ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena bowed to his civil society supporters and ordered the removal of the army intelligence chief Tuan Suresh Sallay who had been accused of causing rifts within the coalition.
Sallay was replaced by Brigadier Vijendra Gunatillaka with immediate effect, the army said hours after Professor Sarath Wijesuriya and his fellow intellectuals met with Sirisena at his home on Tuesday night.
Prof Wijesuriya had gone public accusing Sallay of causing trouble and urged the President to sack in along with Defence Secretary Karunasena Hettiarachchi and Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapaskha.
"There will be some other changes too in the very near future," a government sources said.
Prof Wijesuriya told reporters in Colombo that President Sirisena, whom they backed at the January 2015 elections, had become a hostage of Sallay and accused him being at the bottom of tensions within the government.
"He has planted a falsehood that the entire armed forces are against the President. He (Brig Sally) is a person who is due to be arrested," Wijesuriya said.
The involvement of the military intelligence had been well established in the murder of Lasantha Wickrematunga, the abduction and disappearance of Prageeth Eknaligoda and the attempted murder of Upali Thennakoon.
In all these cases, brigadier Sallay is a person of interest for investigators and prof Wijesuriya said he should have been arrested long time ago as he had headed the spy unit from the time of Gotabhara Rajapaksa.
The bombshell announcement of removing Sallay came as Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne told reporters at the weekly cabinet press briefing that it was the military which had started the so-called "Aava Group" causing tensions in Jaffna.
The minister said former defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and an army officer (who had since retired) were responsible for creating the clandestine group originally with the intent of targeting Tamil Tigers.
However, the minister said Rajapaksa loyalists were currently backing the Aava Group to cause unrest and destabilise Jaffna.
The minister’s remarks backed claims from residents that the military intelligence was still behind the Aava Group and they operated with impunity because of the covert army support.
(COLOMBO, Nov 2, 2016)