Details have emerged of senior Sri Lankan naval officers planning to harm the chief investigator and key witness in high profile cases of abduction, torture and extrajudicial killings.
Investigators of the police Criminal Investigation Department (CID) have discovered the details following the arrest of two navy intelligence officers.
NMW Janaka and ASN Tony arrested at the Colombo Fort magistrate court premises on 20 December, for acting in a suspicious manner, have told CID investigators that they were sent by a chief naval intelligence official to spy on Inspector of Police Nishantha Silva and those who provided evidence against navy officers.
The two arrested naval intelligence officers have alleged that they were detailed by Director Naval Intelligence, Captain Sanjeewa Premaratne.
“This is a sinister plot to assassinate the investigator and key witness as credible evidence have emerged of those in top most places in the navy being involved in mass crimes,” said an official familiar with ongoing investigations.
Police Inspector Silva briefing Fort Magistrate Ranga Dissanayake of the findings had told that the navy spies were involved in a plan to kill him.
The inspector is the lead investigator for several high-profile cases of serious crimes where senior military and navy officers have been named as suspects.
In one case of abducting, torturing and forcibly disappearing 11 males, the key suspects are high ranking navy officers.Many of them have been released on bail and reinstated by the navy with promotions.
The country’s top military officer Admiral Ravindra Wijegunaratne who allegedly assisted a suspect to avoid arrest and threatened a witness with death has also been released on bail.
A key witness speaking to JDS under strict condition of anonymity said that the admiral and several other officers who have access to sophisticated surveillance equipment and lethal weapons pose a grave threat.
“One suspect Sumith Ranasinghe was promoted to the post of commodore after his release. Although he is in charge of land operations, former navy commander Sirimevan Ranasinghe by a confidential letter has requested directors loyal to him to deploy Ranasinghe in intelligence. He is given an armed security and has the facility to spy on telephone conversations of navy officers who gave evidence against him.”
Top officer questioned
The CID had also questioned Director Naval Land Operations, Rear Admiral Udeni Indranatha Serasinghe on December 2 about giving promotions to suspect officers under bail conditions.
Investigators have learned that orders was given by Chief of Defence Staff Ravindra Wijegunaratne, Former Navy Commanders Wasantha Karannagoda and Sirimevan Ranasinghe.
In a two hour long confidential testimony to the Fort magistrate on the same day, a key naval witness had provided details into the torture and disappearance of the 11 males abducted in the suburbs of Colombo.
Lieutenant Commander Krishan Welagedara had also told the magistrate of threats to him by suspects released on bail.
Magistrate Ranga Dissanayake had directed the CID to request court to withdraw the bail order if adequate evidence can be found of the suspect navy officers posing a threat to witness.
The president's hand
Earlier, efforts by President Maithripala Sirisena to remove Nishantha Silva from investigations on the request of Admiral Wijegunaratne failed due to an outcry by local and international rights activists.
Several navy, army and police officers including those of intelligence units have been named as suspects in the assassination of Sunday Leader Founding Editor Lasantha Wickrematunge, abduction and torture of The Nation Former Deputy Editor Keith Noyahr, assault on 'Rivira' Former Editor Upali Tennakoon and his wife, abduction and disappearance of Journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda and the killing of rugby star Wasim Thajudeen.
Nishantha Silva is the chief investigator in most of those cases. (JDS Lanka)