Sri Lanka to reopen probes on high profile political killings
COLOMBO (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s new government is to reopen investigations into the murders of a high-profile newspaper editor and two lawmakers after evidence linking the former regime to the killings came to light, a minister said Wednesday.
The move comes after a former cabinet minister on Sunday publicly accused the deposed president’s brother Gotabhaya Rajapakse of ordering the assassination of newspaper editor Lasantha Wickrematunga in January 2009.
"We have got all the information," said Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne, referring to the killings of Wickrematunga and opposition legislators Nadarajah Raviraj and Joseph Pararajasingham.
"We know who is responsible. Arrests will be made soon."
Rajapakse could not be reached for comment. The family has insisted it had no role in the editor’s killing, which sparked international outrage.
Wickrematunga and his Sunday Leader newspaper were staunch critics of the administration of then-president Mahinda Rajapakse.
They had accused Gotabhaya, who served as defence secretary under his brother, of corruption over the purchase of second-hand aircraft and arms for the military.
Senaratne said there would also be a full investigation into Gotabhaya’s running of the defence ministry amid allegations that he maintained a private army.
He is also accused of financial misappropriation and passing government weapons to private individuals.
Rajapakse’s family stands accused of amassing huge wealth during his 10-year rule, which ended earlier this month when he was voted out of office on a tide of resentment over alleged corruption and nepotism.
Police are investigating a ship full of weapons that was seized in the island’s southern port of Galle and an arms cache found at an international convention centre which was visited by the pope last week, he said.
"The defence ministry had established a private security company. That company outsourced security work to another private company," he said.
"It was a private army with weapons of the state."
The new government which came to power following the January 8 presidential election is also looking into allegations that the former president tried to use military force to remain in power when early results showed he was headed for a defeat.
The alleged coup bid failed when the attorney general, the police and army chiefs declined to collaborate, the government has said.