President Maithripala Sirisena yesterday revealed that he had severely admonished officials of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and the Attorney General for constantly taking military officers into custody, remanding them for a short period and then releasing them, even though there had been no prosecutions so far.
Addressing newspaper editors and heads of media institutions at President’s House yesterday, President Sirisena said that since investigations began in 2015, not a single case had been filed against military suspects arrested in connection with the Lasantha Wickrematunge assassination case, the Prageeth Ekneligoda abduction case, the Keith Noyahr abduction and assault case and the abduction of 11 Tamil youth.
“I received a copy of the IGP’s latest progress report on these investigations into the attacks on journalists and so on, and I found that not a single prosecution had been filed so far since 2015,” he told editors at the breakfast meeting. “The former second in command of the Army was arrested and remanded for five months, but no case was filed,” the President added, referring to the former Director of the Directorate of Military Intelligence, Amal Karunasekera.
For weeks, there are reports about the Chief of Defence Staff facing allegations of harbouring a person involved in abducting 11 children, the President said. “The CID says they have all been taken into custody, but they have also been released on bail and there are no indictments served on them so far. And even though the suspects were in fact released on bail, the accusation against the Chief of Defence Staff is that he has prevented the arrest of a suspect,” President Sirisena added.
The President was referring to Admiral Ravindra Wijeguneratne whose arrest was said to be imminent after the CID told a Magistrate that he had been harbouring a suspect wanted in connection with the abduction and suspected murder of 11 Tamil youth in 2008-09.
President Sirisena told reporters that he had summoned the Attorney General, IGP and CID top brass for a meeting two days ago, and pitched into them about the failure to file cases against those being accused of these crimes. “I told them, don’t arrest and detain these people if you can’t file cases against them,” he said.
“The way things are being reported, the perception in the country is that the Chief of Defence staff killed these 11 children,” the President charged.
President Sirisena added that he had told the CID and the AG that they were arresting and remanding senior military officials for months and then releasing them, giving rise to an accusation against the Government that it was on a witch-hunt of war heroes.
Meanwhile, referring to the emergency Cabinet meeting called on Thursday (13), and reports that there had been major clashes at the meeting, President Sirisena quipped that Cabinet meetings were ‘highly democratic’ now.
“There is a great atmosphere of debate and discussion at Cabinet meetings now. There are strong exchanges of views, fierce debates and frank discussions. In no Government, I have been a part of have Cabinet meetings been like this,” he said.
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