Highest ranking military officer hid in Black Maria fearing shutterbugs


By Norman Palihawadane

Chief of Defence Staff Admiral Ravindra Wijeguneratne yesterday said that he had been hiding in the prison bus for four hours to escape from journalists’ cameras at the Fort Magistrate court premises on Wednesday.

Fort Magistrate court on Wednesday granted bail to Admiral Wijegunaratne, who was arrested by the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) last month for allegedly assisting the main suspect in an abduction and disappearance of 11 Tamil youth to abscond.Adm. Wijegunaratne told The Island that he remained inside the Black Maria on the day he was enlarged on bail. "Journalists, too, were there waiting till I got down from the bus. It was a rainy day and I was informed by the jailers that I would have to remain in the bus as there had been a delay. The hearing was fixed for 1.30 pm on a request from the counsel of the defendants.

However, the prison officials took us there to the court premises around 9.45 am thinking that the case would be taken up at 10 am. However, the case was taken around 2.20 pm. Now, there is an investigation against some prisons officials for keepiong me in the prison bus. "I did it on my own wish to escape from media personnel."

Fort Magistrate Ranga Dissanayake, on Wednesday, granted bail to Admiral Wijegunaratne after Fort Police refused to name him as a suspect in the intimidation of a witness in the abductions case, Navy Lieutenant Commander Laksiri Galagamage.

The Fort Magistrate released Admiral Wijegunaratne on two sureties of Rs. 1 million each as the CID did not object to his release.

Fort Magistrate Dissanayake warned Admiral Wijegunaratne not to exert his influence to intimidate the witnesses in the abduction case or on the investigations.

The magistrate also warned the CDS that the bail would be revoked and he would be remanded until the end of the trial if a complaint was made that he threatened the witnesses.

The Chief of Defense Staff was remanded on November 29 after he surrendered to the court for allegedly aiding former Navy Lieutenant Commander Chandana Prasad Hettiarachchi, the main suspect of the abduction case.

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