Fearing threats to life, top Sri Lankan cop who angered authorities seek protection

A senior police officer whose investigations had angered many including powerful politicians and high-ranking military and police officers, fears that his life is under threat.

Gnanendra Shani Abeysekara, the former head of Sri Lanka’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) has written to the police chief seeking protection for him and his family. He was removed from his post soon after the President Gotabaya Rajapaksa came to power and later detained on allegations of fabricating evidence to imprison a group including another police officer found guilty of a contract killing.

Released on bail after more than ten months in the remand prison, Shani Abeysekara has urged the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to take immediate steps to restore his security as required by the witness and victims protection act.

“… I particularly note that my family and I are constantly faced with threats to life from powerful politicians, high ranking police officers, military and naval officers, members of organised crime gangs and powerful people in terrorist organisations, who are responsible for various crimes…” says the letter to IGP Chandana D Wickremaratne, seen by JDS.

“…when considering the previous activities of the police officers who acted to arrest and remand me, and their statements to the press, it is noticeably evident that there is a massive and imminent threat to the lives of me and my family…”

82 cases

The ex-CID officer has listed 82 cases investigated under him. Many have concluded in sentencing the suspects including former Deputy Inspector General Vaas Gunawardena, considered close to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Several ongoing high-profile cases of abduction, torture, disappearance, and extra judicial killings, have senior army and navy officers including two former navy commanders named as suspects.

Abduction and torture of journalist Keith Noyahr, murder of Sunday Leader Lasantha Wickrematunge, abduction and the enforced disappearance of cartoonist Prageeth Ekneligoda and the attack on journalist Upali Tennakoon are such cases involving journalists. Several military top officers have been named as suspects.

The cases on the abduction and enforced disappearance of 11 males including 5 boys allegedly by the navy, and the massacre of 27 inmates in the Welikada prison allegedly by elite police troops, are in court.

All these crimes were committed when the current president was the powerful defence secretary under his brother as president and defence minister. The UN has described the cases as ‘emblematic’.

Anonymous threats

Ruling party politician Duminda Silva, who was given a special pardon by President Rajapaksa and released last week while in the death row for the murder of a fellow politician in 2011, was also convicted following investigations led by Abeysekara.

Following his suspension in January 2020 Shani Abeysekara had written to the police chief of an alleged threat he had received apparently by someone who was enraged by action against military officers.

He claims that a man imitating a female voice said, “be ready to carry the bodies of your wife and two children before we take revenge from you… You son of a whore, we will not allow you to stay alive for what you did to the war heroes. We can see you wherever you go. You will be struck by seven bolts of lightning for what you did to the war heroes. Be aware that this is our chance.”

CID Chief Inspector Nishantha de Silva who carried out many of the investigations under Shani Abeysekara, which implicated military and police officers fled the country immediately after Gotabaya Rajapaksa won the presidential elections in November 2019.

Shani Abeysekara has retired from the police service on Wednesday (30), according to reports from Colombo.



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.