SL Navy and the disappearance of 11 persons: Principal witness turns against CID Part II
Posted on June 27th, 2019

By C. A. Chandraprema (Continued from yesterday) Courtesy The Island


Navy Sampath

After the abduction of these 11 persons, the details in the B reports submitted by the CID reveal that at least two of them mainly Rajiv Naganathan and Ali Anver had made calls to the outside over mobile phones lent to them by the naval ratings guarding them. The B report of 7 June 2017 stated that the naval ratings on duty guarding the detainees had allowed them to speak to their next of kin in order to let the latter know that they were in detention. They had used SIM cards bought in other people’s names for this purpose. The B report of 20 June 2017 directly stated that it has been revealed that it was those who were guarding the detainees who had obtained extortion money from their next of kin.

Raman Prabhakaran, an uncle of Rajiv Naganathan, had received a call from the latter saying that he was being held in the Navy camp in Trincomalee, and he had given the phone number of a naval rating to his uncle. Then Raman Prabhakaran had received calls from the camp asking for Rs. 8 million for Rajiv Naganathan’s release. This had been negotiated down to Rs. 1 million. (This extortion demand was separate from the earlier demand of Rs. 10 million made by Ali Anver.) Rajiv Naganathan had told his uncle that the boss of the camp where he was being held was Capt. Dassanayake. Rajiv Naganathan’s mother and father had told the CID that the abduction had taken place on the orders of a Navy officer named Sampath.

Samsudeen Nihara the wife of K. A. Anthony stated to the CID that their son K. A. John Reed had been arrested on 8 September 2008 and on 17 October 2008, her husband Anthony had also been arrested. On 30 October 2008, she had got a call on her landline asking for Rs. 1.5 million for the release of the father and son. This was negotiated down to Rs. 500,000. The money had been handed over to the extortionists at a place in Narammala in the Kurunegala District. However the father and son were not released.

Naval rating John Kotelawalage Bandu Kumara stated that Rajiv Naganathan and Anver Ali had been allowed to take calls by him. His superior officers Sumith Ranasinghe and Chishantha Welagedara pulled him up for allowing detainees to take calls. He admitted that he had thought of accepting a payment of Rs. 500,000 from Rajiv Naganathan’s parents and allowing Rajiv to escape, but had given up the idea due to the difficulties involved. Naval rating Bandu Kumara’s plan had been to dress Rajiv Naganathan in new clothes and to get him out of the camp during the Sinhala New Year or Vesak.

Conflicting stories

When questioned on the disappearance of these detainees, the CID was told different stories by different people. B. M. Vijeyakanth, the LTTE cadre turned informant of the navy intelligence unit under officers Sumith Ranasinghe and C. K. Welagedara said that the detainees had been shot, and their bodies tied to concrete fence posts and taken to out to sea and dumped. The head of that intelligence unit, officer Sumith Ranasinghe, told the CID that he had never took charge of any of Sampath Munasinghe’s detainees. He said that a naval rating called Bandara had told him that the detainees arrested by Sampath Munasinghe had been killed and dumped in the Kelani River.

Ranasinghe also said that he was aware that Sampath Munasinghe had been abducting people from various parts of the country and that four of them had been killed in Colombo and the others in Trincomalee. He also said that he was not on good terms with Sampath Munasinghe. For his part the first suspect in this case Munasinghe said that his room (which was searched and from which the ID cards of the disappeared were discovered) had in fact been used by Lt Commander Hettiarachchi and that Hettiarachchi had worked under Dassanayake and further that it was Hettiarachchi who had arrested the five youths (including Rajiv Naganathan) and that those responsible were officers Hettiarachchi and Ranasinghe and that he had nothing to do with it.

Officer Crishantha Welagedara told the CID that one day, he had got to know that some detainees at Gunside had been killed and he gone there to look into the matter. When he arrived at Gunside he saw a parked cab and one Gamini, a naval rating attached to the intelligence unit loading a long black polythene bag onto the vehicle. The shape of the bag led him to believe that this could be a dead body. He surmised that the detainees brought from Colombo had been killed and taken in the cab and disposed of. Nalin Prasanna Wickremasuriya said that Rajiv Naganathan was one of those he questioned and that he had been told by naval rating Bandara that four of the detainees had been strangled to death and dumped in the Kelani River in the Kaduwela area.

Despite a decade of investigations and statements obtained from mutual antagonists within the navy, the B reports do not indicate that anyone, at all, had actually seen these detainees killed or even a dead body after they were killed. The CID told courts that it had been established beyond doubt that the 11 persons abducted in Colombo had been detained at Gunside and that there was no evidence to show that that these people had been rehabilitated or that they have gone abroad. Though it was nine years after the abductions, none of them had come back home either and there is no evidence to show that they are alive. Therefore, there was a justifiable suspicion that these persons had been killed.

Officer Travis Sinniah, who was soon to become the Commander of the Navy, told the CID that on the orders of Wasantha Karannagoda the detention centre at Gunside had been administered by Lt Commander Ranasinghe under the supervision of D. K. P. Dassanayake. Sinniah said that he had been told by Karannagoda not to interfere with the Gunside operation. He also said that Dassanayake controlled ingress and egress to the Gunside detention centre and that vehicles entered and exited without being checked on the orders of Dassanayake. He said that he, too, had heard about some killings that had taken place at Gunside and that Karannagoda and his officers were responsible for everything that took place. According to the B report of 13 July 2017, Sampath Munasinghe also told the CID that the then Navy Commander Karannagoda had been informed of the arrest of these suspects.

First suspect Sampath Munasinghe

The lawyers making written submissions on behalf of the second and third suspects Sumith Ranasinghe and Tilakaratnage Udaya Kumara, pointed out before the Colombo Fort Magistrate’s court on 12 March 2017 that though the ID cards of some of the missing persons had been found in Sampath Munasinghe’s quarters and though the CID had informed courts on several occasions that Munasinghe was directly responsible for the disappearances, at no point, had the CID charged him for murder under Section 296 of the Penal Code or for an offence involving the use of firearms under Section 44 of the Firearms Ordinance. However, after nine years, the CID had charged the second and third suspects for murder under Section 296.

The first suspect Sampath Munasinghe was arrested in 2009 and released on 9.6.2010. He was charged with the lesser offence of kidnapping or abducting a person in order that such person may be murdered under Section 355 of the Penal Code which carried a maximum penalty of 20 years rigorous imprisonment unlike Section 296, which carries the death penalty. However, after the new government came into power, it was decided that an offence under Section 296 and Section 44 of the Firearms Ordinance had taken place. On 26 April 2017, the Colombo Magistrate’s Court issued an order in relation to the request that officer Sampath Munasinghe be re-arrested. The Court observed that the Attorney General’s Department had stated that since the first suspect was already on bail there was no need to re-arrest him. But the lawyer representing the victims requested that he be re-arrested.

The court observed that Munasinghe had first been arrested on10 June 2009 and granted bail on 9 June 2010. Furthermore, the court observed that the CID had informed Court that the IDs found in the first suspect’s room were those of persons who had disappeared but that it had not been ascertained who had abducted those people. The CID further informed Court that the first suspect’s involvement in the abduction of five persons in Dehiwala had not been ascertained. Furthermore, the first suspect had not been identified by the next of kin of the victims. Those were the reasons why he had been granted bail in 2010. The Court therefore rejected the call for re-arresting Sampath Munasinghe.

In the written submissions to Court made on behalf of T. I. G. Dharmadasa, a naval officer, working under Lt Commander Hettiarachchi, his lawyers stated that Dharmadasa had been called to the CID for the first time on 16 February 2015 to give a statement. He had been told by the CID that he could become a state witness if he gave a statement in a certain way. He refused to do so on three occasions. On 21 April 2017, he was named a suspect in the case.

CID guilty of perjury?

Through the B report filed on 22 February 2019, the CID informed Court that Lt Commander Prasad Hettiarachchi had abducted the victims and the then Navy Commander (Karannagoda) had been informed of the arrests. Though he had been in the know about the abductions, Karannagoda had tried to shield the culprits and pass off the blame on Sampath Munasinghe, saying that he was involved in terrorist activities and that the IDs of the victims had been found in his room. The CID told Court that if Karannagoda had exerted due diligence when he first heard about these arrests, the victims could have been saved.

Karannagoda is being investigated by the CID for murder under Section 296 of the Penal Code, under Section 356 for kidnapping or abducting a person with intent to wrongfully confine that person, under Section 388 for criminal breach of trust in dishonestly converting to his own use property entrusted to him and under Section 199 of the Penal Code for intentionally failing to give any information about an offence that he has knowledge of. From the B report of 16 March 2018 and 12 September 2018 the CID referred to officer Chandana Prasad Hettiarachchi as ‘Navy Sampath’ even though the original Navy Sampath was Lt Commander Sampath Munasinghe.

In filing B report dated 12 September 2018, Inspector Nishantha Silva stated that it had been 10 years since the victims in this case had been arrested and their next of kin were in great pain of mind. He stated that as this endeavour is being made to do justice to the next of kin of the victims, the Navy and other concerned parties should extend the fullest cooperation to the investigation. In the B report dated 26 September 2018 Inspector Silva stated that the next of kin of the victims were in a state of deep sorrow and whatever the obstacles he had to face, he would not be discouraged in his endeavor to do justice to the victims’ next of kin.

On 2 January 2018, one of the key witnesses of the CID, B. M. Vijeyakanth, the former LTTE cadre turned navy intelligence operative, made a special statement before the Colombo Fort Magistrate Lanka Jayaratne. He stated that it was officer Chrishantha Welagedara who had taken him into the Navy. One day, officer Welagedara had introduced him to two men one of whom he later learnt was Inspector Nisantha Silva. The two men had shown Vijeyakanth 12 photos and they took down his details and got him to sign a statement. As he was leaving after giving the statement, Vijeyakanth told the men that he did not know the people in the 12 photos. Once he had left, officer Welagedara accosted him and said that he had said that he did not know the people in the photos and sent him right back to tell the CID officers that he did know the people in the 12 photos.

Officer Welagedara instructed Vijeyakanth to tell the CID that he knew one Shantha and the other 11 persons and that they had been in detention together in Trincomalee. The CID officers told Vijeyakanth that he would be taken to a room and questioned and that he should answer as if he were doing it on his own volition and he should not say that he had been coached to say those things. Subsequently, Vijeyakanth was asked to come to the CID headquarters. Inspector Nishantha Silva had not been present but he had reached Vijeyakanth on the land line in the room and told him to give the statement as agreed. Vijayakanth did as instructed and left the CID headquarters.

These, in a nutshell, are the basic details of this ‘emblematic’ case which emerge from the B reports and certain other court records.


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