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Controversy over a deprived promotion


Lt. Commander Welagedara with present Navy Commander

Although Welagedara was granted a presidential pardon, he has so far been deprived his promotion to the rank of Commander

For the first time in the history of Sri Lanka Navy, it is alleged, that an officer was sentenced after being court martialled for travelling abroad without obtaining leave

The caller had informed Welagedara that there were shooting sounds from the underground prison

It is a known fact that Fernando whilst serving at the Attorney General’s Department had interfered with the CID investigations on navy abductions

 

The Commander of Sri Lanka Navy, Vice Admiral Sirimewan Ranasinghe is now in the limelight for allegedly depriving Lt. Commander Krishan C. Welagedara his due promotion, because he gave evidence against the navy officers who were behind the spate of abductions that took place between 2008 and 2009. Reportedly the 11 Tamil youth had been abducted for extortion.   

The reason given by Vice Admiral Ranasinghe with regard to Lt. Com. Welagedara’s held-back promotion is, that he is serving a court martial sentence. On July 12, 2016, the Navy court martialled Lt. Com. Welagedara for a minor offence, but that was annulled within few days- on July 29, 2016 by Ranasinghe’s superior, the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces President Maithripala Sirisena.   


Ranasinghe’s failure to heed the presidential orders, has now been informed to the President by Lt. Com. Welagedara’s father.   


The Sri Lanka Navy, is tightlipped when asked to answer queries made by this newspaper regarding the officers’ involvement in the abductions and disappearances of Tamil youth. Since all attempts made to obtain comments from the Navy Spokesman Lt. Com. Dinesh Bandara for the stories associated with the abduction, which the Dailymirror has produced, were futile, a request was made to the Navy Commander seeking an appointment for an interview. Hence, an e-mail was forwarded to the Commander on September 7 through the Navy Spokesman in our attempts to find out the truth behind the allegations levelled against him, his predecessors and the institution. When the Navy Spokesman was contacted on September 10, to find out whether the e-mail was forwarded to the Navy Commander, the spokesman confirmed that it was sent to the Commander. But thereafter, the Spokesman did not answer to any of the calls made by the reporter through both his personal mobile phone and office telephone. Although a text message was sent to him on July 11, to obtain a contact number for the Commander’s office, he did not respond. Until the newspaper went for publication, the Navy Commander too did not respond to the mail that was sent to him.   


For the first time in the history of Sri Lanka Navy, it is alleged, that an officer was sentenced after being court martialled for travelling abroad without obtaining leave. This happened despite there being a history of those who had left service without the necessary approvals not being court martialled unless they were involved in crimes during that period. They had only been penalised at a summary trial and the Navy has not denied their due promotions. There is speculation that the reason to court martial Lt. Com. Welagedara is because he gave evidence against those who were involved in abducting 11 Tamil youth including six students from Kotahena.   
Welagedara was court martialed on two charges–(1) acting in a manner prejudicial to naval discipline and good order, and (2) being absent without leave. The sentence for the two charges respectively was –(1) 36 months forfeiture of seniority, and (2) 12 months forfeiture of seniority and 17 days forfeiture of pay and allowances.   


Following Welagedara’s appeal to President Maithripala Sirisena about this sentence, former Defence Secretary Karunasena Hettiarachchi by letter (Ref: No: MOD/DET/03/02/DIS/315) dated July 29, 2018 addressed to the Navy Commander had notified of the presidential pardon granted to K.C.Welagedara NRX 1583. The letter further sates, ‘His Excellency the President had annulled the first two sentences- the 36 month and 12 month forfeiture of seniority given to the above officer but the punishment given to forfeiture 17 day pay and allowances to be remained’.   

Welagedara's appeal to the President


Meanwhile, a high ranking Navy official, speaking on conditions of anonymity, told the Dailymirror that the only ‘crime’ Lt. Com. Welagedara had committed, to be punished at a court martial, was because he stood firm against the crimes committed by his fellow officers and gave evidence to the CID with regard to what he saw near the ‘Gun Sight’ underground prison at the Trincomalee Naval base in 2009.   


“For being a law-abiding officer, the Navy should have hailed Welagedara, but not penalize him. Instead of appreciating Welagedara for his bravery, he had to battle alone to overcome all the allegations levelled against him and face the inquiries. Failing to find fault with him, the Navy court martialled Welagedara for a minor offence- for being absent without leave for 17 days,” the sources said.   

Welagedara had further complained how Cap. D.K.P. Dassanayake and Lt. Com. Sumith Ranasinghe who are among the accused had threatened him and Upul Bandara, for giving evidence to the CID against them


Although the court martial sentence was annulled through a presidential order, the then Commander Wijegunaratne and the present Navy Chief Ranasinghe claim that Welagedara’s sentence had not been annulled as the 17-day salary forfeiture remained intact.   


Admiral Wijegunaratne is now in hot water for allegedly aiding and abetting Lt. Com. Chandana Prasad Hettiarachchi alias Navy Sampath, who is one of the main suspects in the Navy abduction case. He was reportedly kept in hiding at the Navy headquarters. Navy Sampath had reportedly been provided with food and lodging and funds released to him to escape from the country before he could be arrested by the CID.   


There had been several unsuccessful attempts to remove Welagedara from service in order to quash the evidence the latter had given to the CID against Navy officers.   

Although the Navy looks after the criminals, Navy documents reveal how the service of another officer was suspended on May 1, 2018 over an alleged crime he had committed


The only fault the Navy could find against Welagedara was leaving the country without taking necessary approval from the Navy. This is what Welagedara’s father had to say: “Under skilled migration, my son and his family were granted resident visa in Australia. They had to report to the authorities concerned there on or before March 28, 2016. Hence my son requested the respective Commanders to grant him approval to travelled to Australia to settle his family and return, but he was not granted leave. He had been requesting for this approval to travel abroad from 2014. On March 24, 2016 Welagedara and his family travelled to Australia and on March 28 he had informed his immediate boss Commodore Y.M. Jayaratne that he would be back on April 12th. Once again on April 17, he informed the Commanding office that he would be back on the 12th and had given the flight details and the time of arrival. No sooner my son returned, he was arrested by fellow Navy officers at the airport, handcuffed and taken to the Navy headquarters. He was kept behind bars for 14 days and thereafter for three months under house arrest. He was convicted after being court martialled on July 12, 2016,” the father said.   


The Navy claims that Welagedara is not qualified to be promoted to the next rank as per Sri Lanka Navy Order 0642 (the selection procedure for promoting officers to ranks of Commander and above) dated February 15, 2014, which says, ‘10 marks will be deducted for each court martial if occurred after Commissioning.   
Although the Navy sentenced Welagedara after the court martial hearing, this newspaper is in possession of a letter sent by the former Navy Commander Wijegunaratne to the Senior DIG, CID well before the court martial started its hearing that he (navy commander) will send the accused (Welagedara) to the CID after the latter is convicted after being court martialled. This letter was written in response to a request the CID made to the Navy to send Welagedara to obtain a statement regarding the abduction of Tamil youth.   

There had been several unsuccessful attempts to remove Welagedara from service in order to quash the evidence the latter had given to the CID against Navy officers


Senior DIG, CID by letter, dated May 25, 2016 (Ref:S/DIG/CID/1289/2016), addressed to the then Navy Commander Wijegunaratne had requested to send Lt. Com. Welagedara, who was by which time under house arrest, to obtain a statement in regard to the abduction of the Tamil youth. Navy Commander Wijegunaratne by a letter dated May 26, 2016 to the Senior DIG, CID had stated, ‘As K.C. Welagedara had gone to Australia without approved leave and for his failure to report to work, he is now under house-arrest and he is to face a court martial which is to be started on June 3, 2016 and is expected to be convicted. Hence once the court martial proceedings are over, I will produce the said officer before you to obtain the statement you want’.   


“It is the Navy Commander that appoints the Judge Advocate for the Navy Court Martial. In his letter to the Senior DIG, CID, the Commander has stated that the court martial would start on June 3 and after he is convicted he will be produced at the CID. How did the Navy Commander know that the accused will be convicted eight days before the Navy court martial commenced?   

Admiral Wijegunaratne is now in hot water for allegedly aiding and abetting Lt. Com. Chandana Prasad Hettiarachchi alias Navy Sampath, who is one of the main suspects in the Navy abduction case


The Dailymirror  is in possession of documents where the Navy penalised a few of its officers when they were absent without leave during the height of the war, but had never court martialled them. Instead the cases had been taken up at summary trials. The details highlight the punishments given to them. In order to protect the identity of these officers, this newspaper will withhold their names, but give the official numbers allocated to them and their ranks. 


  
(1) Commodore –NRX 0392 absent for 152 days from 29/10/1996 to 31/3/1997, forfeiture of seniority by 14 days and 152 days’ pay, he was promoted to the next rank in time and presently in service.   


(2) Captain –NRX 0406 absent for 106 days from 29/4/1995 to 15/8/1995, forfeiture of seniority by 14 days and the withholding of 106 day’s pay, he was promoted in time and is now retired from service.   


(3) Commander NRX 1360 absent for seven days from 11/10/2006. The action taken against him is not known, but he had been promoted in time and is presently in service.   


(4) Commander NRX 1363, absent for five days from 17/6/2006 to 21/6/2006. The action taken against him too is not known, but he was promoted in time and presently in service.   


(5) Lt. Commander NRX 1830, absent for 645 days from 23/10/2006 to 28/7/ 2008, forfeiture of seniority by 645 days and 645 days’ salary, but promoted in time and presently in service.   


(6) Lt. Commander NRX 1217 absent for 17 days, forfeiture of seniority by 10 days and 17 days’ pay, promoted in time and presently retired from service.   


(7) Lieutenant NRC 1805 absent for 960 days from 14/6/2006 to 3/9/2009, forfeiture of seniority and 960 day’s pay, he has left the Navy on his own.   


(8) Lieutenant NRX 1861, absent for 632 days from 26/3/2007 to 15/12/2008 forfeiture of seniority and 632 days pay, has resigned on his desire.


“All these officers left the service without informing and were absconding without reporting for duty despite several messages being sent. But still they had to appear before a summary trial and not before a court martial,” sources claimed.   


Lt. Com. Welagedara in his evidence to the CID in 2012 had revealed how he received a call from Navy sailors at the ‘Gun Site’ underground prison at the Navy base at Trincomalee,where these 11 Tamil youth had been detained. The statement further states that the caller had informed Welagedara that there were shooting sounds from the underground prison and had requested him to come immediately. According to the statement, upon his arrival to the site, he had seen bodies wrapped with plastic sheets being loaded to a navy truck. He believes that they were the bodies of these Tamil youths with whom he had spoken few days ago. Welagedara had further complained how Cap. D.K.P. Dassanayake and Lt. Com. Sumith Ranasinghe who are among the accused had threatened him and Upul Bandara, for giving evidence to the CID against them.   

The reason given by Vice Admiral Ranasinghe with regard to Lt. Com. Welagedara’s held-back promotion is, that he is serving a court martial sentence


Not only Welagedara, but also several other Navy officers too had cooperated with the CID and provided details of how the abducted youth were imprisoned in multiple naval bases. All these witnesses were attached to the Naval Base at Trincomalee between 2008 and 2009.   


Although Welagedara was granted a presidential pardon, he has so far been deprived his promotion to the rank of Commander. All these accused are now out on bail. According to the Navy documents, the present and former Commanders have granted promotions to two suspects Lt.Com Sumith Ranasinghe and Captain D.K.P. Dassanayake at a time when they have been accused in the abduction case. Captain Dassanayake had been promoted to the rank of Commodore on October 26, 2016 while Lt. Com. Ranasinghe had been promoted to the rank of Commander on April 8, 2016.   


Ravindra Wijegunawardena approved the promotions despite the charges levelled against them. The present Navy Commander meanwhile had recommended D.K.P. Dassanayake a service extension which had been approved by the Defence Minister, President Maithripala Sirisena on July 3, 2018.   


However, although the Navy looks after the criminals, Navy documents reveal how the service of another officer was suspended on May 1, 2018 over an alleged crime he had committed. But however when his name was cleared from the charges, he was re-instated on July 31, 2018.  “If the Navy can suspend the service of this officer based on the allegation levelled against him when the case was before court, on what basis did the navy promote Dassanayake and Ranasinghe and recommend a one year service extension to Dassanayake,” sources queried.   


Meanwhile the Interim Report issued by the Office on Missing Persons (OMP) in August 2018 states that there have been instances where members of the armed forces, who were willing to provide information on disappearances, were subject to harassment.   


The report further states, ‘Some individuals suspected of having committed enforced disappearances and related offences are being permitted to remain in positions of power—especially within the armed forces and the police—where they can influence the progress of an investigation. There have been instances where members of the armed forces, who were willing to provide information on disappearances, were subject to harassment.   


‘The OMP notes with concern that in at least one case, an officer of the armed forces, who is a suspect in an on-going court case relating to abductions and enforced disappearances, has neither been suspended nor removed from exercising the duties and functions of his office. Of equal concern is that there are reports that in at least one case an officer has been granted a promotion within the armed forces, whilst the case against him is still pending. OMP notes that under relevant regulations as well as the rules and established practices it is reasonably expected for such suspected officers to be suspended from exercising the duties and functions of their office’.   


Meanwhile questions have been raised as to why Judge Advocate Navy, Shaveendra Fernando, was allowed to preside on the court martial bench when Welagedara’s matter was taken up, as it is a known fact that Fernando whilst serving at the Attorney General’s Department had interfered with the CID investigations on navy abductions.   

Lt. Commander Krishan C. Welagedara


The OMP report further states, ‘ There are a number of cases before different courts, some of which have continued for ten years or more, where victims have not been provided any answers as to the whereabouts of their loved ones. Amongst these cases are habeas corpus applications and criminal proceedings in respect of abduction and murder.There is an inherent conflict of interest, with the Attorney-General’s Department being required to act as both the prosecutor of alleged enforced disappearances, as well as to defend the respondents in legal proceedings including in relation to habeas corpus writs.   


‘The OMP is of the view that in habeas corpus applications the Attorney General’s Department should not represent the interests of persons who are alleged to be perpetrators, but rather should represent the interests of the state in a manner that would respect, secure and advance the fundamental rights of the people. The OMP notes with concern that in habeas corpus applications relating to the disappeared that technical objections have been raised standing in the way of obtaining justice. It is also observed that the establishment of the OMP should not be raised as an objection to parties seeking recourse in court for the constitutional remedy of habeas corpus’. 


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  Comments - 1

  • S Fernando Friday, 12 October 2018 17:14

    For information.

    Reply : 0       3

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