(Former Defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has issued a statement refuting a news report in the “Sunday Island” of February 25th 2018. The purported report in “The Island” newspaper was originally published in the “ECONOMY NEXT” Website. The same report appearing in ECONOMY NEXT was re-produced in this blog too under a different heading.As such the statement of Mr. Rajapaksa appearing in “The Island” is also being posted here)
Apropos the Sunday Island lead story former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa has issued the following statement:
“My attention is drawn to the lead story of The Sunday Island of 25th February 2018, under the caption “Police cover up in Lasantha murder emerge after key arrest”. They story contains many malicious and defamatory allegations and accusations against me. Accordingly, at the outset, I categorically dismiss those as being baseless and without foundation, since I am in no way connected to the murder of Sunday Leader Editor, Lasantha Wickrematunge.
“In the story under reference, it is stated, inter alia, that “The court has already been told that the military intelligence was involved in the killing and that the then head of military intelligence Kapila Hendavitharana was heading a killer squad and he reported directly to then defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa”.
“I wish to clarify that, at that time, retired General Kapila Hendavitharana was the Chief of National Intelligence, attached to the Ministry of Defence, in a civilian capacity, and was functioning in a co-ordinating and advisory role on national intelligence. He did not have any command responsibility whatsoever. He also did not have combat troops under his command, let alone a “killer squad”, as mischievously and maliciously reported.
“Hence, if, as the newspaper story reports, military intelligence was involved in the killing, the CID can easily investigate the actions of the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) which reported to then Army Commander Sarath Fonseka, who would be directly responsible for the Military Intelligence Directorate outcomes.
“The Directorate of Military Intelligence of the Army is a branch within the Army command structure, and is set out clearly in the Army’s approved organisational structure. It operates under the Director General, General Staff at Army Headquarters, and reports directly to the Army Commander. Its roles and tasks are also clearly defined. During the period of the murder of Wickrematunge, the post of DMI was held by General Amal Karunasekera, and not Retd Gen Kapila Hendavitharana, while the Army Commander was today’s Cabinet Minister of Regional Development in the present Government, Field Marshall Sarath Fonseka.
“In this context, it may be recalled that, almost immediately after the murder of Wickrematunge, the then Leader of the Opposition and current Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and a former Speaker and UNP MP, Joseph Michael Perera, both made clear accusations against then Army Commander as being the person responsible for the killing of Wickrematunge. These high-level accusations are in the public domain and could be accessed by any interested parties. Hence, it is now obvious that the persons now in government, who, when in the opposition, alleged that Wickrematunge’s murder was carried out on the instructions of then Army Commander Sarath Fonseka, are today attempting to proceed along a completely different path and place the responsibility for the Wickrematunge murder on me, in order to fulfil their Party’s oft-stated political objective of arresting and incarcerating its key political opponents, including myself.
“The Sunday Island story goes on to say: “A former minister in the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime, Mervyn Silva, had publicly accused Gotabhaya Rajapaksa of killing Wickrematunge, a charge he has denied”. In this connection, it is a well-known fact that immediately after the Presidential Election of 8th January 2015, former minister Mervyn Silva had been making a series of absurd and unsubstantiated charges against several members of the Rajapaksa family, including myself. However, it was obvious to everyone that those allegations were driven by malice, revenge and hatred, rather than by fact or evidence. Hence,quite naturally, even after three years, such allegations could not be sustained, and the Law Enforcement authorities have not been able to establish any wrong doing on my part.
“The Sunday Island news story also stated as follows: “Wickrematunge had told colleagues as well as many others that he planned to take “Gota to the cleaners” over an allegedly corrupt deal in purchasing four MIG jet fighters for the air force.The so-called MIG deal is currently being investigated by the FCID and Lasantha was killed a few days before he was due to disclose details of the transaction at the Mount Lavinia courts”. It is preposterous that your report has attempted to establish a non-existing link between the so-called MIG deal and the murder of Wickrematunge, with a statement purported to have been made by a deceased person to his unnamed “colleagues”.
“For the record, let me state that, when this so called “MIG deal” was given publicity in the Sunday Leader, I initiated a legal action by claiming damages from the newspaper for defamation; my claim was subsequently upheld in Court. The Sunday Leader newspaper was also ordered to publish an apology to me, which it did. My response confirms that my reaction to the damaging and untruthful Sunday Leader newspaper report had been a lawful response, and not a violent reaction as maliciously insinuated in your newspaper story. My reaction was also not that of a person who resorts to extra-judicial measures to obtain redress. It follows therefore that the damaging story line in your newspaper seems to have been drafted with the intention of slinging mud at me and tarnishing my image among the many millions of Sri Lankans who have deeply appreciated my role in defeating terrorism in our country, as well as improving the infrastructure in our cities. The fact that your story seems to have deliberately avoided reference to the legal steps that I have taken to deal with The Sunday Leader’s baseless accusations, further confirms the bias of your story, and possibly, the deliberate intention to cause damage to my reputation.
“It would also be pertinent to point out that the then Army Commander Sarath Fonseka was also harshly criticized in a news story by Lasantha Wickrematunge in the Sunday Leader, a few weeks before Wickrematunge’s murder. Accordingly, based on your newspaper story’s logic that the Wickramatunge murder could have been due to a newspaper exposé, it would be appropriate for the CID team investigating Wickrematunge’s murder, to meticulously follow up that possibility as well, particularly because the then Army Commander Sarath Fonseka did not resort to a legal remedy to vindicate himself, as done by me. In fact, when I was questioned by the CID several months ago on a different matter, I suggested to the CID that they closely investigate the activities of a team of combat personnel functioning under an officer named Brig Keppetiwalana, who was the 112 Brigade commander, who was responsible for Colombo operations. However, due to the highly politicized and biased nature of the current investigation, I doubt as to whether the CID investigation team will pursue this lead with any diligence, seriousness or interest.
“Finally, let me state that it is with great regret that I have observed in recent times, the panic reaction of the current government to tarnish my name in any way possible. To do so, they are also attempting to obtain false confessions and statements from police and military officers under duress and threat, so as to implicate me on some charge or another. In fact, several police and military personnel have already informed me that they have been heavily coerced and pressured by various persons at high levels of responsibility to falsely implicate me. These types of politically motivated actions by an increasingly unpopular government tests the law and order process of our country to its limits, and places a huge strain on our judiciary as well. In that context, I would urge the government and those law enforcement officers who are aiding and abetting these unscrupulous and illegal adventures of the government, to desist from these unlawful actions and conduct, which places the credibility and the impartiality of Sri Lanka’ slaw and order process, at grave risk.”