Case of missing sailors: One-time Northern Commander clearedJune 24, 2012, 9:52 pm
By Shamindra Ferdinando
Rear Admiral S. M. B. Weerasekara remains the Commandant of the Volunteer Naval Force (VNF), to which he was transferred in the wake of the Chundikulam incident, though he was cleared of misconduct as regards the disappearance of four sailors following a clash with Indian fishermen in late March, 2011.
Navy headquarters took stern disciplinary action against two Lieutenants, including the officer-in-charge of the Chundikulam detachment and 10 sailors consequent to court martial proceedings. Sources said that a Sub Lieutenant attached to the same detachment had exposed a racket involving a section of officers and men, where they extorted fish from Indian trawlers poaching in Sri Lankan waters.
Four unarmed men disappeared on March 29 as men attached to the isolated detachment on the Vadamaratchchy coast watched the semi-final between Sri Lanka and New Zealand played in Colombo. Although they were believed to have been killed by fishermen and dumped into the sea, their bodies were never found.
The SLN recovered the boat and its outboard motor which washed ashore within 24 hours of their disappearance. The boat they used was an ordinary fibre glass dinghy used by fishermen, and not a regular SLN small craft.
Pending court martial proceedings, navy headquarters transferred Northern Naval Area Commander Weerasekara to the VNF.At the time of the disappearance, Rear Admiral Weerasekara had been on leave.
Weerasekara was also relieved from the post of Deputy Chief of Staff, while transferring him from a key operational command to the VNF, hitherto commanded by an officer holding the rank of Captain. At the time of the Chundikulam incident, Captain Herath Banda had been the senior officer in charge of the 5,000 strong VNF, sources said.
Both posts of Chief of Staff and Deputy Chief of Staff remained vacant. The post of Chief of Staff fell vacant on January 15, 2011 when the then Rear Admiral D. W. A. S. Dissanayake succeeded Navy Commander, Vice Admiral T. S. G. Samarasinghe.
Rear Admiral Ravindra Wijegunaratne succeeded Rear Admiral Weerasekara as Commander, Northern Naval Area.
Weerasekara is on his second extension having being appointed temporary Rear Admiral on January 1, 2007 and confirmed on January 1, 2008. The incumbent Eastern Commander, Jayanath Colombage received confirmation as Rear Admirals on the same day. Having completed the mandatory three years in the rank, both officers had received their first one-year service extension on January 1, 2011 and the second extension on January 1, this year.
Although Weerasekara had received time till Dec 31, 2012, he was eligible for further extensions as he would reach the retirement age on August 22, 2014, sources said.
Although the maximum in the rank of Rear Admiral is three years, an officer is eligible to receive extensions until he reaches retirement age.
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Last Updated May 21 2013 | 06:02 pm