Sri Lanka President calls emergency meet over arrest of military chief
ECONOMYNEXT – President Maithripala Sirisena summoned an urgent meeting of the cabinet of ministers to discuss the impending arrest of the country’s senior-most military officer for allegedly shielding a mass murder suspect.
Sirisena was miffed that the police Criminal Investigations Department (CID) had collected evidence against Admiral Ravindra Wijegunaratne and also obtained a court order for his arrest before he left the island on Monday.
The Admiral had left the country to attend the national day of Mexico which is on September 16. He slipped out of the country as he was summoned to the CID to record a statement.
The CID has already told court that Admiral Wijegunaratne gave half a million rupees in cash to help navy intelligence officer Hettiarachchi Mudiyanselage Chandana Prasad Hettiarachchi, the main suspect in the abduction and murder of 11 children escape arrest.
The CID has uncovered chilling details of how children and young men of wealthy families were abducted for ransom by a gang of navy officers, allegedly led by Hettiarachchi, and subsequently killed after holding them at naval facilities in Colombo and Trincomalee between 2008 and 2009.
The alarm was raised by the then navy commander, Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda who complained to the CID during the former regime of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. However, the case has dragged with powerful political interests protecting the suspects, police said.
President Sirisena has reportedly advised security authorities not to cooperate with the CID investigations, but there had been no comment from Sirisena’s office.
On Thursday, he was due to discuss the impending arrest of Wijegunaratne with the cabinet.
It was not immediately clear Wijegunaratne would return to the country although he had asked the CID for a fresh date to make a statement.
Several other navy intelligence officers, including former navy spokesman D. K. P. Dassanayake who were arrested in connection with the murders have now been released on bail.
Admiral Wijegunaratne was caught on camera in December 2016 assaulting a television journalist at the Hambantota harbour, but despite a huge public outcry, President Maithripala Sirisena granted him an extension of service and later promoted him CDS.
His successor Travis Sinniah took office in August last year pledging no forgiveness for his officers who may have committed crimes taking the cover of the island’s drawn out separatist war.
But Sinniah, regarded as one of the most honourable officers in service, was terminated in just two months after he was denied an extension of service. (COLOMBO, September 13, 2018)