Sri Lanka’s Admiral detained over war time abductions

By Ramanan Veerasingham

Sri Lanka’s Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Admiral Ravindra Wijegunaratne, has been remanded on  Wednesday by Colombo Magistrate Court over the shocking abduction and murder of at least 11 people including five school boys in Colombo.

The Colombo Fort Magistrate Court Magistrate Ranga Dissanayake ordered the CDS, who surrendered to Courts earlier in the day in full military uniform, to be held in remand custody till December 5 pending CID investigations into the abductions.

The Court order has come despite repeated direct and indirect attempts by President Maithripala Sirisena, who is also Minister of Defence and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, to prevent the arrest of the CDS in this regard.


Admiral Wijegunaratne is the topmost military officer in the island’s military history to have been  arrested over links with extra-judicial killings, although many other Sri Lankan military top officials have been accused of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity during and after the war that ended in May 2009.

These 11 people were abducted between 2008 and 2009. At least seven of them are Tamil children and others were Muslims and Sinhalese, who went missing despite their parents paying several lakhs of rupees as ransom.

Police launched the investigation in 2010 into these abductions and said five years later that a navy unit operating from Colombo Fort and Trincomalee Naval bases had carried out these abductions. It arrested a team of navy officers led by former Navy Spokesman Commander D.K.P Dassanayake and comprised of nine naval officials and sailors over the abductions.

The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) probing the high-profile case further, found that Wijegunaratne, who has evaded arrest for weeks, had shielded navy intelligence officer and chief suspect in the abduction Chandana Prasad Hettiarachchi to escape arrest for several months.

Hettiarachchi, also known as Navy Sampth, was arrested in August in connection with the 2006 assassination of Tamil legislator Nadarajah Raviraj in Colombo.

Witness threatened

Magistrate Ranga Dassanayake denied bail for Admiral Wijegunaratne after the CID told the Court that he had attempted to abduct navy officer, Lt. Commander Laksiri Galagamage, a key witness in the case over the weekend at the Navy Headquarters premises in Colombo for testifying against him.

Lt Commander Laksiri Galagamage has lodged a complaint with the Fort Police Station in this regard.

The CID has also told the Court that the CDS has used his position and persuaded the Police Chief to get lead investigator Inspector Nishantha Silva removed from the case, a move that was later rescinded.

The CID first summoned the CDS to record a statement over the abduction in September, but Wijegunaratne evaded the arrest and traveled to Mexico to attend that country’s national day on behalf of President Maithripala Sirisena.

Subsequently, three arrest warrant were issued against Admiral Wijegunaratne, but he had refused to surrender with President Sirisena openly criticising the CID’s move to arrest him. It is not immediately known whether he will face any military court of inquiry.

Meanwhile, two navy intelligence operatives have been arrested by the police after they attacked a group of accredited photo journalists and cameramen who were at the Fort Magistrate’s Court premises to cover Wijegunaratne’s case.

The men in civvies who had come in motorbikes had come along with the Wijegunaratne’s security unit have assaulted the camera journalists for filming their boss in disgrace.☐



Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

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