missions overseas have become a haven for political appointees. We also wonder whether many of our serving diplomats are rendering a worthy service to the country. Some of them have joined the service through the backdoor, thanks to influence. We can recall how our top career diplomat, in a leading capital in the East, gave a talk to a group of leading businessman in that country’s capital in the presence of our then Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar and repeatedly referred to the construction of the second RUNAWAY at BIA with valuable assistance from that country. At that moment we ourselves felt like running away from there!

Successive governments have shamelessly utilised diplomatic missions to accommodate associates, friends as well as some former parliamentarians. The incumbent dispensation is no exception.

The Parliamentary High Posts Committee, whoever chairs it, follows political directives. There cannot be a better example than the yahapalana administration granting an ambassadorial position to businessman A.S.P. Liyanage. The self-serving cunning businessman, who merely pretended to play the part of a stooge to those in power and served twice as head of mission, contested the presidential election on more than one occasion and at the last parliamentary election appeared on the Colombo District UNP list. Liyanage was on the same list with UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and its Assistant Leader Ravi Karunanayake at the disastrous August 2020 parliamentary election that reduced the former governing party to just one National List slot. Liyanage was so influential he received appointment as Sri Lanka top envoy in Nigeria during the previous Rajapaksa administration. President Maithripala Sirisena then made him Sri Lanka’s Ambassador in Qatar.

Controversy over Embraer Legacy 600 jet

About a week before the New Year, an unexpected controversy erupted over Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, accompanied by wife, Shiranthi, and other members of the family, utilising a private jet to visit the famous hill shrine of Lord Venkateswara in Andhra Pradesh’s Tirumala where they offered prayers. Social media was dominated, their two-day visit. Rajapaksa visited the temple in February 2020, less than three months after the last presidential election, when a special puja was performed at the Devasthanam on the first anniversary of his current term.

Contradicting statements relating to the visit (departure Dec 23 morning and return De 24 evening) resulted in speculation that Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner in Uganda Velupillai Kananathan provided the Embraer Legacy 600 jet. Velupillai Kananathan had been among Premier Rajapaksa’s entourage and was pictured holding his hand as they walked away from the aircraft in question having landed at Renigunta airport in Andra Pradesh. Kananathan had moved to Uganda way back in 1987 and established therein before receiving the appointment as High Commissioner in 2013. Velupillai Kananathan has received the top posting back after the last presidential election.

Social media alleged that Velupillai Kananathan had been with the LTTE though well informed Tamil Diaspora as well as former intelligence officers emphasised there was absolutely no involvement with the terrorist organisation. Studied at S. Thomas College, Mount Lavinia, Velupillai Kananathan had been involved in the hospitality trade, having first served the Hatton National Bank.

The Divaina quoted Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa as having said that it was a private visit with no expenditure of public funds. The Premier’s Media Secretary Rohan Weliwita, too, declared that public funds hadn’t been utilised and expenses borne by the Premier himself. However, Pohottuwa lawmaker Milan Jayatilleke is on record as having said that a powerful Indian businessman provided the jet for the pilgrimage and the cost borne by the Indian. The lawmaker defended the Thirupathi visit in the wake of some sections of the Opposition accusing Premier Rajapaksa of squandering public funds at a time the country was reeling from severe economic difficulties. The controversy has taken a new turn after Premier Rajapaksa’s Chief of Staff Yoshitha Rajapaksa’s declaration that a friend of his father provided the jet though he didn’t know the identity of the benefactor.

Who owns the super luxury aircraft, believed to be registered in Europe? The Opposition is likely to pursue the jet story. In the January 02, 2022 edition of ‘Annida’, Aruna Jayawardena dealt with the issue at hand, comprehensively. The writer questioned the ownership of the super luxury aircraft against the backdrop of continuing controversy over High Commissioner Velupillai Kananathan’s role in the whole affair. The writer questioned the appropriateness of the Premier accepting such an expensive freebie. The government should set the record straight.

Paying homage to Tirupathi

Many Sri Lankan politicians annually visit Tirumalar. Mahinda Rajapaksa, Maithripala and Ranil Wickremasinghe are among them. Sirisena accompanied by wife, Jayanthi Pushpakumari and other family members prayed at Tirumalar on April 17, 2019, four days before the Easter Sunday carnage. Sirisena has been accused of leaving for Tirumalar and from there flying to Singapore on the second leg of a private visit, in spite of specific Indian intelligence warning of impending terrorist attack. Sirisena, who also served as the Defence Minister at that time paid a very heavy price for neglecting the Indian intelligence warnings pertaining to the National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) plot, though he has repeatedly claimed he was not aware.

The Foreign Ministry plays a vital role in the overall national defence. The Foreign Ministry should play a leading role in national defence. One cannot easily forget how that Ministry has been used over the years to appease foreign powers or provide employment opportunities to those the government wanted to get rid of. Disgraced IGP Pujitha Jayasundera’s claim is a case in point that he was offered a diplomatic positing if he accepted the responsibility for 2019 Easter carnage cannot be ignored. Jayasundera, indicted before the three-judge bench of the Colombo High Court Trial at Bar hearing the Easter Sunday carnage is on record as having said that the then President Maithripala Sisisena offered him the diplomatic posting.

In the case of the treacherous 2015 Geneva resolution, the Foreign Ministry at the behest of political directive betrayed the country’s war-wining armed forces. The late Mangala Samaraweera served as the Foreign Minister at that time. Following the Geneva betrayal, President Sirisena, in consultations with Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe, brought in Ravi Karanunayake as the Foreign Minister. Samaraweera received the finance portfolio. The late minister handled the finance portfolio quite well with government revenue topping Rs 1,900 bn mark on two consecutive years.

In spite of the change, the Foreign Ministry didn’t change its line. The Foreign Ministry quite unashamedly allowed Western embassies to exploit the so-called Mannar mass graves. Those responsible turned a blind eye to foreign diplomats propagating the lie that Army during the Vanni offensive killed and buried hundreds of thousands of Tamil civilians. The despicable project continued until a US lab declared the skeleton remains belonged to the colonial era. Based on unsubstantiated claims made by Colombo-based Western embassies, the Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet blamed the Sri Lankan military for mass graves. Even after the Geneva project went awry, the Foreign Ministry lacked the will to at least refer to the extremely unfair position taken by the former Chilean UNHRC President in her capacity as the global human rights chief.

The Foreign Ministry showed its true colours when The Island sought the government response to the disclosure made by Lord Naseby in the House of Lords in Oct 2017. The Foreign Ministry simply rejected Lord Naseby’s intervention. The disclosure unsettled the then government. The then Foreign Ministry spokesperson, an experienced career diplomat, ridiculed Lord Naseby’s statement. The official wouldn’t have done so without consulting the higher-ups. The yahapalana Foreign Ministry would have probably remained quiet if The Island didn’t raise the issue. For want of a Foreign Ministry response to Lord Naseby’s very important statement, even a week after it was made, the writer, on Oct 20, 2017, sought an explanation from the Foreign Ministry.

The Foreign Ministry response really disappointed a vast majority of people, who expected the government to use the House of Lords disclosure to counter lies that had been propagated by various interested parties. Instead of taking advantage of Lord Naseby’s statement, the Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mahishini Colonne declared: “The Government of Sri Lanka remains committed to the national processes, aimed at realizing the vision of a reconciled, stable, peaceful and prosperous nation. Engaging in arguments and debates in the international domain over the number of civilians who may have died at a particular time in the country will not help resolve any issues, in a meaningful manner, locally, except a feel good factor for a few individuals who may think that they have won a debate or scored points over someone or the other.”

Two years later, Tilak Marapana, PC, in his capacity as the Foreign Minister made reference to Lord Naseby’s disclosure when he addressed the Geneva sessions. One-time Attorney General Marapana, who succeeded disgraced Ravi Karunanayake as Foreign Minister in the wake of explosive revelations in the Presidential Treasury Bond Commission, emphasized the importance of Lord Naseby’s disclosure based on wartime Colombo based UK Defence Advisor Lt. Col. Anthony’s Gash dispatches to London. But, his government refrained from pursuing the matter. The current dispensation, too, never officially submitted British records to Geneva though during the tenure of Prof. G.L. Peiris’ predecessor, Dinesh Gunawardena, the Foreign Ministry did raise the issue with the British. The UK continues to suppress wartime dispatches from Sri Lanka. In fact, Sri Lanka never pursued the declaration made by wartime US Defence Attaché Lt. Col. Lawrence Smith in 2011. Basically, both British and American embassy officials said the same. They denied the Sri Lankan military perpetrated war crimes. Their statements/declarations should be examined against the backdrop of the US and the UK pursuing an anti-Sri Lanka agenda.



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Midweek Review

Ranil takes premiership amidst BASL bid for all party-consensus

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A smiling Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe reacts to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa after receiving the premiership. Gamini Senarath, Secretary to the President looks on. Mrs Maithri Wickremesinghe was present at the brief ceremony at the President’s House, Fort last Thursday evening (pic courtesy PMD)

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Retired Supreme Court Justice Rohini Marasinghe, in her current capacity as the Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL), directed the police to provide adequate protection for the President and the Prime Minister while protecting the freedom of speech and assembly through necessary and proportionate measures.

Justice Marasinghe, who received the appointment in Dec, last year, would never have believed she would be compelled to issue such a statement.

The HRCSL statement, issued on April 26, 2022, over a month after the eruption of violent protests at the private residence of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, at Pengiriwatta, Mirihana, that lasted for several hours, didn’t name the President and the Prime Minister.

Mahinda Rajapaksa quit Temple Trees on May 10, less than 24 hours after he announced his resignation, in the wake of unprovoked violence directed at those demanding the resignation of both the President and the Prime Minister and the so-called peaceful protesters who lay siege to his official residence Temple Trees virtually making, him a prisoner therein.

The first protest, targeting President Rajapaksa, was held at Pangiriwatte, Mirihana, on March 31, 2022. What began as a peaceful protest in the vicinity, quickly turned violent after the crowds made attempts to advance towards the President’s private home. The deployment of the Army, in support of the beleaguered police, failed to bring the situation under control.

Protesters set ablaze several vehicles, including two buses that brought Police and Army reinforcements to the scene of the unprecedented confrontation. Therefore, it would be pertinent to discuss the circumstances, Justice Marasinghe called for sufficient protection for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, over two weeks after the launch of the protest campaign, in front of the Presidential Secretariat, on April 09, 2022.

Perhaps, the HRCSL should have also advised the Army, as well as the Special Task Force (STF), regarding adequate protection for the President and the Prime Minister. The Army and the STF play an integral role in the protection of key leaders. The HRCSL cannot be unaware of the involvement of the Army and the STF in the protection of the President and the Prime Minister.

Justice Marasinghe called for ‘necessary and proportionate measures’ to meet the threat on the two leaders as those who had been demanding their resignation stepped up the campaign.

The HRCSL consists of five Commissioners, namely Justice Rohini Marasinghe (Chairperson), Venerable Kalupahana Piyarathana Thera, Dr. M.H. Nimal Karunasiri, Dr. Vijitha Nanayakkara and Ms. Anusuya Shanmuganathan. The President constituted the HRCSL in terms of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution in Dec. 2020. Justice Marasinghe and Ven. Kalupahana Piyarathana Thera were brought in Dec. 2021 in the wake of the resignation of HRCSL Chairman Jagath Balasuriya and NGO, guru Harsha Kumara Navaratne taking up the post of Sri Lanka High Commissioner to Canada.

Did HRCSL make an assessment before Justice Marasinghe issued instructions to the police? The HRCSL intervened in the wake of the erection of a new protest site, opposite Temple Trees, as the government struggled to cope up with an unprecedented political-economic-social crisis that brought the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) to its knees.

The writer, over the last weekend, sought a clarification from Justice Marasinghe. The HRCSL Chief said that instructions were issued as access to the residences of the President and the Prime Minister had been blocked. The HRCSL was also informed of possible threats to their lives, Justice Marasinghe said, adding that the issue at hand should be examined on the basis of equal protection of the law.

In spite of HRCSL’s instructions, the police, and at least an influential section of the SLPP government, appeared to have been caught napping. Was it due to the fear of the wrath of the HRCSL or they being under the so-called international community spotlight? In fact, the law enforcement authorities had contributed to the rapid deterioration of the situation to such an extent that mobs took control of roads. Had the police top brass realized the gravity of the situation, in the first week of May, they would have definitely advised the then Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa not to summon several hundreds of his supporters to Temple Trees. The failure on the part of the police to advise the ousted Premier was nothing but a monumental blunder.

In fact, the police appeared to have been part of a political project meant to dismantle those who had been protesting against the government, while laying siege to both Temple Trees and the Presidential Secretariat. The operation was meant to regain control. Therefore, a primary objective was to silence those who had been asking Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to step down.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, too, has been of that view, in the wake of about one-third of the SLPP parliamentary group demanding Premier Rajapaksa’s resignation to pave the way for an all-party interim administration.

PM, family take refuge in SLN base

Just two weeks after HRCSL asked the police to ensure protection of the President and the Prime Minister through ‘necessary and proportionate measures’ the latter had to move out of Temple Trees, under heavy security escort. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had to authorize the deployment of SLAF assets to evacuate the ex-Prime Minister and some members of the family. They took refuge at the strategic Eastern Naval Command premises, Trincomalee.

By then, Yoshitha Rajapaksa, the ousted PM’s second son and Chief of Staff and his wife, Nitheesha Jayasekera, had left the country. Interestingly, Yoshitha left for Singapore at 12.50 am on May 09 on Singapore Airlines flight SQ 469 several hours before SLPP activists started arriving at Temple Trees.

Yoshitha Rajapaksa couldn’t have been unaware of the meticulous plans underway to bring in hundreds of supporters from all parts of the country to Temple Trees where the Prime Minister was to address them. Those who believed Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa was to announce his resignation were proved wrong. Instead, lawmaker Johnston Fernando and the then Premier Rajapaksa created an environment conducive for an ‘operation’ to evict those who had been protesting against the Prime Minister and the President. The operation boomeranged. The end result was the Prime Minister having to take refuge in the Trincomalee Navy base.

Two days later, the Fort Magistrate’s Court issued a travel ban on Mahinda Rajapaksa, MP Namal Rajapaksa and 16 others. They are Pavithra Wanniarachchi, Johnston Fernando, Sanjeewa Edirimanne, Rohitha Abeygunawardena, C.B. Ratnayake, Sanath Nishantha, Kanchana Jayaratne (Pavitra Wanniarachchi’s husband), Sampath Athukorala, Mahinda Kahandagama, Renuka Perera, Nishantha Abeysinghe, Amitha Abeywickrama, Pushpalal Kumarasinghe, Dilip Fernando and Senior DIG Deshabandu Tennakoon. The Senior DIG had been present at the time, SLPP goons broke through the police line, near the Galle Face hotel, to demolish the Galle Face protest camp.

The Magistrate also imposed a travel ban on seven others who had been wounded during the violence on the fateful Monday or were eye-witnesses to the attacks.

President of the Colombo High Court Lawyers’ Association Lakshman Perera told the writer that the Attorney General‘s Department moved the Fort Magistrate’s court amidst preparations made by his outfit to move the court. Speaking on behalf of the Association, Perera underscored the pivotal importance of ensuring the safety and security of all, regardless of whatever the accusations directed at them.

For how long would the ex-Premier have to live under the protection of the Navy? In response to media queries, Defence Secretary retired General Kamal Gunaratne told a hastily arranged press conference, at the Battaramulla Defence Complex, that as a former head of State Mahinda Rajapaksa was entitled to required security. When would the ex-PM be able to move freely as protests demanding President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s resignation continue amidst traffic disruptions on main roads, especially over shortage of cooking gas? The situation remains extremely dicey.

Politically-motivated mobs destroyed many properties belonging to the Rajapaksa family. Mobs set ablaze the Rajapaksas’ ancestral home at Medamulana, Hambantota, and did not even spare the memorial built for their parents also at Medamulana, while the former Premier’s home in Kurunegala, too, was destroyed.

Properties belonging to elder brother, Chamal Rajapaksa and his son, Shashendra were also destroyed.

Gangs set fire to Green Ecolodge, situated very close to the Sinharaja rain forest. The hotel, situated close to the UNESCO heritage site, is widely believed to be owned by Yoshitha Rajapaksa, who recently warned JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake of legal action against the accusations made in respect of Green Ecolodge. But the JVP instead of backing their accusations regarding that prized eco-property (torched by the politically-motivated mobs early last week) with facts, issued a veiled threat to expose Yoshitha on some other issues if he dared to go to courts. Comrade Nalinda Jayatissa told the media that they would raise his fake qualifications, how he managed to enter the famed British naval college Dartmouth, etc., if he ventured to challenge them in court.

Well organized mobs also looted and set fire to properties of over 50 MPs, mainly of the government, across the country. They and their families were left with only the clothes on their backs.

Politicos under threat

The government should do everything possible to prosecute those responsible for incidents of violence, regardless of their status. Destruction of lawmakers’ properties should be denounced and punitive action taken against all those responsible. Who would take the responsibility for killing SLPP Polonnaruwa District MP Amarakeerthi Atukorale and his police bodyguard at Nittambuwa? The slain MP was on his way home, after attending the Temple Trees meet earlier in the day. Did Atukorale open fire on those who blocked his path? Did his police bodyguard, too, open fire? The post-mortem revealed the MP had been lynched and contrary to initial reports there were no gunshot injuries. The post mortem also set the record straight that the MP didn’t commit suicide with his own weapon as initially claimed by interested parties over the social and mainstream media. Having allowed SLPP goons to go on the rampage, the police pathetically failed to intervene when the public retaliated. Politically-motivated groups obviously took advantage of the situation. At an early stage of the ongoing protest campaign, German Ambassador in Colombo Holger Seubert tweeted: “I’m impressed with how peaceful the proud people of Sri Lanka are exercising their right to freedom of expression. It reminds me of German unification back in 1989 when we experienced how powerful peaceful protests can be. Wishing all parties involved the strength to remain peaceful.”

During the second JVP inspired-insurgency, the then JRJ government issued firearms to members of Parliament. Some lawmakers formed their own death squads. The government accepted extra-judicial killings as part of the overall defence against the JVP/DJV violence perpetrated against the UNP and those connected with that party.

Members of the SLPP raised security issues at a meeting they had with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the President’s House last Saturday (14). The government shouldn’t expect normalisation of the situation until tangible measures are taken to stabilize the national economy. Lawmakers wouldn’t be safe as long queues for diesel, petrol and cooking gas exist with the vast majority of the electorate struggling to make ends meet. The government should be mindful of interventions made by foreign powers and other external and internal players hell-bent on exploiting the situation to their advantage.

Recent demonstrations near the Parliament compelled the police to close several roads for traffic on May 05 and 06. The police closed the section from Diyatha Uyana junction (Polduwa junction) to Jayanthipura junction and from Jayanthipura junction to the Denzil Kobbekaduwa road to deter mass invasions by well organised demonstrators. The police asserted that closure of the roads were necessary, in spite of the inconvenience caused to the public, to prevent hindrance to lawmakers entering and leaving the parliamentary complex.

The police closed down the same sections of the roads yesterday (17) to facilitate parliamentary proceedings. Trade unions combine and the Inter-University Students’ Federation (IUSF) have vowed to lay siege to the Parliament. The warning that had been made several days before the May 09 mayhem should be reviewed. The trade union grouping and the IUSF affiliated to the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP), the breakaway JVP faction, should be mindful of the crises the country is experiencing.

A tragedy

War-winning President Mahinda Rajapaksa having to take refuge in the Trincomalee SLN base is a tragedy. Mahinda Rajapaksa gave resolute political leadership to Sri Lanka’s war effort at a time the vast majority of lawmakers felt the LTTE couldn’t be defeated. Therefore, many accepted peace at any cost. They were prepared even to give up Sri Lanka’s unitary status in a bid to reach a consensus with separatist Tamil terrorists mollycoddled by Western powers. Mahinda Rajapaksa had the strength and political acumen to take on the LTTE. The country should never forget how President Rajapaksa, in spite of strong objections from the military, flew into Kebitigollewa on June 15, 2006, in the immediate aftermath of a claymore mine attack on a passenger bus. The blast killed over 60 men, women and children. Having visited the survivors, President Mahinda Rajapaksa gave an assurance that the terrorism would be eradicated. The promise was made two months before the LTTE resumed large-scale offensive action in the Northern and Eastern Provinces. Sri Lanka brought the war to a successful end in May 2009. But, the President, who restored peace, has ended up virtually running for his life and had to seek refuge in a military installation for the time being as post-war policies and strategies take their toll with interested parties taking advantage of the tragedy facing the country.

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Midweek Review

Up for Grabs

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By Lynn Ockersz

It’s the Horse Trader’s hour once again,

And fierce bargaining unfolds on Stage;

Creatures stomping with iron hoofs,

Displaying teeth of menacing length,

And merciless whips for tongues,

Are receiving top most billing,

By ‘Strutting and Fretting’ business Heads,

Trying now to sit in saddles under siege,

But in a hitherto nodding land,

That’s suddenly come rudely awake,

These are risky sleazy deals to make,

For, the moment has already arrived,

Wherein hunger has turned Ploughshares,

Into Spears of divisive hate and vengeance.

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Midweek Review

Possible link between TID head’s arrest and Easter Sunday massacre baffles retired DIG

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Retired DIG Priyantha Jayakody, one-time police spokesman, last Saturday (07) advised the police on how to deal with the current wave of protests. Jayakody addressed the media in the wake of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa declaring a State of Emergency following police crackdown on protests near the Parliament. The retired top cop urged his former colleagues not to give into illegal orders, under any circumstances. Jayakody is the first retired top cop to declare his support for the ongoing countrywide campaign for political reforms.

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Actor Jehan Appuhamy carried a life-sized cross on his shoulder from Katuwapitiya, in the Katana electorate, to the entrance of the President’s Office (Old Parliament), Galle Face, where a high profile ‘Go Gota Home’ campaign was underway.

The three-day trek began at the St. Sebastian Church premises, on April 19, where exactly three years ago Achchi Muhammadu Muhammadu Hasthun detonated his suicide device, killing over 100. Hasthun is widely believed to be one of the bomb makers, responsible for six suicide blasts, in the space of 20 minutes, beginning at 8.45 am on that particular day. The first detonation occurred at the St. Anthony’s Shrine, Colombo, Kochchikade, at 8.45 am. Other blasts ripped through Kingsbury, Colombo, at 8.47 am, St. Sebastian’s Church, Katuwapitiya, also at 8.47, Shangri-La, Colombo at 8.54, Cinnamon Grand, Colombo at 9 and Zion Church, Batticaloa at 9.05.

In addition to those planned blasts, there were two explosions – one at the Tropical Inn Guest House, Dehiwela, where one terrorist triggered his explosive device, and the last blast at Dematagoda, where Fatima Ibrahim, the wife of Inshaf Ibrahim (the Cinnamon Grand bomber), blew herself up, killing three police commandos. The blast also claimed the lives of her three young sons and her unborn child.

Actor Appuhamy’s endeavor received the blessings of the Catholic Church, campaigning for justice. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference has repeatedly demanded that the perpetrators of the Easter Sunday massacre, as well as those who failed to thwart the conspiracy, due to sheer negligence, or some other reasons, be punished, regardless of their standing in the society.

Appuhamy completed a 25-mile long journey, on April 21, on the 13th day of the ‘Go Gota Home’ campaign. A group of Catholics joined a protest launched opposite Temple Trees, three days later, demanding justice for the Easter Sunday carnage. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference members, and the Archbishop of Colombo, Rt. Rev. Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, has pledged their support for the ongoing campaign, demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the entire Cabinet-of-Ministers, including Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Quite a number of Catholics displayed placards, demanding justice for the Easter Sunday victims, an issue that has sharply divided the country, experiencing the worst-ever post- independence economic-political and social crisis.

Retired Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police, Priyantha Jayakody, in an open letter, addressed to Defence Secretary, retired Gen. Kamal Gunaratne, published in Annidda, in its May Day edition, has questioned the failure on the part of the incumbent dispensation to bring the perpetrators of the Easter Sunday massacre to justice. Jayakody also queried the inordinate delay in completing the high profile investigations, launched during the yahapalana administration, into the alleged attempts to assassinate the then President Maithripala Sirisena and Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the incumbent President.

The current dispensation couldn’t absolve itself of the responsibility for not adequately addressing the grievances of the Catholic Church, Jayakody told The Island. It would be a grave mistake on the government’s part to believe the issues, at hand, would be forgotten in a couple of years, therefore the current protests could be ignored. Jayakody, who had served the Police Department for almost 40 years, retired in late April 2021.

Namal Kumara affair

Ex-DIG Jayakody asserted that the arrest of DIG Nalaka Silva, the head of the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) on Oct 25, 2018, over his alleged involvement in an attempt to assassinate President Maithripala Sirisena and incumbent President Gotabaya Rajapaksa (then an ordinary citizen) may have facilitated the Easter Sunday suicide mission. Declaring that at the time of Silva’s arrest, the officer had been tracking the would-be Shangri-La bomber, and the leader of the suicide squad, Zahran Hashim, Jayakody questioned whether the investigator was falsely implicated in an alleged assassination plot to clear the way for the dastardly suicide attacks.

Jayakody emphasized that the conspirators had intervened when the investigation reached a crucial stage. Did the government pay sufficient attention to the unwarranted delay at the Attorney General’s Department, in respect of its failure to deal with Zahran Hashim’s file? The National Catholic Committee for Justice, in a missive, dated July 12, 2021, addressed to President Goabaya Rajapaksa, referred to the conduct of the Attorney General’s Department. The Committee pointed out to the President, the PCoI (Presidential Commission of Inquiry) recommendation to the Public Service Commission (PSC) that disciplinary action be taken against State Counsel Malik Azees and Deputy Solicitor General Azad Navavi (PCoI Final Report, Vol 01, p 329).

The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) arrested Silva after having questioned him over a period of five days. At the time of his arrest, Silva had been suspended on the instructions issued by the National Police Commission (NPC).

Jayakody pointed out how within 24 hours after the TID Chief’s arrest, President Maithripala Sirisena sacked the Cabinet-of-Ministers, including Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. In spite of Mahinda Rajapaksa being sworn in as the Prime Minister, he couldn’t prove a simple majority in Parliament. A disappointed President Sirisena had no option but to dissolve Parliament, on Nov 09, 2018, and set January 05, 2019 as date for parliamentary election. But, the Supreme Court intervention restored Ranil Wickremesinghe’s premiership. Thus President Sirisena’s plan for January 05, poll was thwarted; thereby the stage was set for scheduled presidential election.

According to Jayakody, the arrest of the TID Chief, over alleged assassination plots, automatically crippled the unit. Those who had been attached to the TID were looked down, both by other police officers and men, as well as the public.

The retired top cop questioned the role played by the media, particularly the television channels, in propagating claims made by police informant Namal Kumara, as regards alleged plots to assassinate President Sirisena and incumbent President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Pujith Jayasundera, who had served as the yahapalana IGP, is on record as having told the PCoI that Namal Kumara was paid by the Presidential Secretariat. Jayasundera quoted Dr. Saman Kithalawarachchi, the then Chairman of the Presidential Narcotics Bureau, as having told him that Namal Kumara served as a lecturer and was paid by the Presidential Secretariat.

Jayakody, in his open letter to Gen. Gunaratn, asked for the status of the investigation launched, following Namal Kumara’s unprecedented claims. “The people have a right to know. The government, under siege over the economic fallout, should come clean,” Jayakody stressed, adding that the ongoing countrywide protests reflected the crisis the country is in today.

Key issues

The Police Department owed an explanation to the public regarding the status of the investigation into the disgraced TID Chief’s alleged involvement in planned political assassinations. DIG Jayakody said that the incumbent dispensation, having repeatedly assured justice for the Easter Sunday victims, was yet to bring a critically important investigation into the Namal Kumara affair, to a successful conclusion. The need for a thorough investigation into the constitutional coup, perpetrated by President Maithripala Sirisena immediately after DIG Silva’s arrest, cannot be ignored. Would Zahran Hashim have gone ahead with the attacks if the constitutional coup succeeded? DIG Jayakody raised the following unresolved accusations leveled by Namal Kunara:

* DIG Silva dispatched a police hit squad, that had been assigned the task of carrying out VIP assassination, to Batticaloa

* DIG Silva sought special weapons used by snipers

* DIG Silva conspired with the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe

* Involvement of Thushara Peiris, a person living overseas, in the assassination conspiracy

*Conspiracy to involve ‘Makandure Madush’ in the conspiracy

Suspected drug baron, Samarasinghe Arachchige Madush Lakshitha, alias ‘Makandure Madush,’ was shot dead in the early hours of Oct 21, 2020. Madush was killed, under controversial circumstances, while being in police custody. At the time of the incident, Madush had been in the custody of the Colombo Crime Division (CCD). The police claimed that Madush received gunshot injuries at the Lakshitha Sevana apartment complex at Applewatta, in Maligawatta. Madush was brought to Colombo on May 05, 2019, from Dubai, where he was arrested on February 05, 2019.

Jayakody questioned the rationale in Namal Kumara’s accusations, TID Chief’s arrest and delivering a crippling blow to investigations into Zahran Hashim’s outfit. Finally, the wartime Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who had been the alleged target of a police assassination attempt, won an opportunity to contest the 2019 presidential election, on the SLPP ticket. Gotabaya Rajapaksa received the mandate of 6.9 mn votes whereas the other claimed target, Maithripala Sirisena, in his capacity as the SLFP leader, contested the 2020 General Election. Sirisena re-entered Parliament having contested the Polonnaruwa electoral district. The SLFP group, in the current Parliament, comprised 14 lawmakers, including one National List MP. Except for Angajan Ramanathan, elected on the SLFP ticket (Jaffna District), the remaining 13 entered Parliament on the SLPP ticket.

Ex-DIG Jayakody said that in the wake of the SLPP victory, they expected rapid progress, not only in the Easter Sunday massacre probe, but also investigations into the Namal Kumara affair. Jayakody compared the investigations into the Easter Sunday attacks, and the Namal Kumara affair, with that of the 1962 coup attempt meant to remove the then Premier Sirimavo Bandaranaike from power. Jayakody recalled how top military personnel, who had been accused of the bid to assassinate Premier Bandaranaike, were dealt with the following investigations. Unfortunately, investigations into Namal Kumara’s disclosure hadn’t been completed, even over three and half years after the arrest of TID Chief.

In his open letter, Jayakody posed the following questions to Gen. Gunaratne: (i) Would you disclose the current status of the investigations into claims made by Namal Kumara (ii) Would you explain why cases hadn’t been filed in court against ex-DIG Nalaka Silva or other suspects involved in the alleged assassination attempts (iii) Have the investigators succeeded in verifying the claims made by Namal Kumara? If the accusations could be verified, what delayed all suspects being arrested? In respect of those who had been arrested so far, what caused the delay in the government moving court against them? (vi) Have the investigators realized that there is no basis for Namal Kumara’s accusations? If so, why a case hadn’t been filed against the former police informant over making false accusation and finally (vii) Could you explain the failure on the part of the government to conduct investigations speedily in spite of one of the two main targets of ex-DIG Nalaka Silva, as alleged by Namal Kumara, is serving the incumbent administration as the President, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, and the other leader of a constituent party and a lawmaker.

Cardinal’s stand

The government should be mindful of the consequences of further delay in bringing the investigations into a conclusion. The widely held belief that the incumbent dispensation deliberately delayed, or undermined the investigations, may cause quite a serious situation, particularly against the backdrop of the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) taking up the issue last year. Sri Lanka Co Chairs at the UNHRC, too, have taken up the issue.

Jayakody warned that unless the government, at least now, dealt with the Namal Kumara affair properly, the public would believe it was related to the Easter Sunday conspiracy. According to Jayakody, the public are gravely suspicious of Namal Kumara ‘drama’ being the precursor for later developments. Jayakody questioned Gen. Gunaratne’s response to Archbishop of Colombo Rt. Rev. Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith’s repeated demands for justice. Referring to Gen. Gunaratne’s recent response to the Cardinal’s public criticism of the handling of the Easter Sunday investigations, Jayakody asserted that the Defence Secretary’s advice to the Cardinal that he should inform the CID of any relevant information without making public statements sounded like a challenge. Jayakody emphasized that the Cardinal had taken the issue beyond the CID against the backdrop of growing suspicions that justice couldn’t be expected under the current dispensation.

Jayakody, identifying himself as a Catholic, drew the government’s attention to the Cardinal’s fight, both here and abroad, that has attracted the attention of the international community. The retired top cop stressed that the government hadn’t so far been able to counter the spate of issues raised by the Catholic Church regarding the Easter Sunday massacre. Instead of challenging the Catholic Church, the government should answer pertinent questions.

Responding to The Island queries, Jayakody emphasized that he didn’t want to issue a character certificate to DIG Nalaka Silva. Jayakody said the issue at hand is whether Namal Kumara, at the behest of some interested party/parties, directed a spate of allegations, at the then TID Chief Silva, to create an environment conducive for law enforcement authorities to move against DIG Silva. Had Silva received the wrath of the powers that be, as he pursued the now proscribed National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) responsible for the Easter Sunday massacre?

The Easter Sunday massacre created an environment that undermined the yahapalana administration. The public responded to the SLPP’s assurances to ensure security in the run-up to the 2019 Presidential Election. Three years later, those who vowed to deal with extremism and terrorism are under fire over the failure to unravel the Easter Sunday mystery.

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