Sirisena, Ranil foiled bid to arrest Gotabaya – Wijayadasa
Posted on June 23rd, 2020

by Shamindra Ferdinando Courtesy The Island

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Former Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC, on Monday (22), said that on his intervention the then President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe thwarted a bid to arrest Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Wijeyadasa Rajapaksa appreciated both President Sirisena and Premier Wickremesinghe listened to his advice in spite of the then ministers Patali Champika Ranawaka, Rajitha Senaratne and civil society activist J.C. Weliamuna PC pushing for wartime Defence Secretary’s arrest.

The former President of the Bar Association said so on live political programme ‘Salakuna’ anchored by Chamuditha Samarawickrema. ‘Hiru’ panel included Chapa Bandara and Madushan de Silva.

Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) Colombo District candidate Wijeyadasa Rajapakse said that the government pushed for Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s arrest over the lucrative overseas security operation undertaken by the Avant Garde Maritime Services (AGMS).

The former lawmaker pointed out that those who had wanted Gotabaya Rajapaksa behind bars over AGMS operation conveniently forgot that the then Defence Secretary implemented a decision taken at the National Security Council (NSC). In case the government asserted that the decision taken by the previous administration had been contrary to the law, the entire NSC should have been taken into custody, Wijeyadasa Rajapaksa said.

The former minister said that Premier Wickremesinghe knew the law and he (Wijeyadasa) was able to convince President Sirisena against taking the former Defence Secretary into custody. Wijeyadasa Rajapaksa revealed that top envoys of half a dozen countries made representations to him as regards the legitimacy of the AGMS operation. Declining to name the countries involved in the deliberations, the former minister quoted some of the envoys as having told him that the AGMS vessel that had been taken into custody along with a consignment of weapons also carried arms and equipment belonging to them.

Wijeyadasa Rajapaksa alleged that an influential section of the government had conspired with some officers of the Attorney General’s Department and was on the verge of taking Gotabaya Rajapaksa into custody when he heard of the plot at the last moment. “I got to know of a clandestine meeting at Dr. Rajitha Senaratne’s home and quickly brought it to the attention of Suhada Gamlath, the senior official at the AG Department in charge of the subject,” Wijeyadasa Rajapakse said.

The former minister named a senior AG Department employee involved in the clandestine moves to put Gotabaya Rajapaksa behind bars.

Decisions as regards arrests had been made at Temple Trees, Wijeyadasa Rajapakse alleged, adding that in addition to Premier Wickremesinghe, Ravi Karunanayake, Patali Champika Ranawaka, Mangala Samaraweera, J.C. Weliamuna, Anura Kumara Dissanayake were involved in the process. Some politicians took over the duties and responsibilities of law enforcement authorities, the former Justice Minister alleged.

At the onset of the interview, Wijeyadasa Rajapakse flayed Dr. Senaratne for criticizing him over the handling of the AGMS affair.

The former minister recalled how the Court of Appeal in March 2000 upheld a petition against Dr. Senaratne for doing business with the state institutions. In spite of the Court of Appeal ruling resulting in Dr. Senaratne losing his seat, UNP leader re-appointed him to Parliament on the National List, Rajapakse said. The ex-minister revealed that on the instructions of the then President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, Deputy Minister Dilan Perera moved the court with him as the counsel.

Commenting on President Mahinda Rajapakse’s efforts to secure control in parliament in 2007 as the country headed towards all-out war, ex-minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakse faulted President Mahinda Rajapaksa for accommodating Dr. Senaratne among those who crossed over from the UNP to the SLFP-led UPFA. President Rajapaksa declined to heed request not to take Dr. Senaratne along with the UNP group which switched allegiance in January 2007.

Responding to criticism directed at him by former State Minister and Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SBJ) Kalutara District candidate Ajith P. Perera, Wijeyadasa Rajapakse alleged that the critic was a member of the footnote gang that worked overtime to protect the interests of those responsible for Treasury bond scams perpetrated by the previous government. Asked by ‘Hiru’ panel whether Ajith P. Perera benefited from treasury bond thieves, Wijeyedasa Rajapakse said it should be a matter for the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) to inquire into.

Responding to more queries regarding the AGMS affair, Wijeyadasa Rajapakse said that as a result of President Sirisena and Premier Wickremesinghe accepting his reasoning, they, too, were publicly accused of protecting thieves.

Wijeyadasa Rajapaksa revealed a meeting called by Premier Wickremesinghe at the Prime Minister’s Office to discuss ways and means to take Gotabaya Rajapaksa into custody. Pushed for further details, the former minister said that he hadn’t been unaware as to why the meeting was called though he participated. Among those present, in addition to Premier Wickremesinghe were Dr. Senaratne, Ravi Karunanayake, Patali Champika Ranawaka, Anura Kumara Dissanayake, Arjuna Ranatunga, Mangala Samaraweera and J.C. Weliamuna. The meeting was told that AGMS proprietor Nissanka Senadhipathy, formerly of the Army provided the required backing for Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Alleging that two lorry loads of cash had been delivered to Gotabaya Rajapaksa, those who wanted the former Defence Secretary arrested expressed the view there was a golden opportunity to take care of him, Wijeyadasa Rajapakse said.

They were convinced that there wouldn’t be another chance, the ex-Justice minister said, adding how he explained the need to prove Gotabaya Rajapaksa accepted a bribe from Nissanka Senadhipathy.

Wijeyadasa Rajapaksa recalled how he warned his colleagues taking into custody the man who had played a significant role in Sri Lanka’s triumph over terrorism could lead to bloodshed on the streets. Wijeyadasa Rajapaksa quoted President Sirisena as having told him how immense pressure was brought on him by those seeking Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s arrest.

Wijeyadasa Rajapakse also discussed, briefly, the role played by R. Paskaralingham, Charitha Ratwatte as well as Malik Samarawickrema in the decision making process. President’s Counsel Wijeyadasa Rajapaksa denied ever having advised Nissanka Senadhipathy with regard to his operations or depending on him. The SLPP candidate said that he challenged former Director, CID, SSP Sharnie Abeysekerea to prove allegation that Senadhipathy brought him a house overseas.

Responding to another query, Wijeyadasa Rajapakse pointed out that Dr. Senaratne was on record as having said that Nissanka Senadhipathy hadn’t collected money sent to him (Dr. Senaratne) though he requested him to do so. The former justice minister said that the reference was to four cheques worth Rs 50 mn each sent by AGMS proprieto Nissanka Senadhipathy to Dr. Senaratne.

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