Sri Lanka’s senior-most defence official, Admiral Ravindra Wijegunaratne, faces imminent arrest following allegations that he shielded the main suspect in the abduction and murder of 11 children.
The Criminal Investigations Department (CID) told the Colombo Fort Chief Magistrate Lanka Jayaratne that Admiral Wijegunaratne during his term as navy commander had repeatedly protected the chief suspect known as “Navy Sampath.”
The magistrate told the CID that there was no impediment to arresting anyone obstructing the course of justice. The court has also called for a parallel case against those blocking the arrest of the main suspect.
Former navy chief Wasantha Karannagoda’s aide, Hettiarachchi Mudiyanselage Chandana Prasad Hettiarachchi alias Navy Sampath, is the main accused in the abduction and murder of 11 children between 2008 and 2009.
The complaint of against Navy Sampath had been lodged by Karannagoda himself during the former regime. However, the case has dragged with powerful political interests protecting the suspects, police said.
Police said they had evidence that the current Chief of Defence Staff had provided shelter to Navy Sampath and also helped him to flee the country and avoid arrest by the CID.
Several other navy intelligence officers, including former navy spokesman D. K. P. Dassanayake who were arrested in connection with the murders have now been released on bail while two remain in custody.
Admiral Wijegunaratne was caught on camera in December 2016 assaulting a television journalist at the Hambantota harbour, but despite a huge public outcry, President Maithripala Sirisena granted him an extension of service.
His successor Travis Sinniah took office in August last year pledging no forgiveness for his officers who may have committed crimes taking the cover of the island’s drawn out separatist war.
Vice Admiral Sinniah , regarded as one of the most honourable officers in service, was terminated in just two months after he was denied an extension of service.
Navy Sampath had allegedly operated an extortion racket during the height of the war. he and his accomplices are said to have abducted children of businessmen and extracted ransoms to release them.
Some had been released after the parents paid up while some had been killed despite getting ransoms. The victims included Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims.