The Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) today said Army Commander Mahesh Senanayake has lied with regard to a call made by former minister Rishad Bathiudeen asking him about an arrested suspect in the Army custody.
Addressing a news conference, PHU Leader Udaya Gammanpila said Army Commander Senanayake has said in an interview with the state-owned ‘Silumina’ Newspaper on May 5 that there was undue influence from a powerful minister from Mannar to get an arrested suspect released.
“This was the first charge mentioned against the then minister Bathiudeen in the no-confidence motion compiled by the opposition. We handed over the no-confidence motion on May 16 and the army commander had until that day to ask the newspaper to correct the news if his comment had been altered, which did not happen. On May 17, he said in a news briefing that there was a request from Bathiudeen to release a suspect. However, he said the minister’s call can be termed as both a request and an influence,” he said.
Meanwhile, he said the army commander has told the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on June 26, a different version of the story.
“He had said the former minister inquired only about someone who was in the army custody. Then, Field Marshall Sarath Fonseka had asked the Army Chief whether it was only as a joke that he had told Bathiudeen he would get back to him in one and half years time,” MP Gammanpila said.
He said if the Army Commander takes one and half years to confirm whether someone was in their custody, it was a dangerous precedent.
“The Army Commander has no need to tell the minister to call back in one and half years if he did not receive any undue influence. In his own words, the Army Commander said the army can detain a suspect for one and half years. This only proves that he has lied to the PSC and has told the truth to the media,” he said.
He said this showed that the Army Commander had received undue influence afterwards.