By Chathuri Dissanayake
In an explosive statement, Defence Ministry Secretary Hemasiri Fernando yesterday said 11 soldiers would be prosecuted in the next two weeks over a high profile murder case, and called on the diaspora to submit evidence on crimes committed by any military personnel.
“We will take legal action against 11 soldiers who have been involved in one of the most heinous, gruesome murders in Sri Lankan history,” Fernando said, speaking at a felicitation ceremony hosted by Nalanda College.
Fernando also urged the people to come forward with any information and evidence they may have of any incident where military personnel have committed crimes.
“We call on the diaspora to put forward any evidence to prove any murder. We will take action against them,” he said.
The Defence Ministry Secretary, noting that no military personnel is above the law of the country, said that if any soldier commits a crime, he will be tried before a court of law and meted with maximum punishment.
“The day a war hero goes and commits murder, he is no longer a war hero. He is then only a murderer. He has to be brought before Sri Lankan law and given maximum punishment in Sri Lankan courts,” he said.
Fernando, going against the popular rhetoric of dubbing any member of the military as a ‘war hero’, noted that the person should be awarded such a medal through a Gazette issued by the Government.
“There are only 39,000 war heroes in this country, out of which 34,000 are in the Army, 4,400 in the Navy, and 868 in Air Force. To be a war hero, you have to have a war hero medal gazetted to your name. The young man who joined the Army three months ago thinks he is a war hero when he returns home. That is not right,” he said.
Fernando said that the Defence Ministry will also procure modern equipment to deal with the increasing drug menace in the country. The first procurement, costing over Rs. 1 billion, will be from Israel with funding released from President’s Fund, he said.
The Secretary was felicitated by the President of the Ranaviru Association of the Nalanda College OBA, Commander of the Air Force Air Marshal Kapila Jayampathy and school officials were also present at the event along with a large number of old Nalandians, serving and retired tri-forces and police personnel.