Retired top officers contradict each other in CID cross-examination
Use of ‘sharp object’ to kill The Sunday Leader Editor was known soon after assassination
by Shamindra Ferdinando
Wartime Director Operations, Joint Operations Headquarters (JOH), the then Brigadier Kumara Herath has told the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) that Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Air Chief Marshal Donald Perera had told him that The Sunday Leader editor Lasantha Wickrematunga had been killed with a sharp object soon after the incident which occurred on the morning of January 8, 2009 at Attidiya, Dehiwela.
Initial media reports said Wickrematunga had been shot dead.
Herath, who had retired recently in the rank of Maj. Gen, said that Air Marshal Perera had summoned him to his office after being informed of the attack by the then Overall Operations Commander Brigadier Mano Perera. Herath quoted Air Marshal Perera as having said that Wickrematunga had been impaled by a sharp object. Both Air Chief Marshal Perera and Brig. Herath had been based at the JOH, situated within Army headquarters.
Maj. Gen. Mano Perera had been based elsewhere.
Herath emphasised the fact that Wickrematunga being stabbed with a sharp object had been known to the military soon after the incident.
The CID cross-examined Air Chief Marshal Perera (retdretd), Maj Gen Mano Perera (rtd) and Maj Gen Kumar Herath (rtd). The cross examination of the retired senior officers had been carried out simultaneously with CID recording their statements. Air Chief Marshal Perera served as Sri Lanka’s envoy to Tel Aviv during the previous administration after his retirement.
The CID has been told that the JOH knew of the assassination about 20 minutes before Sirasa announced the incident.
Maj. Gen. Herath has said that the circumstances under which Wickrematunga had been stabbed with a sharp object were known to them years before the exhumation of Wickrematunga’s body on a court order in late Sept last year.
However, both Air Marshal Perera and Maj. Gen. Mano Perera denied Herath’s claim. Maj. Gen. Mano Perera said perhaps the then Operations Commander Colombo Brigadier Anura Perera may have phoned Air Chief Marshal. Anura Perera, too, retired in the rank of Maj. Gen.
Maj. Gen. Mano Perera also strongly denied having visited the scene of killing.
It also transpired during the cross-examination by the CID that Wickrematunga’s assassination hadn’t been taken up at the regular JOH conference the following week though police intelligence officer referred to the incident.
The JOH used to meet regularly on Tuesdays ahead of National Security Council meeting chaired by the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
The CID launched a fresh investigation into The Sunday Leader editor’s assassination immediately after the change of government in January 2015. In addition to the Wickrematunga’s assassination, the CID is probing assassination attempt on Rivira Editor Upali Tennakoon and the brutal assault on The Nation Deputy Editor Keith Noyahr, also during the Rajapaksa administration. In addition to those incidents, the police are also inquiring into the attack on journalist Namal Perera in June 2008, several weeks after the abduction of Noyahr. Perera was a former course coordinator at the Sri Lanka College of Journalism, at the time he was targeted at Kirulapone. Perera, now with the Australian High Commission recently identified two of the soldiers who had been involved in the attack at an identification parade.
The CID has arrested several personnel attached to the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) in connection with attacks on journalists under the previous government.
Pic caption: Retired Maj. Gen. Kumar Herath leaving CID headquarters. Yesterday CID recorded his statement in connection with The Sunday Leader editor Lasantha Wickrematnga’s assassination. It was his second statement to the CID (Pic by Nimal Dayaratne)