Navy misled by informant/extortionist

SL Navy and the disappearance of 11 persons



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By C. A. Chandraprema


The case where several officers and other rankers of the Sri Lanka Navy have been implicated in the disappearance of 11 persons during the war in 2008-2009 has made waves both locally as well as internationally. At the international level, when the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) presented its report titled ‘Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka’ to the Fortieth Session of the UN Human Rights Council in March this year, the case that was the first to find mention in that report as an ‘emblematic’ case of human rights violation was the disappearance of these 11 persons.


This case also gained much attention locally mainly due to the high profile arrests that took place in the course of the CID investigation into the matter. Among the high ranking Navy officers who were arrested during this investigation were, the present Chief of Defence Staff Ravindra Wijegunaratne the highest ranking armed forces officer in the land, D. K. P. Dassanayake, a former Navy Spokesman and Sumith Ranasinghe the then intelligence chief of the Eastern Command. The war time Navy Commander Wasantha Karannagoda was also to be arrested in connection with this case but the Supreme Court issued an order preventing his arrest until the conclusion of a fundamental rights case filed by him.


The supreme irony in that being that this whole investigation into the disappearance of 11 persons began on the basis of a complaint made to the police by Wasantha Karannagoda himself in 2009 when he was the Commander of the Navy. Despite the high profile arrests that have taken place in its connection, the general public knows next to nothing about this case. Indeed even the highest officials in the defence establishment who should have known everything that there was to know about this case, also seemed to be surprisingly ill-informed.


Former defence secretary Hemasiri Fernando once announced in public that indictments were to be filed in relation to one of the most serious violations of human rights that took place during the war and he invited the Tamil diaspora to provide similar details of violations of human rights so that the government can take action to bring the perpetrators to book. Fernando did not refer to this case by name but it was obvious that he meant this case and no other. He was for some reason under the misconception that details of this case had been provided to the government by the Tamil diaspora whereas in actual fact the Tamil diaspora had little or nothing to do with initiating this case and they were, at best, interested spectators. If a defence secretary can be that ill-informed about this case, the general public can only be expected to be completely clueless. We publish here the details of this case which emerge from the B reports filed by the CID before the Fort Magistrate’s Court and other documents pertaining to the court proceedings.


Victims and perpetrators


This case relates to eleven individuals who are said to have been arrested by the Sri Lanka Navy at various times between 25 August 2008 and March 2009. The names of the missing individuals are as follows: Kasthuri


Arachchilage John Reed, Thyagarajah Jegan, Rajiv Naganathan, Susaipulle Amalan Leon, Susaipulle Roshan Stanley Leon, Prageeth Vishwanathan, Tilakeshwara Ramalingam, Mohamed Dilan Jamaldeen, Mohamed Saajin, Mohamed Ali Anver.


The CID has named fourteen suspects, all of the Sri Lanka Navy as being responsible for the disappearance of these eleven individuals. The list of suspects includes high ranking officers as well as other rankers and is as follows: Nilantha Sampath Munsinghe, Sumith Ranasinghe, T. Lakshman Udayakumara, K.P. Nalin Prasanna Wickremasinghe, T. A. Dharmadasa, D. K. P. Dassanayake, Rajapaksa Pathirage Kithsiri, Anura Thushara Mendis,Kasthuri Arachchige Gamini, Chandana Prasad Hettiarachchi, Prabath Sanjeewa Senaratne, Imbulana Liyanage Upul Chaminda, Anton Fernando, Wasantha Karannagoda.


The present Chief of Defence Ravindra Wijegunaratne has not been named as a suspect in this case. He was arrested and remanded on the allegation that he had given Rs.500,000 from a navy fund to Chandana Prasad Hettiarachchi a suspect named in this case, to flee overseas.


As we said earlier, this whole case started with a complaint made to the police by the last named suspect Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda. This is a rare instance where the original complainant himself has ended up being named as a suspect in the course of a criminal investigation. According to the B report filed on 1 June 2009, the first complaint was made to the Criminal Investigation Department by Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda on 28 May


2009 against naval officer Sampath Munasinghe to the effect that this officer was suspected of having maintained links with the LTTE. The original complaint stated that the navy had carried out a preliminary inquiry into the matter and that this officer had gone missing during the inquiry.


Due to the suspicion arising from his disappearance, naval officers had taken steps to search his quarters. Several suspicious documents had been recovered from his quarters including identity cards, passports and cheques. Navy Commander Karannagoda had thereupon requested the Inspector General of Police to make a formal inquiry into the matter. On 30 May 2009, the CID had taken custody of the documents recovered from officer Samapath Munasinghe's quarters. It was found that four of the national identity cards recovered belonged to four individuals who had been abducted and the next of kin of these persons had made complaints to the Kotahena and Fort police stations about the abductions.


Over one year after the investigation began, the CID’s B report of 28 July 2010 stated that five youth who were suspected to have links with the LTTE had been abducted and inquiries were proceeding in this regard—these five youths were among the 11 persons mentioned in relation to this case—but that no evidence had been found directly linking officer Sampath Munasinghe to the abductions. The B report of 5 January 2011 stated that GovindasamyNaganathan the father of one of the abducted youths Rajiv Naganathan had received a call from a person called Hajiar or Ali saying that his son was in the custody of the navy under an officer named Hettiarachchi and asked for Rs. 10 million to obtain his release. The mobile phone used for this purpose belonged to one Mohamed Anver, who had also subsequently disappeared.


Investigation resumed


After the change of government, the B report of 19 February 2015 reported that the inquiry had been resumed on the orders of the court and that the CID needed to obtain a statement from officer D. K. P. Dassanayake to verify some matters relating to this inquiry. Dassanayake was at that time following a Master's degree course in counter terrorism policy and strategy in the USA and he was brought back to Sri Lanka to be questioned by the CID.


The B report of 20 April 2015 contained a statement given by naval officer named Crishantha Welagedara. The latter had stated that he had been assigned as the second in command of the intelligence unit of the Navy’s


Eastern Command on 25 March 2009 under the then Lt Commander Sumith Ranasinghe and that Dassanayake was the officer in charge of the Special Intelligence Unit. He had further stated that there were some underground bunkers in a part of the Trincomalee navy base called ‘Gunside’, where detainees were being held and one day when they were brought out for a bath, he had spoken to them and found that Ali Anver, Rajiv Naganathan and Kasthuri Arachchige John Reed were among them. Ali Anver had shown signs of having been beaten and Welagedara stated that he had instructed naval ratings to have the injuries on Anver attended to.


On 22 May 2015, the CID reported to courts that a witness named B.M.Vijeyakanth a former LTTE cadre turned navy informant had declared that he been held in detention at Gunside in the Trincomalee base where he had met two individuals called Shantha Samaraweera of Kegalle and Pradeep of Ibbagamuwa. Shantha Samaraweera had given Vijayakanth a soap wrapper on which some names and telephone numbers had been written to be given to


Shantha's family. Writing similar to that on the soap wrapper was to be seen on the walls of the detention cells and the CID had sealed off that cell. The pivot on which this whole case was based was the evidence given by officer Crishantha Welagedara and informant B. M. Vijeyakanth.


One year later, on 1 June 2016, the CID reported to courts that the 11 missing individuals had been held before their disappearance at Gunside illegally and in contravention of their human rights and that naval officers Lt Commander Sumith Ranasinghe, Captain Guruge and Navy Commander Wasantha Karannagoda knew of the existence of this detention center. On 27 September 2016, Inspector Nishantha Silva reported to courts that a statement needed to be recorded from former Navy Commander Wasantha Karannagoda but he had not been able to attend to the matter because he was involved in several other investigations such as the abduction of Keith


Nohyr, the murder of Lasantha Wickrematunga, the attack on Upali Tennakoon and the murder of schoolgirl Sivaloganathan Vidya in Jaffna.


Role of Mohamed Ali Anver The B report of 9 February 2017 stated that Mohamed Ali Anver was an informant working with Lt Commaner Sampath Munasinghe and that Ali Anver had given Munasinghe information about Rajiv Naganathan, and Munasinghe had told Lt Commander Hettiarachchi to arrest them. According to the testimony of a naval rating named Aluthgedara Upul Bandara, Sampath Munasinghe had been told by Ali Anver that he had information to the effect that a gang was collecting money for the LTTE by skimming credit cards. Ali Anver had got Rajiv Naganathan down to his house in Dehiwela and got them arrested by the navy. Arrested along with him were four other youths named Pradeep Vishwanathan, Tilakeshwara Ramalingam, Mohamed Dilan and Mohamed Saajin.


Thereafter, Ali Anver had phoned Naganathan's father and asked for Rs. 10 million for his release. He had said that this money needed to be given to officers Sampath Munasinhe and Prasad Hettiarachchi. One day in November 2008, Ali Anver had in fact personally gone to see Govindasamy Naganathan and asked for Rs.10 million to secure the release of his son and they had ultimately agreed on a sum of Rs. 7.5 million. This money however had not been paid. Ali Anver, too, had disappeared in February 2009. Naval rating Aluthgedara Uplul, Bandara stated to the CID that one day in February 2009, the informant Ali Anver had also been arrested on the instructions of Sampath Munasinghe. He was the last of the 11 missing persons to be arrested. In probing the disappearance of navy informant Ali Anver, the CID obtained a statement from Mohamed Siraj Ali, the brother of Ali Anver. Siraj said that his brother had been an informant working under officer Sampath Munasinghe and that Anver had informed him that Sampath Munasinghe had told him to obtain Rs.10 million to release those those abducted. Siraj said that Anver had been in a despondent mood, and when asked about it, he stated that he had given information to the navy to arrest Rajiv Naganathan and four others and that it was Sampath Munasinghe who had told him to collect Rs. 10 million for their release, and that Anver did not like the task he had been given.


Siraj also stated Anver had called him from the detention center and told him that he had been abducted by Sampath Munasinghe and to talk to DIG Kamaldeen and Chief Inspector Lokuhetti to try and obtain his release. Siraj had said that he had put Anver onto CI Lokuhetti on the phone and based on the conversation that took place between them, he realised that Anver had been under threat from Sampath Munasinghe. DIG Abdul Said Kamaldeen said in his statement to the CID that he had got to know Anver Ali when the latter came to his house to study the Koran and that it was Anver who had given the information about the five youths to Sampath Munasinghe. Subsequently, Anver admitted to Kamaldeen that the five youth were not in fact LTTE, and that thereafter Anver had been under death threat from Sampath Munasinghe.


Ahmed Yunoos Imtiaz of Colombo 10, an associate of Anver’s, who knew Rajiv Naganathan had stated to the CID that Anver had made inquiries about Rajiv Naganathan and whether the latter’s father had money and other such details.


(To be continued tomorrow)


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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