By S. S. Selvanayagam
Justice Priyantha Jayawardane yesterday recused himself from the Bench which is hearing the Fundamental Rights petition filed by former Navy Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda seeking an Interim Order from the Supreme Court from being arrested.
The petition came up before the Bench comprising Chief Justice Priyasath Dep, Justices Priyantha Jayawardane and Murdu N. B. Fernando and deferred for 7 March for support for granting Leave to Proceed.
Petitioner cited Officer in Charge Nishantha Silva and Director Shani Abeysekera of Organised Crimes Investigation Unit as well as DIG CID Ravi Seneviratne, IGP Pujith Jayasundara and Attorney General as Respondents.
Romesh de Silva PC with Sugath Caldera and Niran Anketell instructed by Sanath Wijeyawardane appeared for the petitioner. Additional Solicitor General Viraj Dayaratne appeared for the Attorney General.
Petitioner states as follows:
On 10 May 2009, he received notice of an allegation that his security officer Lt. Cmdr. Sampath had abducted A certain youth and detained them within Navy premises in Trincomalee.
On 10 May, the Petitioner was advised that the said Lt. Cmdr. Sampath may in fact be guilty of committing the said offence.
On 28 May 2009, Lt. Cdr Sampath’s officer’s cabin was opened by the Naval Provost in the presence of the police and many suspicious materials were found including large amounts of cash, promissory notes and identity documents of other persons. On 10 June 2009, Lt. Cmdr. Sampath was arrested whilst absconding at the Army Head Quarters.
He laments that on 13 September 2016, Lt. Cmdr. Welagedara of the Sri Lanka Navy provided a false statement to IP Nishantha Silva at the CID, implicating him and several others including Admiral Colombage, Capt. Dasanayake and Cmdr. Ranasinghe, stating that these officers have threatened him with death.
On 27 September 2016, IP Nishantha Silva filed a “B” report at Fort Magistrate’s Court based on Lt. Cmdr. Welagedara’s statement.
On 30 September, he was summoned in writing to appear at the CID on 5 and 6 October 2016 to provide a statement. On 5 October 2016, he appeared before the CID.
The Petitioner states that he became aware that Rear Admiral Travis Sinniah (as he was then) made a statement to the 1st Respondent, which was reported to Court in a B Report dated 2nd August 2017.
The said Travis Sinniah was a Deputy Area Commander East (Trincomalee) when the Petitioner was Navy Commander.
In the said statement supposed to have been made, Sinniah is said to have claimed that: (a) illegal detention cells were functioning under the Petitioner’s supervision at the Trincomalee Navy camp known as ‘Gunsite’; (b) the Petitioner had instructed Travis Sinniah not to supervise or conduct any activities with regard to these cells; (c) the Petitioner and several others were aware of the fact that persons were detained at these cells and later killed; and (d) the Petitioner is responsible for the killings of detainees held in the said cells.
The Petitioner claims that the 1st Respondent and other Respondents did not at any stage seek to interview the Petitioner or obtain any statement from the Petitioner with respect to the false allegations said to have been made by Travis Sinniah.
The Petitioner pleads that no steps whatever have been taken in respect of the allegations by Lt. Cmdr. Welagedera and Admiral Sinniah.
He states that on 18 September 2018, Rear Admiral KJCS (Shemal) Fernando of the Navy had provided a statement to the 1st Respondent that the Petitioner had failed to take proper steps in respect of the five youth referred to by Hon. Felix Perera. The said Shemal Fernando was the Naval Secretary to the Petitioner at the relevant time in 2009.
The Petitioner maintains that he did take several steps to cause an investigation to take place and to brief his superiors concerning the allegations of abduction and detention of youth.
The Petitioner pleads in the said matter that the Respondents and particularly the 1st Respondent has over time systematically attempted to concoct a reason to arrest the Petitioner.
The Petitioner pleads that all the allegations and implications that have been made against him in the B Reports are false and incorrect and have been made mala fide with a view to make the him a suspect illegally and wrongfully for personal and political reasons and to deprive him of his personal liberty.
The Petitioner claims that it is not even alleged that the he physically abducted the youth and/or was physically present when the youth were abducted.
He pleads that no charges/indictments have been framed up to now against any of the persons alleged to have directly involved in the abduction of the youth, that there is no reason to arrest him and bemoans that he is being victimised for political reasons and as a political vendetta.