Sri Lankan brigadier summoned to UK court for ‘throat slit’ threat

A former Sri Lankan diplomat serving in the military has been summoned to a British court to face a prosecution on his alleged death threats to a group of protesters.

Former defence attaché Andige Priyanka Indunil Fernando has been accused of threatening protestors with a throat slitting gesture when the Sri Lanka high commission in London was celebrating the 70th anniversary of the island nation's independence from the British Empire.

A large majority of the protestors were Tamil.

A private prosecution has been filed against Brigadier Fernando for violating the Public Order Act by using “threatening or abusive” behaviour.

Majuran Sathananthan,  Palliya Guruge Vinod Priyantha Perera, and Gokulakrishnan Narayanasamy have filed the lawsuit in the Westminster magistrate court where he has been requested to appear on 21 January.

Trial in absentia

Despite summons for preliminary hearings being served to him at his Sri Lanka residence as well as the Sri Lanka High Commission in London and the country's foreign ministry, neither Brigadier Fernando nor his representatives had appeared in court, Tamil diaspora activist Kulasekaram Geetharthanan told JDS.

“Although it would be welcome for Brigadier Fernando to attend the trial to answer for his actions, the Complainants intend to apply for the case to proceed in his absence if he fails to do so,” said the Public Interest Law Centre (PILC) prosecuting on behalf of the complainants.

“It will be one of the rare occasions where an overseas army officer will be held to account for his unlawful actions.”

Footage showing the defence attaché in full military dress repeatedly running his forefinger across his throat whilst maintaining eye contact with the protestors on 4 February 2018 created widespread condemnation, with British lawmakers calling for the removal of his diplomatic immunity.

The gesture can be clearly seen to imitate the slitting of the throat, said PILC.

He was called back by the Sri Lankan government following the outrage.

No disciplinary action

The Sri Lankan military had announced that no disciplinary action will be taken against him while many Sinhalese hailed him as a "war hero" on social media.

Brigadier Prianka Fernando commanded a battalion under the 59th division of the Sri Lankan army in 2008 in a war that ended in a bloody massacre claiming at least 70,000 civilian deaths.

During this period the 59 Division was the most nearby fighting force to Mullaitivu where the UN confirmed that hospitals came under repeated shell attack from government forces.

Details of the military career of Brigadier Fernando from a report compiled by JDS and the International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) in 2017 has been used by the prosecution.☐



Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

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