Sri Lanka arrests navy officer over wartime murders
ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s police on Wednesday arrested a senior navy officer for the abduction and murder of two Tamil businessmen underscoring the crimes committed under the cover of the island’s ethnic conflict.
Lieutenant Commander K. A. Dayananda was taken before a magistrate and remanded in custody till Thursday over the double murder, which investigators believe took place in January 2009.
P. Loganadan and R. Paramanandan were abducted with their van on 11 January 2009 and have not been seen by their families since although they had paid ransom in gold to secure the release of the two.
The Criminal Investigations Department has uncovered chilling details of a systematic extortion racket carried out by senior navy officers, presumably with the concurrence of their superiors at the height of the separatist war.
The CID chanced on the details of the double murder while investigating the disappearance of 11 youth between 2008 and 2009. While searching the Welisara navy camp, the detectives found parts of a van which the navy claimed was a “suspicious LTTE vehicle bomb.”
The navy version of events turned out to be a page from the Ripley’s believe it or not. The van had been parked outside the Welisara camp and the navy brought into their camp to search it for explosives.
The navy went onto dismantle the vehicle and sold the parts to Panchikawatte. Detective did not believe the story as this would have been the first time that a “suspected car bomb” is driven into a military facility to examine it.
The detective were also shocked to discover that a navy officer continued to use the mobile phone of one of his victims. His explanation was that he found the phone inside a bus and decided to keep it and use it.
Phone records and other technical evidence showed the direct involvement of two navy officers in the abduction and killings. Another officer is to be arrested shortly, police said.
Several navy officers are currently on bail in connection with the alleged disappearances of the 11 youth who were abducted between 2008 and 2009. The missing men are believed to have been murdered before the brutal conflict ended in 2009.
Senior military figures and close associates of former strongman president Mahinda Rajapakse have been accused of murders, cover-ups and extortion during his decade of rule.
The police are yet to arrest the current Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Ravindra Wijegunaratne, who is accused of protecting the main suspect in the murder of 11 children.
Several intelligence officers have also been released on bail for charges related to the assassination of a prominent newspaper editor and attacks on other journalists and dissidents.
The January 2009 killing of journalist Lasantha Wickrematunga, a fierce critic of then-president Rajapakse, sparked international outcry and shone a light on human rights violations in Sri Lanka.
Wickrematunga had accused Rajapakse’s defence secretary and brother Gotabhaya of taking kickbacks in arms purchases, and was due to testify in court when he was murdered.
Gotabhaya Rajapakse has denied running death squads.
The Rajapakses are under investigation for large-scale financial fraud and murder during Mahinda’s presidency, which ended in 2015. (COLOMBO, October 24, 2018)