A top-level meeting President Maithripala Sirisena held with a group of senior Army officers has ruffled feathers in the defence and security establishment. Neither Defence Secretary Karunasena Hettiaratchchi nor Army Commander Lt. Gen. Chrisanthe de Silva had prior knowledge of the meeting.
Most of the nine senior officers who met President Sirisena at a hotel in Negombo, while he was on a visit there, played a pivotal role in the final stages of the battle to defeat militarily the Tiger guerrillas in May 2009.
The officers, some of whom are due for retirement reaching 55 years, are learnt to have explained the roles they played during the military operation.
The explanations come in the wake of the UN Human Rights Council resolution in Geneva. Sri Lanka, which co-sponsored it, has agreed to set up a court with international judges to try those responsible for alleged war crimes.
Eyebrows over the issue were raised after both the Defence Secretary and the Army Commander learnt of the event only after the Negombo meeting had taken place. It has now come to light that a former official in the Defence Ministry had arranged the meeting with the help of a minister.
Army Commander Chrisanthe de Silva is learnt to have met President Sirisena to explain matters. He had said that the officers in question, as is the practice, had not obtained his or the Defence Secretary’s permission before the meeting. The move prompted Lt. Gen. de Silva to send out a directive on November 5. This is what it said:
ALL LISTS LESS SLN/SLAF OFFICERS VISITING MINISTRY OF DEFENCE AND OTHER HIGHER OFFICERS:
1. “With immediate effect visiting the Ministry of Defence and other related high officers shall obtain permission from the Commander of the Army through Military Secretary. This rule shall be applicable even where the officer is called upon to visit by the MoD or higher office.
2. Strict compliance.”
Those who met President Sirisena at the Outreach Hotel in Negombo were
- Major General Jagath Dias, Chief of Staff,
- Major General Mahinda Hathurusinghe, Adjutant General as well as Colonel Commandant, Sri Lanka Artillery,
- Major General Kamal Gunaratne,Master General Ordinance,
- Major General Shavendra Silva,Defence Services Staff College,
- Major General Nandana Udawatte,Security Forces Commander, Jaffna,
- Major General Prasanna de Silva, Military Liaison Officer, Ministry of Defence,
- Major General Jagath Alwis,awaiting a posting from AHQ,
- Major General Prasanna Silva, General Officer Commanding 51 Division
- Major General Chagi Gallage.