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Friday August 12th, 2022

Slain Sri Lanka editor’s daughter writes to President

ECONOMYNEXT – The daughter of slain Sri Lanka editor Lasantha Wickremetunga has lashed out at President Maithripala Sirisena for allegedly obstructing high profile investigations after the officer who was probing her father’s murder was suddenly take off the case.

"I have faith in the Criminal lnvestigation Department and the independent institutions of Sri
Lanka such as the National Police Commission and Constitutional Council," Ahimsa Wickrematunge
Wrote.

"They will not allow you to get away with such a blatant abuse of power.

Mr, President, you have only two choices before you.

"You could be remembered as the President who quickly rectified an ill-advised lapse in judgment by immediately reversing the removal of Nishantha Silva from the CID and letting him do his job.

Alternatively, you could wait until the independent National Police Commission or a court of
law reviews your order and shoots it down.

"ln that case you will be remembered as the  President who tried to stop some of the most high-profile criminal investigations in the country – and failed. Make no mistake, Mr. President. lf you try to stand in the way of  justice for my father and other victims of brutality, you will fail.

The full letter is reproduced below:

President Maithripala Sirisena,
Presidentia I Secretariat,
Galle Face,
Colombo 01

20th November 2018

Dear President Sirisena,

Your Decision to Removelnspector Adrian Nishantha Silva from the Criminal Investigation Department

Sunday 18th November 2018 was the 73rd birthday of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
To mark this occasion, President Rajapaksa participated in a ‘Pinkama’ at a temple near his
official residence, attended by your lnspector General of Police, Mr. Pujith Jayasundara.
After celebrating the former President’s birthday in the company of former Defence
Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Mr. Jayasundera proceeded to police headquarters, where
he signed transfer order D/HRM/ADM/1869/2018 dated 18th November 2018.

As you are fully aware, this was an order to remove Police lnspector Adrian Nishantha Silva,
Officer-in-Charge of the Gang Robbery Branch (GRB) of the Criminal lnvestigation
Department (ClD) due to unspecified "service requirements". While the order is ostensibly
from the lGP, he has made no secret of the fact that he issued this order hesitantly, at your
insistence. This was a thoughtful birthday gift on your part, but it was Mahinda’s birthday,
not Gotabaya’s.

I know lnspector Silva as the lead investigator into the murder of my father, Lasantha
Wickrematunge, who was bludgeoned to death on 8th January 2OOg, exactly six years before
you were historically elected President on a platform pledging to solve heinous murders like
my father’s.

ln January 2009, two innocent youth were abducted in Vavuniya and executed in cold blood
and their corpses burnt to ashes in Anuradhapura, all just so that their motorcycle could be
planted as evidence at the crime scene. Senior police officers helped to destroy all traces of
the notebook containing my father’s last words, which may have identified his attackers. We
know this because of Nishantha Silva. Over the last two years, he travelled tirelessly around
Vavuniya and Anuradhapura, interrogated dozens of witnesses, ordered DNA tests on
decade-old samples and finally arrested the police officers responsible, including a Senior
Deputy lnspector General.

On 18th January 2010 the CID made, a breakthrough into my father’s murder when a
mechanic in Nuwara Eliya identified a soldier in the Tripoli Military lntelligence platoon as
having used his National lD card to purchase SIM cards used to coordinate the attack on my
father. The ink was barely dry on that witness statement before the all-powerful Gotabaya
Rajapaksa personally ordered that the commanding officer of the Tripoli platoon be whisked away to a diplomatic posting. The investigation was then yanked away from the CID
overnight and given to the Terrorist lnvestigation Division (TlD), who arrested the poor
mechanic on trumped up charges and covered up all involvement of the Tripoli platoon. We
know all this purely thanks to Nishantha Silva’s investigations. We would know more if the
poor mechanic did not mysteriously perish in remand custody in October 201,1-.

I came to know Nishantha Silva when he visited Melbourne to record a statement from me
regarding my father’s murder. ltold him then that my father had said repeatedly that he
was likely to be killed by Gotabaya Rajapaksa for having exposed the MiG Deal. Nishantha
Silva fearlessly reported this to the Mount Lavinia courts. Only a court of law can decide
whether my father was right about who gave the order to kill him, but he was sure right
about the MiG Deal. The FCID investigation has shown that half the money paid by the Sri
Lanka Air Force was siphoned off to a shell company operated by middle men, and that
Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s cousin Udayanga Weeratunga was in the thick of the deal, all exactly
as my father had exposed.

Ever since lgot to meet Nishantha Silva, Iwas struck by his gentleness, humility and
dedication to his job. I started following his work and was stunned by the number of high-
profile cases that Nishantha Silva is handling. He is also the lead investigator into the brutal
May 2008 abduction and torture of journalist Keith Noyahr. Nishantha Silva’s team
reconstructed and scoured millions of telephone records, recorded over one hundred
witness statements, located the military intelligence safe house in which Keith Noyahr was
tortured, recovered documents proving the safe house was leased by military intelligence,
and arrested eight military intelligence officers including the former army chief of staff.
Seven of these suspects were from the infamous "Tripoli" white-van platoon implicated in
the murder of my father.

Heck, he even found the infamous "white van" and brought it before court. This engine of
death was a symbol of your election campaign, emblematic of the vicious brutality of your
opponents. One would have expected you promote the man who found it and not try and
sabotage his career. ln fact, lnspector Silva may have been able to figure out the nexus
between the Tripoli platoon and the chain of command if you had not personally ordered
the military not to cooperate with the investigation on so-called "national security" grounds
when the CID and the court requested essential documents and records of the army and
defence ministry.

It was also lnspector Nishantha Silva’s team who identified and arrested members of yet
another military intelligence killer squad for abducting and murdering cartoonist Prageeth
Eknaligoda on the eve of the January 2010 presidential election. Again, Nishantha’s team
scoured hundreds of thousands of telephone call records, searched several military
installations, and recorded tomes worth of witness statements. According to court
documents, at least two cooperating suspects-turned-witnesses have told the CID that the
abduction and murder of Eknaligoda was carried out on the instructions of then Defence
Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

During the investigation into the floating armoury operated by Avant Garde Maritime
Services, it was Nishantha Silva’s team who in early 20L5 first moved to impose a ban on
foreign travel by Gotabaya Rajapaksa. His team did a tremendous amount of work on this
investigation, breathing bank statements and inventorying weapons and explosives that had
been stashed at sea in Sri Lankan waters on Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s authority. This
investigation came to naught when your attorney general ruled in June 201-5 that "no
offences under the Firearms Ordinance, Explosives Ordinance or the Prevention of
Terrorism Act are disclosed" bythe operation of a floating armoury jam-packed with illegally
licensed and unlicensed automatic weapons and explosives.

Nishantha Silva has also beenthe lead investigator into the brutal abduction and murder of
eleven young men in 2008 and 2009 after their desperate families had been extorted for
ransom, allegedly by several senior naval officers whom lnspector Silva has meticulously
identified and arrested. lt was lnspector Silva who had the unprecedented courage to share
with an open court evidence that your former navy commander, now Chief of Defence Staff,
was instrumental in harbouring and smuggling out of the country a fugitive navy officer
involved in these grisly murders.

lronically, it is this same Chief of Defence Staff, a suspect wanted for arrest by lnspector
Silva, who seems to have provided you with unfounded and uncorroborated "intelligence"
that Nishantha Silva was an "LTTE mole" – intelligence that you forced down the throat of
your IGP to try and tarnish the name of one of the bravest, most dedicated and
accomplished detectives in the Sri Lanka Police.

I sympathise especially with Nishantha Silva on this point. Throughout my childhood, I
noticed that whenever my father exposed someone, and that truth was so pungent and
irrefutable that it shattered their reputations, these people would react by accusing my
father – with zero evidence – of being an "LTTE mole". My father’s reporting on the MiG
Deal, for example, led to a consorted campaign by the Ministry of Defence to brand him and
his newspaper as organs of the LTTE. But the truth came out. The truth always comes out.

The truth about Nishantha Silva is that he has been one of the single biggest thorns in the
side of the LTTE in the history of the ClD. As a junior officer he was part of the team that
investigated and dismantled the LTTE intelligence networks that supplied and facilitated the
attack on the Katunayake airport in 2000. He was a lead investigator into the 2006
assassination attempts on both Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Sarath Fonseka. He splintered the
LTTE networks involved in these and the 2008 assassination of General Janaka Perera, and
he participated in countless additionaI counter-terrorism operations.

By desperately trying to brand a faithful public servant and national hero like Nishantha
Silva as a terrorist just to please your strutting tin soldiers and to earn brownie points with
your new-found political allies, you are degrading the office of the presidency to a degree
that none of your predecessors ever have. My father at various times had fierce
disagreements with both Presidents Chandrika Kumaratunga and Mahinda Rajapaksa. They
called each other many things they would want to take back. But neither Presidents
Kumaratunga nor Rajapaksa ever stooped so low as to try and brand my father as part of the LTTE.
That is the refrain of lesser mortals, such as Gotabaya Rajapaksa, and apparently, yourself.

I urge you to remember that you have sworn an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution
of Sri Lanka, not to uphold and defend your Chief of Defence Staff and those who rule by
white van death. I do not know if these people are guilty of any crime. Neither do you. That
is for a court to decide after a thorough criminal investigation of the kind that Nishantha
Silva was so ably and tirelessly performing before you cut him off at the knees. Our role in
the criminal justice system is to support investigators however they may require.

For me, as a witness, that means answering their questions truthfully and comprehensively.
For you, as a head of state, that means putting the law before your personal relationships,
political needs and whims. lt means making available to investigators the resources, political
will and support from the state they require to get to the truth and present it before a
competent court. Above all, your role is to make it clear to police officers across the country
that working with dedication towards the pursuit of justice like Nishantha Silva has done will
bring reverence and not retaliation.

I have faith in the Criminal lnvestigation Department and the independent institutions of Sri
Lanka such as the National Police Commission and Constitutional Council. They will not
allow you to get away with such a blatant abuse of power.

Mr, President, you have only two choices before you. You could be remembered as the
President who quickly rectified an ill-advised lapse in judgment by immediately reversing
the removal of Nishantha Silva from the CID and letting him do his job.

Alternatively, you could wait until the independent National Police Commission or a court of
law reviews your order and shoots it down. ln that case you will be remembered as the
President who tried to stop some of the most high-profile criminal investigations in the
country – and failed. Make no mistake, Mr. President. lf you try to stand in the way of
justice for my father and other victims of brutality, you will fail.

Yours Sincerely,

Ahimsa Wickrematunge

cc: Chairman, Constitutional Council
cc Chairman, National Police Commission
cc lnspector General of Police
cc Director, Criminal lnvestigation Department
 

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Sri Lanka cancels visa of Scotswoman who documented anti-govt protests

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Department of Immigration and Emigration has cancelled the visa of Kayleigh Fraser, a Scotswoman who had been documenting the country’s anti-government protests on social media.

Immigration officers had approached Fraser at her home on August 02 and confiscated her passport.

“This is what will happen if you raise your voice against state violence in Sri Lanka,” Fraser wrote on Wednesday August 10, posting a letter ordering her to leave the country by August 15.

“I am proud to have been a part of this. I am proud to have met so many of you. I have… so many social enterprises I want to work on here that I know will benefit so many,” Fraser said on Instagram.

“Deporting me is a massive, massive mistake for this country. The love I have for it and its people appears to be a threat to the current rulers. Does that sound right to you?”

Fraser posted that she was not prepared for the financial cost of flights and relocation, and that all her funds were in Sri Lankan currency, and that banks were not allowing foreign transactions.

Police spokesperson Nihal Thalduwa had told a privately owned news organisation that Fraser was sharing “negative content” about Sri Lanka via her social media.

“It is not right for a foreign national to be in our country and share such mass negative content. She is not a media personnel either, to cover the protests and GotaGoGama,” he has said.

Fraser has been vocal about state sanctioned violence against protestors.

News of Fraser’s deportation has caused a small riot on social media, with many protestors voicing out their support for the foreigner who documented and showed support next to them.

Seemingly indiscriminate arrests of protestors aided by an ongoing State of Emergency have both angered and frightened Sri Lankan protestors, and many active protestors have gone into hiding to evade arrest.

Some protestors said they were “taking a break” or “distancing themselves” due to continued harassment.

However, the authorities maintain that all arrests are in accordance with the law. The government has pointed to acts of retaliatory mob violence on May 09 and the forced occupation of government buildings by protestors on July 09.

“They are calling us terrorists for holding placards. This was such a peaceful protest, the only terrorism carried out was by the government against the people,” said an active protestor, who preferred not to be named.

Fraser wrote that Sri Lankans should not forget that they got to the streets for a system change.

“Live in such a way that your children will thank you for the world they inherit,” she said.

“It’s not over till it’s over. I have an unbelievable amount of high profile people fighting this order for me to leave.”(Colombo/Aug11/2022)

 

 

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Sri Lanka to acquire 35,000MT of petrol; unloading on Aug 12

ECONOMYNEXT-  Sri Lanka to receive a cargo of 35,000 metric tonns of petrol on Thursday August 11 with unloading scheduled for Friday, Minister of Power & Energy Kanchana Wijesekara said.

Wijesekara tweeted that the ship will arrive at the Colombo port Thursday night, and that the payment for the cargo had been completed with the support of the Central Bank by Wednesday.

The minister had said earlier on Wednesday that a separate cargo of crude oil is also expected on Saturday August 13, and from August 19 onwards, locally produced fuel is expected to be released to the market from the Sapugaskanda refinery.

Meanwhile, in an earlier report, Lanka IOC, a local unit of the Indian Oil Corporation (OIC), said a vessel carrying 30,000 metric tons of fuel for LIOC is scheduled to arrive between August 10 and 15.

Related: Three shipments of fuel to arrive in Sri Lanka by mid, end July, August: Lanka IOC

Meanwhile, Wijesekara said that 5.7 million people have signed up for the QR-code facilitated National Fuel Pass.

From July 21 up to now, Wijesekara said, a total of 54.9 million litres of fuel had been sold through 1,053 CPC fuel stations while 207 LIOC stations have sold 11.26 million litres of fuel. (Colombo/Aug11/2022)

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MPs nominated to Sri Lanka’s parliamentary committee on public finance

The sun sets over the Parliament at Shri Jayewardenepura

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s parliament has appointed members to its Committee on Public Finance, Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena said.

According to his announcement made in parliament on Wednesday August 10, in terms of the provisions of the Standing Order 121 of Parliament, MPs Bandula Gunawardana,  Vidura Wickramanayaka,  Nalin Fernando,  Anura Priyadharshana Yapa,  Vijitha Herath,  Duminda Dissanayake,  Shehan Semasinghe,  Premitha Bandara Tennakoon and Harsha de Silva have been appointed.

Indika Anuruddha Herath,  Siripala Gamalath, Seetha Arambepola, Suren Raghavan,  M A Sumanthiran,   Kavinda Heshan Jayawardhana,  Mujibur Rahuman,  Harshana Rajakaruna,  Chaminda Wijesiri,  Isuru Dodangoda,  Anupa Pasqual and  (Prof) Ranjith Bandara also have been appointed to serve as members in the Committee on Public Finance.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe tabled a proposed framework during his time as Prime Minister under President Gotabaya Rajapaksa for sectoral oversight committees in parliament with the objective of increased bipartisan parliamentary involvement in governance and policy-making.

Wickremesinghe told parliament on July 06 that under such a system, the entire parliament irrespective of party difference will participate in governance.

On July 06, he said he had approached former Speaker of Parliament Karu Jayauriya to formulate a proposal on activating the sectoral oversight committees.

Sectoral Oversight Committees shall function for the duration of Parliament and conduct its inquiries notwithstanding any adjournment or prorogation of Parliament, according to the parliament website.

The Committee of Selection shall determine the subjects and functions to be allocated to each Sectoral Oversight Committee.

The Sectoral Oversight Committees shall have the power to examine any Bill, any subsidiary legislation including Regulation, Resolution, Treaty, Report or any other matter relating to subjects and functions within their jurisdiction.

The Parliament, any Committee or a Minister may refer any matter to a Sectoral Oversight Committee having jurisdiction over the subject or function for its consideration and report. (Colombo/Aug11/2022)

 

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