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Midweek Review

US promotes Mahesh, keeps Shavendra on blacklist

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Kanag-Isvaran, PC, in GTF-TNA delegation for US talks

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Three years after his retirement, former Commander of the Army General Mahesh Senanayake has been inducted into the United States Army Command and General Staff College (CGSC) International Hall of Fame at Fort Leavenworth, on Nov 16, 2021.

An ex-graduate of CGSC, Senanayake has been recognised for his ‘outstanding military leadership for the nation and commitment to preserving global peace.’ Senanayake received CGSC recognition as a joint Tamil National Alliance (TNA)-Global Tamil Forum (GTF) delegation commenced weeklong discussions with US officials in Washington and New York. The TNA delegation included Kanaganayagam Kanag-Isvaran, PC and Jaffna District lawmaker Mathiaparanan Abraham Sumanthiran PC.

Sumanthiran entered Parliament on the TNA National List following the 2010 general election and is widely believed to be the international face of the party whereas the inclusion of top lawyer Kanag-Isvaran, in the TNA delegation raised many an eyebrow. However, the GTF pointed out that Kanag-Isvaran, had represented the TNA at the All Party Representative Committee (APRC). In addition, Kanag-Isvaran represented in the TNA delegation, that held 18 rounds of talks with the then Mahinda Rajapaksa government in 2011.

Mrs. (Dr.) Anne Nirmala Vijayalakshmi Chandrahasan, who had been in the delegation, had served the ‘Experts Committee’ set up to advise the APRC on constitutional and legal matters connected with the peace process and resolution of the national question. She was among the 11 members who submitted the Majority Report of the Committee in December 2006. She has been a consultant (2015 – 2016) at the Office of National Unity and Reconciliation (ONUR) in Sri Lanka, during the term of office of the previous Government of Sri Lanka.

Obviously, the TNA-GTF combination is making an effort to build up a strong case for international intervention here. Kanag-Isvaran has appeared in high profile cases such as the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill (2021), impeachment of Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake (2013) and de-merger of the Eastern Province from the North (2006).

Deputy Assistant Secretary, Ambassador Kelly Keiderling , Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, who was in Colombo recently (Nov 13-15) was among those involved in talks with the TNA-GTF delegation.

At the conclusion of talks, the GTF, in a statement issued from the UK, expressed its deep appreciation for the US leadership at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in promoting accountability, reconciliation, and human rights in Sri Lanka. While calling for continued leadership of the United States Government at the UNHRC and in light of Sri Lanka’s failure to make satisfactory progress on implementing UNHRC Resolution 46/1, the TNA-GTF combination urged the US to consider a multifaceted approach in addressing the many challenges in Sri Lanka. The TNA-GTF joint delegation called for a deeper US role in promoting human rights, accountability, political resolution, and reconciliation in Sri Lanka. The US remains one of the worst human rights violators, both at home and abroad, with the 2003 invasion of Iraq on the basis of bogus claims that the then Iraqi government was developing Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs).

The TNA and the GTF reached consensus on a common approach in respect of Sri Lanka after the armed forces’ triumph over separatist terrorism in May 2009. In fact, the eradication of the LTTE has made their task easier. Had the Western powers managed to halt the Sri Lankan offensive, in early 2009, the LTTE wouldn’t have allowed the emergence of the GTF (the formal setting up of the organization took place in Feb 2010 at the British House of Commons) or freed the TNA from its grip (the TNA, having recognised the LTTE, in 2001, as the sole representative of the Tamil speaking people, relinquished its political rights).

Perhaps the TNA backing General Sarath Fonseka’s candidature at the 2010 presidential election should be examined against the backdrop of the eradication of the LTTE through military means. In fact, the US, arranged the formation of a grand coalition that comprised the UNP, the JVP, the TNA, the SLMC and the ACMC in support of Fonseka. The US cannot deny its role in forming the political alliance thanks to Wikileaks specific information as regards the 2010 political project, is now in the public domain.

The Tamil Guardian

, in a report dated Nov 18 dealt with CGSC recognition of Senanayake. The report headlined “Accused Sri Lankan war criminal inducted into US military ‘International Hall of Fame” quoted Commandant of the CGSC Lt. General Theodore Martin as having said Senanayake has “actively contributed to all major military operations conducted in the North and East of Sri Lanka”.

“His contributions towards resettlement of internally displaced persons and service towards the reconciliation process following a 27 years long civil war in his country are truly noteworthy,” declared Lt. Gen. Martin, adding that Senanayake was a “trusted and important partner in the bilateral military co-operation between our two countries which has contributed directly to a safer and more prosperous Indo-Pacific region”.

Did the Tamil Guardian oppose the TNA backing Fonseka? What is the GTF’s stand on the TNA backing for Fonseka, the war winning Army Commander?

The prestigious college has inducted altogether 285 international graduates from 75 different nations. Senanayake is the 286th, having studied at the college in 2000. The CGSC recognition of Senanayake should be examined taking into consideration the US categorisation of Commander of the Army Gen. Shavendra Silva as a war criminal.

The US found fault with General Silva for leading Task Force 1 (TF1) subsequently named 58 Division, the celebrated fighting formation that fought in both the west and the east of the Kandy-Jaffna A9 road.

Let us only pray that Gen. Senanayake will not become a brown Uncle Tom to serve the vile interests of US/Britain-led West against Sri Lanka in time to come.

Interestingly, close on the heels of the US recognition of retired Gen. Senanayake, some British MPs have launched a fresh campaign against Gen. Silva. Conservative Party lawmakers Theresa Anne Villiers and Elliot Colburn recently urged the UK to impose travel restrictions on Gen. Silva. They want Boris Johnson’s government to follow the US strategy in dealing with the Sri Lankan General.

US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, declared on Feb 14, 2020: “I am designating Shavendra Silva making him ineligible for entry into the U.S. due to his involvement in extrajudicial killings during Sri Lanka’s Civil War. The U.S. will not waver in its pursuit of accountability for those who commit war crimes and violate human rights.”

Senanayake’s return

Senanayake served as the Commander of the Army from July 2017 to August 2019. He was succeeded by Silva in the run-up to the 2019 presidential election. Having received the command, Senanayake declared, in Kilinochchi those who retired from military service shouldn’t enter politics. Having said so, Senanayake contested the 2019 presidential election. The former Army Chief ended a distant fourth with less than 50,000 votes whereas Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who retired in the rank of Lieutenant Colonel back in 1991, polled 6.9 mn votes. Senanayake was the second Army Commander to contest a presidential election. War winning Army Chief General Sarath Fonseka was the first. Mahinda Rajapaksa routed Fonseka at the 2010 presidential election with the latter losing by a margin of 1.8mn votes.

Senanayake was among those who had been sent on compulsory leave in 2010 after Fonseka suffered defeat. The then government quite wrongly accused them of backing Fonseka, then accused of trying to stage a military coup against President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Within weeks after thwarting Mahinda Rajapaksa’s bid to secure a third term, Sirisena reinstated Maj. Gen. Mahesh Senanayake, Brig. Bimal Dias, Brig. Duminda Keppetiwalana, Brig. Janaka Mohotti, Brig. Athula Hannedige, Brig. Wasantha Kumarapperuma, Colonel Tilak Ubayawardena, Lt. Colonel LJMCP Jayasundara, Captain RMR Ranaweera and Captain WADC Chrishantha. At the time of their reinstatement, Daya Ratnayake had been the Commander of the Army.

Having contested the presidential election on the National People’s Party ticket, Senanayake unceremoniously left the country contrary to his much repeated promise to contest the parliamentary elections. Senanayake declared that his defeat at the presidential poll was not the end of his career but the beginning. Obviously the former Army Chief did not mean what he said despite his bravado.

It would be pertinent to mention that the 2019 Easter Sunday carnage paved the way for Senanayake to enter politics at the highest level by contesting the presidential election. Senanayake received substantial media coverage as the media targeted the then government over the lapses that led to multiple suicide attacks by the National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ). The Easter Sunday carnage gave Senanayake the much needed exposure.

The Media was also blind to the fact that Army Commander Senanayake’s Military Intelligence, one of the biggest spy outfits in the country, managed to claim total ignorance of what took place and got off scot free.

Senanayake, who had never received media coverage during the conflict though CGSC declared Senanayake actively contributed to all major military operations conducted in the North and East of Sri Lanka, shamelessly exploited the Easter Sunday carnage to boost his ego. Senanayake steadfastly maintained that the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) hadn’t been aware of the warning received by the State Intelligence Service (SIS) from India on April 4, 2019.

The five-member Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) that probed the Easter Sunday carnage also never felt the need to examine the failure on the part of the DMI to thwart the NTJ terror project. In fact, so far, the DMI’s failure hadn’t been investigated at all. The Army should have at least conducted an internal probe to ascertain the DMI’s failure.

Had the DMI inquired into the Easter Sunday fiasco, it would realise a thorough inquiry into the execution-style killing of two policemen at Vavunativu, Batticaloa, on the night of Nov. 30, 2018, could have exposed the NTJ plot. It would be pertinent to ask the DMI whether the outfit initiated a fresh inquiry into Vavunativu killings after the recovery of explosives at Wanathawilluwa in January 2019. In between the Vavunativu killings and Wanathawilluwa, explosives recovery, the destruction of several Buddha statues took place in the Mawanella electorate. In early March 2019, Minister Kabir Hashim’s Coordinating Secretary Mohamed Naslim was shot at his home. The bottom line is that the then government should have been able to thwart the NTJ plot even without India passing specific information regarding the impending attack.

A humiliating failure

Over 12 years after the successful conclusion of the war, the country is still struggling to cope up with accountability issues. Sri Lanka suffered a debilitating setback in the third week of November when Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York, Mohan Peiris, PC, failed to secure a place at the international Law Commission (ILC) that consists of 34 persons. Although some have depicted Sri Lanka’s failure as a personal setback suffered by Peiris, the writer is of the view the situation underscored the fact that the country continued to be hounded by the West. In spite of bombastic statements here, the incumbent government hasn’t even bothered to bring all available information, evidence and data before the UNHRC as part of an overall effort to clear war crimes accusations directed at the country. The declaration of the Army Commander as a war criminal in Feb 2020 hasn’t prompted the political leadership to take up the daunting challenge on the diplomatic front. In an exclusive interview with the writer in Sept 2019 in Colombo, Lord Naseby, who had made available powerful ammunition to be used against the Geneva Resolution expressed deep displeasure over Sri Lanka’s failure to properly present its case therein. Over two years after the last presidential election, the information that had been announced in the House of Lords in Oct 2017 remained unused. Sri Lanka’s rejection at the ILC should be studied taking into consideration the pathetic situation the country is in due to yahapalana betrayal of the armed forces and the failure on the part of the incumbent lot to take remedial measures.

US, Lanka fail at ILC election

The former AG who served as the CJ in the wake of the moving of the questionable impeachment motion in Parliament against CJ, 43, Bandaranayake, is no stranger to controversy. One cannot easily forget how the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) withdrew a high profile case. The CIABOC earlier moved court against Supreme Court Judge A.H.M.D. Nawaz (he currently heads a presidential commission of inquiry), former Power Ministry Secretary M.M.C. Ferdinando, current CEB Chairman), and Former Chief Justice Mohan Peiris (Sri Lanka’s PR in New York), over committing an offense under the Bribery Act in respect of irregularities in the purchase of a land in December 2010 for the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB).

Sri Lanka shouldn’t have contested the election for the LLC under any circumstances as defeat was inevitable. The election of the members of the Commission for a five-year term beginning on 1 January 2023 took place at the 76 th session of the General Assembly. Mohan Peiris had sought a place among the eight chosen from the Asia-Pacific region and was defeated badly. Let me reiterate that Sri Lanka should accept that the world has rejected the country, not the individual. Japan, China, South Korea, Thailand, Cyprus, Vietnam, India, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Lebanon, Mongolia and Bahrain contested for the Asia-Pacific slots. Mohan Peiris obtained 112 votes out of 192. The elected Asia-Pacific group comprised India (163 votes), Thailand (162 votes), Japan (154 votes), Vietnam (145 votes), China (142 votes), South Korea (140), Cyprus (139) and Mongolia (123).

The US, too, failed to secure a place among the ILC. The world’s solitary superpower polled just 114 seats just two more votes than Sri Lanka. Among those unsuccessful contestants for the Western European and other States grouping are Spain, the US and Israel. Those who had sought to humiliate Sri Lanka over its failure to secure a place at the ILC conveniently ignored how the world looked at the US rights record. Norway, Portugal, Italy, the UK, Austria, New Zealand, France and Turkey comprised the Western European and Other States.

Sri Lanka represented the ILC (1992-1996 /John de Saram) and Rohan Perera (2007-2011). Perhaps, the TNA-GTF combination does not care about the US human rights record but merely expects the world power to exert pressure on Sri Lanka. The TNA-GTF combination is obviously exploiting the ongoing ‘battle’ between China and the US-led coalition to its advantage. Unfortunately, the incumbent government seems ensnared in political games having caused irreparable damage by waste, corruption and mismanagement at a time the country is facing a grave balance of payments crisis.

The latest debacle suffered at the ILC should prompt Sri Lanka to review the overall situation without further delay. The government should seek an opportunity to present Lord Naseby’s disclosure, relevant Wikileaks cables, the US embassy statement made in June 2011 in Colombo and all other related information before the UNHRC. Utterly irresponsible Sri Lankan bureaucracy since the sponsorship of an accountability resolution against the country in 2015 conveniently failed at least to mention how the UN shielded the LTTE at the commencement of the Vanni offensive. Sri Lanka’s continuing failure to set the record straight is quite astonishing as no person less than the Commander of the Army General Shavendra Silva remains blacklisted. While Sri Lanka bungles the defence of her own armed forces, the UNHRC that perpetrated a massive blunder by falsely accusing the Army of Mannar mass graves keeps its agenda on track.

We wonder whether our Foreign Ministry lacks officers of calibre to mount a fight back or are its talented officers held back due to internal politics? May be it is time the Foreign Minister takes remedial measures.

Let me finish this piece by reproducing verbatim what Michelle Bachelet told the UNHRC in March 2019.

The following is the relevant section bearing No 23: “On May 29, 2018, human skeletal remains were discovered at a construction site in Mannar (Northern Province), Excavations conducted in support of the Office on Missing Persons, revealed a mass grave from which more than 300 skeletons were discovered. It was the second mass grave found in Mannar following the discovery of a site in 2014. Given that other mass graves might be expected to be found in the future, systematic access to grave sites by the Office as an observer is crucial for it to fully discharge its mandate, particularly with regard to the investigation and identification of remains, it is imperative that the proposed reforms on the law relating to inquests, and relevant protocols to operationalise the law be adopted. The capacity of the forensic sector must also be strengthened, including in areas of forensic anthropology, forensic archeology and genetics, and its coordination with the Office of Missing Persons must be ensured.” The Bachelet report dealt with the situation here from Oct 2015 to January 2019.

But a radiocarbon dating analysis by the Beta Analytic Testing Laboratory in Florida, US, in respect of six skeletal samples sent there in January 2019 with the intervention of the Office of Missing Persons (OMP) established in accordance with Oct 2015 Geneva Resolution, determined them to be from the colonial era.

President’s Counsel Saliya Pieris, who gave leadership to that effort, is the head of the Sri Lanka Bar Association (BASL) now.

The US lab tests revealed that the skeletons belonged to a period that covered the Portuguese and the Dutch rule. Having repeatedly vowed to reverse the Geneva process, the SLPP, two years after the last presidential election, is yet to present Sri Lanka’s case before the international community. The SLPP government’s failure in Geneva at least to refer to the US lab tests contradicting Bachelet is nothing but treachery and negligence at the highest levels.



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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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