By Shamindra Ferdinando
Commodore D. K. P. Dassanayake, remanded in connection with wartime disappearance of 11 persons, neither functioned as Director Naval Operations (DNO) nor supervised special teams, commanded by two Lt. Commanders, R. P. S Ranasinghe (since then promoted Commander) and H. M. P. C. K Hettiarachchi allegedly responsible for the disappearances during the previous administration, according to navy headquarters records as well as statements given by senior retired and serving navy officers to the police.
Ranasinghe was the senior officer in charge of naval intelligence in the East whereas Hettiarachchi was attached to reconnaissance team assigned to the then Navy Chief Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda.The former navy spokesman Dassanayake was produced in court last Friday (14). Besides, Dassanayake functioned as Acting Director, Maritime Special Forces.
Police headquarters spokesman Superintendent of Police and attorney-at-law Ruwan Gunasekera’s statement to the media last Sunday was contrary to information available to the investigators, sources familiar with the case told The Island.
SP Gunasekera told a hastily called media conference at the Information Department that the then Captain Dassanayake had been navika hamuda meheyum adyaksha (Director Naval Operations) and in charge of two special teams responsible for abductions and disappearances.
SP Gunasekera named those who had been abducted allegedly by them while claiming relatives of some of the victims had met Dassanayake to plead on behalf of their loved ones.
Commodore Dassanayake will be produced before Fort Magistrate Lanka Jayaratne today (19).
At that time present Commander Vice Admiral Ravi Wijegunaratne and incumbent Chief of Staff SS Ranasinghe held the post of DNO. Dassanayake was the Deputy Director.
Sources said the Office of the DNO had nothing to do with the alleged arrests, sources said, pointing out that no less a person than the then navy commander Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda had made a written complaint to the CCD (Colombo Crime Division) on May 28, 2009 regarding the recovery of four national identity cards, one passport bearing the name of one of those whose national identity cards were found, one mobile phone, promissory notes worth over one million rupees and approximately 450 rounds of ammunition from Lt. Commander Sampath Munasinghe’s cabin, the then senior officer in charge of Admiral Karannagoda’s security.
The CID launched the investigation in early June 2009.
Among those questioned in connection with the disappearance was Rear Admiral JJ Ranasinghe, Vice Chancellor of the Kotelawela Defence University (KDU), who brought the disappearance of 21-year-old Rajiv Naganathan of Kotahena one of the missing eleven to the notice of Admiral Karannagoda in May 2009.
JJ Ranasinghe, who functioned as navy spokesman before Dassanayake sought Admiral Karannagoda’s assistance on behalf of a UK based close relative of the missing youth. As the youth had contacted his family from Trincomalee using a phone provided by navy personnel, his family knew of the name of the commanding officer of the base where he was held hence Admiral Karannagoda calling for an explanation from Lt. Commander Ranasinghe.
When Lt. Commander Ranasinghe denied the allegation that secret prisoners were being kept, the navy chief sent the then Eastern Commander Rear Admiral Thusitha Weerasekera to check the junior officer’s claim. Rear Admiral Weerasekera, too, confirmed that there were no secret prisoners.
The police also recorded a statement from Rear Admiral Weerasekera (now retired). Admiral Karannagoda, Rear Admiral KJCS Fernando and several navy intelligence personnel were among about 50 persons so far questioned by the police.
Dassanayake’s statement was recorded in late Feb. 2015 though he was arrested last week ahead of UN Special Rapporteur Ben Emmerson’s, visit.
Emmerson, in his preliminary report released last Friday referred to Dassanayake’s arrest in connection with the alleged disappearance of 11 persons.
Of the eleven persons, five persons were allegedly taken in on Sept. 17, 2008 by navy personnel along with black coloured Tata Indica.
Police have identified them as Rajiv Naganathan (21 years/Colombo 13), Pradeep Vishvanathan (18 years/Wasala Rd, Colombo 13), Mohammed Sajith (21 years/Dematagoda), Thilakeswaram Ramalingam (17 years/Bloemendhal housing complex, Colombo 13) and Jamaldeen Dilan (Maradana). Those involved in the operation were believed to have been accompanied by a navy informant Mohammed Ali Anwar alias Hadjjiar of Karagampitiya, Dehiwela. Subsequently, the 28-year-old informant, too, had disappeared; he has been listed among those eleven missing.
The remaining five persons are Kasthuriarachchilage John Reid (21 years/Kotahena/8-9-2008)), Amalan Leon (50 years/Arippu, north/25-8-2008)) and his son Roshan Leon (21 years/Arippu north/25-8-2008), Anthony Kasthuriarachchi (48 yerars/Kotahena/10-10-2008) and Kanagaraja Jegan (32 years, Trincomalee)
Due to Admiral Karannagoda’s intervention, Lt. Commander Munasinghe surrendered to the police in June 2009 after having accused CoN of planning to assassinate Army Chief Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka. Lt. Commander Munasinghe and Lt. Commander Hettiarachchi received bail while five persons, including Commander Ranasinghe are in remand pending further investigations.
Dassanayake is so far the senior most officer arrested in connection with the disappearances. At the time of his arrest, Dassanayake was on the staff of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS).
Although the navy headquarters lodged a complaint in May 2009 with the police the progress of the investigations had been slow, sources said. When Vice Admiral Jayanath Colomabge became Commander of the navy in late 2012, he appointed Lt Commander Ranasinghe as his PSO.
Three navy personnel including Lt. Commander K.C. Welagedera, who had been Ranasinghe’s deputy in Trincomalee implicated Dassanayake in the disappearances.
Following their statements, particularly the one given by Welagedara, investigated by the Office of the Provost Marshal for his alleged involvement in human smuggling operations, Provost Marshal Dassanayake faced difficulty in taking part in a prestigious US military course.
Welagedara accused four officers, including Dassanayake of threatening him.
Although Dassanayake was allowed to proceed to the US in Sept. 2014, the then navy Commander Vice Admiral Jayantha Perera requested him to return in mid Feb 2015. The police recorded Dassanayake statement two weeks later.
Lt. Commander Welagedara is currently in Australia on overseas leave.
The travel ban imposed on Dassanayake by court on a request made by the police in Feb. 2015 remains in force.
The allegations in respect of disappearances deprived Dassanayake of due promotion to the rank of Commodore.
The intervention made by the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) on Dassanayake’s behalf recently led to him receiving the appointment as temporary Commodore with seniority backdated to June 1, 2015. The police arrested Dassanayake before HRCSL received representations by retired Admirals, Karannagoda and Thisara Samarasinghe.
Meanwhile, investigations conducted by the navy during the war implicated at least four of the missing persons (not among those abducted on Sept 17, 2008) and the informant in LTTE operations. Those residents of Arippu North had been responsible for operating a fleet of boats between northern Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu and key elements in the LTTE. Those allegedly taken in on Sept 17, 2008 were believed to have been involved in a credit card racket with the knowledge of the LTTE.