Letters sent to UN Resident Rep on two officers’ behalf Alleged navy involvement in 11 abductions
Posted on December 17th, 2017

By Shamindra Ferdinando  Courtesy The Island

Chandrika Dassanayake, wife of Commodore D. K. P. Dassanayake, who has been remanded since July over his alleged involvement in eleven wartime disappearances, yesterday told The Island that she had handed over letters on behalf of her husband as well as Commander Sumith Ranasinghe, to UN Resident Representative in Colombo Una McCauley at the BMICH last Friday (Dec 15).

Commander Ranasinghe, too, has been remanded in connection with the same case. Dassanayake and Ranasinghe are among six navy personnel now in remand custody in this connection.

Chandrika said that she along with her daughters had sought to bring Dasanayake’s plight to the attention of the UN Working Group on Arbitary Detention at the conclusion of its visit to Sri Lanka. Mrs. Dassanayake said that the families of detained officers wouldn’t have had to make representations to the UN Working Group if it visited those who were held at Welikada maximum security prison.

The delegation comprised Working Group members José Antonio Guevara Bermúdez, Leigh Toomey and Elina Steinerte, supported by staff from the UN Human Rights Office.

Mrs Dassanayake said that she was compelled to hand over letters to UN Resident Representative as UN staff refused her an opportunity to hand them over directly to leader of the team Toomey. Mrs Dassanayake said that as soon as she approached the UN staff there they first wanted to know whether I represented a missing LTTE cadre. She alleged that the UN staff repeatedly asked her and her daughters to leave the premises before the UN Working Group arrived there.

“When we were assured letters would be handed over to the UN Working Group, I handed them over to UN Resident Representative. We were again asked to go. But as we waited for our vehicle to come for us, we realized the UN Working Group members had been brought in from a different entrance and were addressing the media. As I had a photocopy of the letter written on behalf of my husband, I wanted to hand it over directly to Toomey.”

Mrs Dassanayake said that her eldest daughter made an abortive bid to enter the room where the press conference was being held with the help of a journalist in the electronic media.

The UN hadn’t held media briefings at the BMICH before always calling the press to its compound situated at the Baudhaloka Mawatha.

Mrs Dassanayake said they wanted to make representations to the UN directly as UN Special Rapporteur Ben Emmerson referred to her husband’s arrest when he addressed the media at the UN compound in Colombo. She said that in spite of him not being charged in court, the UN official directly blamed her husband for those disappearances.

The UN Working Group called for the abolition of the special laws and powers enacted during the state of emergency. In particular, the Working Group urged the Government of Sri Lanka to repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act of 1979, as one of the key enablers of arbitrary detention for over four decades. Any new legislation must be in accordance with international human rights law and best practices.

The UN has announced that the Working Group would present the final report of its visit to the United Nations Human Rights Council in September 2018.

Mrs Dassanayake alleged that the Colombo based UN mission indicated in no uncertain terms that the UN Working Group wasn’t interested in at least listening to the other side of the story. They could have simply accepted our letters without uttering a word, Mrs Dassanayake said, adding that she couldn’t bear her husband, who risked his life in different theatrs of conflict now to be treated like a criminal.

Mrs Dassanayake said the family would pursue the case as the UN Resident Representative had accepted letters delivered on behalf of her husband and Commander Ranasinghe.

At the time of his arrest, Dassanayake, wartime navy spokesman had been attached to the Office of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) whereas Commander Ranasinghe was stationed in Trincomalee.

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