Sri Lanka activists demand sacking of military intelligence chief

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s top civil society activists came out strongly Friday against President Maithripala Sirisena’s  controversial remarks and demanded that he sack a top army intelligence officer to end a deepening political crisis.

Professor Sarath Wijesuriya told reporters in Colombo that President Sirisena, whom they backed at the January 2015 elections, had become a hostage of army intelligence chief, Brigadier Tuan Suresh Sallay, and accused him causing tensions within the unity government.

“He has planted a falsehood that the entire armed forces are against the President. He (Brig Sally) is a person who is due to be arrested,” Wijesuriya said.

“If the President wants to end this criminal activity of the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI), this person (Brig Sallay) must be removed.”

Military intelligence officials have been implicated in the murder of Lasantha Wickrematunga in January 2009 and the abduction of cartoonist Prageeth Eknaligoda in January 2010. Several are in custody with several seniors likely to be questioned shortly.

The military has denied its troops were involved, but the state attorney general told a court hearing in the Eknaligoda case on Thursday that the military was not cooperating with the investigation despite pledges by new army chief Crishantha Silva.

Military intelligence officials had also been implicated in causing a disruption at the Homagama courts where several Buddhist monks created trouble to express solidarity with intelligence officers arrested over Eknaligoda’s disappearance.

In hard-hitting remarks, professor Wijesuriya said the current Defence Secretary Karunasena Hettiarachchi was also creating obstacles and was blocking the ongoing investigations and that he too should be removed.

“The Defence Secretary also faces corruption charges,” Wijesuriya said. “he won’t allow those investigations to proceed because he has become a hostage of defeated forces (of th Rajapaksa regime).”

“If you are committed to a decent administration, you (the President) should remove these two (Brig. Sally and Hettiarachchi),” Wijesuriya said.

He also lambasted Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapaksha accusing him too of obstructing the course of justice. Rajapaksha’s role in the Avant Garde case was severely criticised, but only his other cabinet colleague Tilak Marapone stepped down under an avalanche of criticism.

President Sirisena on Wednesday signalled that his honeymoon with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s administration was wearing thin and he would not hesitate to take “stern action.”

In his most ferocious remarks since coming to power, Sirisena lambasted the three main anti-graft organisations, including the independent bribery commission, for what he called politically motivated prosecutions.

In a more troubling development, he also warned secretaries of independent commissions that it was he who had appointed them, and they should know their “limits” and must keep him informed about high profile cases.

He said he had been silent for too long, but has now decided to speak out and take “stern action.” He singled out last month’s prosecution of three ex-navy admirals and former defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa as being uncalled for.

“I condemn the actions of FCID (Financial Crimes Investigations Division), the CID (Criminal Investigations Division) and the Bribery Commission,”  he said at a ceremony at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute in Colombo.

“They should not work according to a political agenda. If they do, I will have to take stern action against them. I deplore their recent actions and I want to express my disgust.”

He said military commanders who led a successful campaign to crush separatist Tamil Tiger rebels in May 2009 should not be humiliated by bringing them to courts.

Another good governance activist, Sunil Ratnapriya said they unconditionally condemned Sirisena’s remarks.

“We did not get him elected to behave like this.” (COLOMBO, Oct 14, 2016)d