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