Monday, March 08, 2010

Military intelligence wrapped in controversy over Lasantha Wickramatunge killing

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By Ranga Jayasuriya - The investigation into the assassination of the Sunday Leader Editor Lasantha Wickrematunga is set to cause ripples in intelligence circles.

Earlier reports indicated that former Director of the Directorate of Military Intelligence Major General Amal Karunasekara who was earlier dispatched to the West African nation of Eritria as Sri Lanka’s envoy had been recalled for questioning over the killing of Wickrematunga.

Now military spokesman Major General Prasad Samarasinghe says that Major General Karunasekara had not been questioned by the police.

The military spokesman, perturbed by reports of alleged involvement of the directorate of military intelligence in the assassination says that the reports are unsubstantiated and do injustice to the military.

“There is no grounds to accuse the military intelligence or the army for the killing. There is no evidence to substantiate those allegations,” he told Lakbimanews.
Last week, the Terrorist Investigation Division and the Criminal Investigation Department questioned 17 army personnel, of which 11 were later released. Six army personnel are still being questioned by the TID.

Denied reports

Police Spokesman SSP Prishantha Jayakody denied reports that police had questioned 60 odd officers and other ranks detailed at the headquarters of the Singha Regiment, Ambepussa over the killing of Wickrematunga.

The investigations took a new turn after investigators traced the owner of the national identity card which had been used to purchase the sim card allegedly used by the assassins.

Lasantha Wickrematunga was killed on January 8, last year while he was driving to work.

The owner of the NIC was a Tamil garage owner in Hatton. The garage owner had told investigators that a soldier attached to a military intelligence unit whom he befriended in a local liquor bar had demanded to see his NIC. The man had later discovered that his NIC was missing. This NIC has been used to purchase five sim cards which had been used by the alleged killers of Wickrematunga.

Lasantha Wickrematunga was shot dead by assassins who came in two Pulsar motorbikes. He was shot with a weapon fitted with a silencer in order to reduce the sound. Police alleged two members of the hit squad had followed the trail of the deceased editor in the morning of that fateful day.

Meanwhile, former Commander of the Army and the Chief of Defence Staff General Sarath Fonseka would stand a court martial, expected to be announced this week
The Commander of the Army, Lt General Jagath Jayasuriya, as the authority convening the court martial will appoint a three member panel of judges for the court martial. According to the Army Act, which spells out provisions for the court martial, the president of the court martial should not be the authority which convenes the court martial- in this instance the Commander of Army- or an officer below the rank of the accused officer.

However, provided that the authority which convenes the court martial certifies that a senior officer is unavailable, an officer junior in rank to the accused could be appointed to the court martial. Therefore, military sources say, Chief of Defence Staff Air Marshal Roshan Goonetilake and two senior military officials representing the army and navy would be appointed to the court martial. According to the provisions of the army act, a court martial shall have 3- 5 judges.

By the end of last week, 31 witnesses have given evidence before Army Chief of Staff Major General Daya Ratnayake, who is recording evidence. Twenty one witnesses were military officials. In addition, electronic evidence in the form of video cassettes and taped telephone conservations etc has been produced to Major General Ratnayake, who is expected to submit a report on the summary of evidence to the Commander of the Army, Lt General Jagath Jayasuriya, who would pass it onto the judge advocate of the army for legal advice.

Prima facie case

Lt Gen Jayasuriya would appoint the court martial after the judge advocate decides that there is a prima facie case against the former Commander of Army, Gen Fonseka.
Gen Fonseka, once the hero of military victory against the LTTE is now languishing in the custody of the military police. Last week, he wrote a letter to opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, urging him to form a broad national front to contest elections.

“...All forces which value democracy should rally together to face anti democratic forces which beset this country. The best strategy is to proceed with the united front agreed upon by all parties during the recent presidential election. Unless the parties promote unity among each other, it would be difficult to face future challenges. Democracy cannot be achieved by isolated action. Therefore, all who value democracy should unite together. It should be done not to protect me, but to rescue the people and the country from impending danger. Therefore needless to say that you as the leader of the opposition have a unique role in this monumental task,” Gen Fonseka said in the letter to the opposition leader.

© Lakbima News

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