Sri Lanka: Army chief to retain military spy accused of murder and torture (VIDEO)

An army intelligence officer accused of deadly attacks against journalists, including the assassination of a senior editor, will not be removed said Sri Lanka’s army chief, despite heavy opposition from local and international media watchdogs.

Major Prabath Bulathwatte, arrested in 2017 in connection with a string of attacks against journalists during the former regime of Mahinda Rajapaksa, is currently on bail.

According to police findings revealed in court, Major Bulathwatte had been the leader of the clandestine military intelligence unit “Tripoli platoon” that was responsible for the 2009 murder of Sunday Leader Editor Lasantha Wickremetunga, the 2008 abduction and torture of The Nation Former Deputy Editor Keith Noyahr and the 2009 assault on 'Rivira' Former Editor Upali Tennakoon and his wife.

He has been reinstated while on bail to assist in a highly sensitive operation against suspected pro ISIS groups in Sri Lanka, following the Easter Sunday blasts that claimed the lives of at least 250.

Fielding questions from the press who expressed fears of Major Bulathwatte hindering ongoing investigations into attacks against journalists, Sri Lanka's army commander adamantly ruled out reconsidering the appointment in view of alleged crimes.

"A thief"

"It takes a thief to catch a thief," said Lieutenant General Mahesh Senanayake.

International and Colombo based media watchdogs have sounded the alarm that Major Bulathwatte will be a threat to delivering justice.

The Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association and the Free Media Movement have vehemently  condemned the appointment.

"Promoting to active duty an intelligence officer who has been implicated in the killing of one journalist and the torture of two others severely undermines Sri Lanka's claim that it is fighting impunity for crimes against journalists," said Committee to Protect Journalists Asia Program Coordinator Steven Butler. "Instead, the move creates new threats to journalists in Sri Lanka, who are not safe to do their jobs."

However, Lieutenant General Senanayaka stubbornly justified the appointment.

"I have to use him. That is my responsibility. I don’t have to get approval from anybody for that. And nobody in the country should tell me what I should do.”

Court cases on gross human rights violations, allegedly committed by members of the security forces, have been dragging on for years.

Judges have repeatedly warned security top brass including the country's topmost military officer to refrain from obstructing investigations.☐



Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

  • JDS is the Sri Lankan partner organization of international media rights group, Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The launching of this website was made possible by the EU’s European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), of which Reporters Without Borders is a beneficiary.