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War Heroes or criminals?

Courtesy The Island-July 15, 2017, 12:00 pm

Gotabaya Rajapaksa Former Defence Secretary Questioned by the Presidential


Commission of Inquiry into Serious Acts of Fraud and Corruption, the FCID, the
CID and the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery and Corruption. We
have lost track of what he has been questioned about but they range from
financial misappropriation to abduction to removing scrap iron from the
abandoned KKS cement factory.

The former Navy Spokesman Commodore


D.K.P.Dassanayake was arrested last week on charges of causing the
disappearance of 11 persons in 2008. Dassanayake, a highly decorated Naval
officer who played a major role in the war, is the latest high ranking armed forces
officer to be arrested under the present government. After January 2015, a good
cross section of the entire military high command that won the war against
terrorism has either been investigated, questioned, arrested or remanded over
some criminal investigation or the other. During the previous government, the
then General Sarath Fonseka was arrested and jailed over two cases, one of which
related to irregularities in Army procurements; the other being the white flag
incident. The first case in which Fonseka was convicted by a military court was
clearly a tit for tat political reprisal.

At the 2010 presidential elections, Fonseka pledged on every platform to put the
Rajapaksas in jail and to make them wear jumpers. (jumper andanawa , katu
lewakanna denawa). That venemous election campaign was one of the main
reasons for Fonsekas ignominious defeat. Tissa Attanayake the then general
secretary of the UNP says in his memoirs that he had tried to caution Fonseka
asking him at one point whether such statements werent a bit too much? But
Fonseka had brushed aside Attanayakes concerns saying that was what brought
cheers from the crowds. It was only natural that if Fonseka contested that
election to put his rivals in jail and make them wear jumpers, his opponents who
emerged panting and palpitating but victorious from that election would repay
him in the same coin.

Even though the procurements case against Fonseka was definitely politically
motivated, one cannot say the same about the white flag case because the
principle witness in that case was Frederica Jansz the editor of the Sunday Leader
the newspaper which first published Fonsekas comments on the white flag
incident, Furthermore, the Sunday Leader and Jansz herself openly supported
Fonsekas candidacy. Fonseka got convicted in the white flag case under the
provisions of the emergency regulations for uttering what he himself admitted
were falsehoods, which had the potential to cause a breach of the peace. While
his case stands out like a sore thumb during the previous government, under the
present government there has not been one, but many such cases, involving
many key figures that played a central role in the war against the LTTE. Is this just
a coincidence with almost everybody in the military set up actually being
involved in theft and murder or are these politically motivated reprisals like the
Fonseka affair? A line up of the defence personnel who played significant roles in
the war and who have been questioned, arrested, or charged for various crimes
since the present government came into power would be as follows:

Wasantha Karannagoda Commander the Navy during the war. Questioned by


the CID over the disappearance of several youth in 2008 2009.

Kapila Hendawitharana, former Chief of National Intelligence questioned by the


FCID over transactions relating to a Jaffna-based satellite television group.

Jagath Jayasuriya, former Army Commander (Vanni Commander during the


war.) Questioned by the CID in relation to the disappearance of journalist
Prageeth Ekneligoda.

Donald Perera, former Air Force Commander. Chief of Defence Staff during the
war, questioned by the FCID regarding the 2006 MiG deal.

Roshan Goonetillake the Air force Commander during the war, questioned by
the FCID regarding the MiG deal.

Daya Ratnayake former Army Commander and a key figure in the Eastern
theatre of the war questioned by the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into
Serious Acts of Fraud and Corruption about the removal of scrap iron from the
Kankesanturai Cement factory.
Jayanath Colombage former Commander of the Navy charged by the FCID over
the Avant Guard case.

Somatilleke Dissanayake former Commander of the Navy charged over the


Avant Guard case.
Jayantha Perera former Commander of the Navy charged over the Avant
Guard case.
Police DIG K. L. M. Sarathchandra arrested for the misappropriation of a vehicle.
Police DIG Anura Senanayake over one year in remand for allegedly covering
up Thajudeens alleged murder.

Apart from the top ranking personnel mentioned above, second tier military
officers have also been either questioned, arrested, charged over various
allegations and among them are the following:

Major Gen. (Rtd) Mahinda Hathurusinghe former Security Forces Commander


Jaffna questioned by the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into Serious Acts of
Fraud and Corruption about the removal of scrap iron from the Kankesanturai
Cement factory.

Major Gen. (Rtd) Udaya Perera the Director Operations of the Army during
the war, questioned by the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into Serious Acts
of Fraud and Corruption about the removal of scrap iron from the Kankesanturai
Cement factory.
The latest high ranking armed forces member to be arrested over a criminal
allegation is Navy Commodore D.K.P.Dassanayake.

There are many other officers who have been either questioned or arrested and
remanded particularly in the intelligence services examples of this being former
Director of Military Intelligence Amal Karunasekera and Major Gen. Suresh Sally,
also a former DMI. The intelligence divisions of the armed forces have taken the
brunt of the present investigative fervour with many personnel ranging from
senior officers right down to Corporals and soldiers spending varying periods in
remand prison. Three Navy officers were arrested and tried for the assassination
of parliamentarian Nadarajah Raviraj but all of them were acquitted by the High
Court. All this comes in a situation where dangerous LTTE cadres who were
deemed by the previous government to be impossible to rehabilitate, were
released without trial by the present government.

In fact just last week, Ben Emmerson the UN Special Rapporteur on


Counterterrorism and Human Rights in concluding his visit to Sri Lanka fulminated
against the Prevention of Terrorism Act and wanted it abolished which means
that all the present detainees under the PTA will be released automatically. The
UN Special Rapporteur also said that he was given a personal assurance by the
prime minister that (among other things) an office of a Special Prosecutor would
be set up to bring criminal charges against those responsible for the most serious
atrocities. He also stated that the chief of the army Mahesh Senanayake had
given him a public commitment that members of the armed forces who had
committed crimes would be brought to justice. Given what Emmerson said in Sri
Lanka, what we can expect in the coming months is a ratcheting up of criminal
investigations against armed forces personnel.

This spate of investigations against armed forces personnel for various criminal
activities like theft and abduction seems to be a softening up of the public for the
big show. If Fonseka was jailed as retaliation for having promised to put his
opponents in jail, for what reason is the present government investigating,
questioning arresting or remanding so many armed forces personnel from the
highest to the lowest ranks? None of these people threatened to put the leaders
of the yahapalana government in jail. This seems to be motivated by a need to
fulfil pledges given by this government to their real masters both within and
outside this country. Once the public sees former and serving members of the
armed forces going in an unending procession to the CID, FCID, the Commission
Against Bribery and Corruption and to the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into
Serious Acts of Fraud and Corruption, that becomes a part of ordinary life and
after people get used to it, it will be easier to bring the same personnel to other
tribunals to answer to allegations of war crimes.

GL decries govt.s blatant, despicable lies


All this comes in the context where the government tried to take up for debate in
parliament, a Bill to incorporate into the law of Sri Lanka, the provisions of the
International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced
Disappearances which was signed and ratified after the present government
came into power. This Bill seeks to enable foreign countries to request the
extradition of a Sri Lankan who is suspected, accused or convicted of having
caused enforced disappearances in Sri Lanka. Under this law foreign countries
would also be authorized to arrest and try Sri Lankans for disappearances that
allegedly took place in Sri Lanka and even to hand over persons so arrested to an
international criminal tribunal even if Sri Lanka does not come under the
jurisdiction of that international tribunal.

Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa put out a statement earlier this month
outlining the dangers of this proposed legislation and due to the public outcry
that followed, the government was forced to withdraw the Bill. However, UNP
and SLFP Ministers Mangala Samaraweera, Dayasiri Jayasekera and Vijayamuni
Zoysa have been engaged in an attempt to justify this Bill saying that it will apply
only to the future and not to the past which assertion has been furiously
contested by Prof. G.L.Peiris. Quoting the proviso to Article 13(6) of the
Constitution, he pointed out that even if a certain act was not an offence in terms
of Sri Lankan law at the time of its commission, the trial and punishment of a
person for any act which was criminal according to the general principles of law
recognized by the community of nations would be legal and therefore this Bill
would apply to the past as well.

Prof. Peiris charged that this Bill was probably not even drafted here but sent
from overseas a charge that seems to ring true when listening to UN Special
Rapporteur Ben Emmersons imperious threats and exhortations delivered last
week. GLP scoffed at Minsiter Mahinda Samarasinghes statement that President
Maithripala Sirisena had wanted the debate on this Bill postponed so that he
could study it more carefully, pointing out that this Bill had been approved by the
cabinet of which the President is a member, and in any case it had been gazetted
months earlier and the President would have had all the time in the world to
study it if he wanted to. Prof Peiris said that earlier the controversy was about
whether foreign judges should be allowed to serve in a war crimes tribunal in Sri
Lanka but that now the government seems to have changed their strategy and
instead of bringing foreign judges here, they are trying through this proposed
legislation to send our armed forces personnel overseas to be tried by interested
foreign governments.

Ominously, he pointed out that this proposed legislation seeks to circumvent the
safeguards in Sri Lankas Extradition Law No 8 of 1977. One of those protections
was that no person can be extradited for an offence of a political nature. He
stated that in terms of the Bill before parliament, that protection which is even
enshrined in customary international law, is specifically taken away and
furthermore, that through this proposed Bill, it becomes possible to send Sri
lankans to the Hague through a foreign country.

He also pointed out that the United States, Britain, Australia and Canada, had not
signed this Convention and that the Scandinavian countries which are usually at
the forefront of any human rights initiative had signed it ten years ago in 2007,
but never ratified it. GLP pointed out that even though India had signed it ten
years ago, she too had never ratified it. Yet the Sri lankan government had signed
and ratified this convention within a few months with no thought being given as
to why even countries that lecture us on human rights had kept away from this
international convention. He pointed out that the clear policy of the USA is that
no foreign government is going to try an American soldier.

GLP charged that this latest Bill to incorporate into Sri Lankan law the provisions
of the International Convention against Disappearances was aimed at fulfilling the
pledges given by the present government in UN Human Rights Council resolution
No: 30/1 of October 2015. He pointed out that the government effectively
renewed their pledge to implement this resolution in full by asking for more time
earlier this year and that the Bill under discussion is a part of that process of
implementation. He said that Clause 23 of the proposed Bill enables the proposed
law to supercede all other written laws in Sri Lanka giving it a status akin to the
constitution. He said that the Joint Opposition does not want the debate on this
Bill postponed. They want it withdrawn altogether.
Posted by Thavam