By Shamindra Ferdinando
Ports and Shipping Minister and SLFP Vice President Mahinda Samarasinghe yesterday alleged that the four-party Tamil National Alliance (TNA) always sought international intervention here in the wake of the successful conclusion of the conflict almost a decade ago.
Addressing the regular weekly media briefing at SLFP office at T.B. Jayah Mawatha, Samarasinghe condemned the TNA’s stand, alleging that the party was pursuing a hostile policy towards successive governments.
Samarasinghe emphasized that the TNA’s call for international judicial mechanism was nothing new. The SLFPer said so when The Island sought his response to TNA spokesperson M.A. Sumanthiran’s call for international role in the accountability process due to President Maithripala Sirisena obstructing investigations into the alleged wartime abduction and disappearance of 11 persons.
Samarasinghe asserted that the TNA had overreacted to President Sirisena looking into to what he called a clandestine attempt to arrest Admiral Ravi Wijegunaratne over his involvement with Lt. Commander Chandana Prasad Hettiarachchi arrested in connection with disappearances.
Responding a query from the electronic media, Samarasinghe insisted that such a high ranking officer couldn’t be arrested under any circumstances without consulting President Sirisena, who is also the Commander-in-Chief in addition to being the Defence Minister.
At the onset of the briefing, Samarasinghe explained President Sirisena’s recent interventions to thwart harassment of military officers over alleged atrocities. Referring to the arrest and the subsequent bail given to former Military Intelligence Chief Maj. Gen. Amal Karunasekera and Commodore D.K.P. Dassanayake in addition to the bid to arrest Admiral Wijegunaratne, Samarasinghe said the nation couldn’t forget the sacrifices made by the armed forces.
Samarasinghe pointed out the discrepancy in the police handling investigations into allegations regarding the former first family and the military.
Responding to a spate of questions in respect of accusations directed at the military and the previous administration, Samarasinghe explained how various interested parties propagated lies to pave the way for international intervention here.
The Island sought an explanation from Samarasinghe regarding his former ministerial colleague S. B. Dissanayake’s recent claim that the Army executed some of those LTTE cadres who surrendered on the Vanni east front. We pointed out that SLFPer Dissanayake had claimed that one of those who had been executed was one-time LTTE Eastern Commander Ramesh. Dissanayake said that he was sure of what befell Ramesh as the LTTEer gave him a call ten minutes before surrendering to the Army.
Samarasinghe said that there was absolutely no basis for Dissanayake’s claim. The SLFP spokesperson admitted that the social media, too, reported Dissanayake’s accusations made at a media briefing at former Deputy Speaker Tilanga Sumathipala’s residence at Ananda Rajakaruna Mawatha last week.
Samarasinghe insisted that Sri Lanka never practiced a policy of deliberate killing of civilians on the war front. Former Sri Lanka Human Rights envoy recalled the circumstances under which LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran’s parents gave themselves up to the army on the Vanni east front.
Samarasinghe said that Sri Lanka received international recognition for rehabilitating 12,000 LTTE cadres following the conclusion of the war though interested parties worked overtime to tarnish the country’s image.
The electronic media again questioned Samarasinghe over Dissanayake’s accusation as regards battlefield executions, the minister said that his colleague could have made the revelation at that time. Reiterating Dissanayake’s claim couldn’t be taken lightly, Samarasinghe speculated on the possibility of the MP having to give a statement regarding battlefield execution claim.
Commenting on conspiracy allegations made by social activist Namal Kumara, Samarasinghe stressed that the SLFP was seriously concerned about the alleged threat on President Sirisena. Underscoring the need to conduct a comprehensive inquiry, Samarasinghe said that they had been shocked by the alleged conspiracy to kill the President.
The Island sought an explanation from Samarasinghe why he deliberately refrained from mentioning the alleged threat on former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa from DIG, TID, Nalaka de Silva now under investigation for conspiring against the President. The Island pointed out President Sirisena himself referred to the threat on Rajapaksa when he recently addressed editors and senior journalists of print and electronic media.
Samarasinghe said that the SLFP was concerned about both President and the former Defence Secretary’s safety and security. However, reference was not made to Gotabhaya Rajapaksa because he was addressing the media at SLFP office. The electronic media pointed out that that explanation was not acceptable as the minister commented on Admiral Wijegunaratne and other senior officers at the receiving end of CID investigation.
Samarasinghe played down former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s recent three-day visit to New Delhi. Alleging that those around the former President had been trying to interpret the New Delhi visit to suit their agenda, Samarasinghe pointed out Mrs. Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and Ranil Wickremesinghe never sought to capitalize their visits to New Delhi when they were in the Opposition.
The minister said that an attempt was being made to deceive the public that the former President received an invitation from New Delhi as India believed he could form the next government.