Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena Friday blamed the undue delay in prosecuting high profile criminal suspects of the former regime on inefficient state attorneys and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Speaking to local media heads at the President’s House in Colombo, Sirisena said he wanted indictments prepared by the attorney general’s department by a panel of independent legal experts, but Wickremesinghe had neglected to do so.
The dossier on former defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa was completed just before Prime Minister Wickremesinghe visited India and the case was held up till his return, Sirisena said without giving actual dates.
Wickremesinghe travelled to India in November last year.
“I had told the Prime Minister that cases filed against these high profile individuals (of the former regime) should be examined by (private) legal experts to make sure that there are no loopholes and that cases will not be thrown out.
“When the dossier was presented to me I said, as I have told the Prime Minister very clearly, to appoint a panel of legal experts and have the papers examined before filing the cases. The prime Minister returned(from India), but he did not appoint the panel and that is that.”
Speaking to senior editors, the President made it clear that he feared that the Attorney General’s department could botch the cases against individuals such as Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and wanted additional safeguards to ensure water-tight cases against the suspects.
He said in 2016 there was a time when Gotabhaya Rajapaksa was about to be prosecuted, possibly within a week, but the move fell by the wayside.
There had been allegations that it was Sirisena himself who had blocked the investigations, a charge he has since denied.
Rajapaksa has sought court orders preventing his arrest in connection with several pending cases until a conclusion of a case he has filed challenging attempts to arrest him.
Other high profile cases involving the assassination of Lasantha Wickrematunga and national rugby star Wasim Thajudeen were also dragging on despite investigators privately saying that they had completed their work.
Gotabhaya Rajapaksa was implicated in Lasantha Wickrematunga’s assassination and was in fact named in a police B report filed at the Mount Lavinia courts.
Rajapaksa has denied running death squads, but the report said the then head of military intelligence operated a killer squad and he reported to Rajapaksa.