Chief of Defence Staff due to make statement this week | Sunday Observer

Chief of Defence Staff due to make statement this week

Former Navy Commander and current Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Admiral Ravindra Wijegunaratne is expected at the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) this week, to make a statement in connection with the abduction of 11 youth for ransom.

Summons requesting his presence at the CID will be served on him today, a Police source confirmed, adding, however, the exact date to obtain the statement has not been decided on yet.

In court last week, OIC of the Gang Robbery Unit of the CID Nishantha Silva claimed in open court that the CID had sufficient evidence to arrest CDS Wijegunaratne. However, at a previous court sitting, he claimed, there were several obstacles in carrying out the arrest.

The latest move came after Counsel Achala Seneviratne notified Colombo Fort Magistrate Lanka Jayaratne on Friday that the CID had failed to obtain a statement and taken action against the CDS, despite repeatedly presenting information to the courts through B-reports regarding his alleged involvement in the case.

The case was being heard regarding the recent arrest of a suspect identified as Laksiri Amarasinghe who had aided main suspect, Chandana Prasad Hettiarachchi alias Navy Sampath to flee the country and provided him protection on his return when a warrant was already out for his arrest.

“It has been over one and a half months since the CDS was asked to provide a statement but did not as he had to travel abroad,” she said, adding that the CID has since failed to take any further steps. However, the CID assured the Magistrate that steps will be taken immediately. Magistrate Lanka Jayaratne ordered the Police to obtain a statement from the CDS and take the necessary legal steps.

In the B-reports, the CID claimed that Wijegunaratne had protected the main suspect Hettiarachchi known by the alias ‘Navy Sampath’ as the search for him by the CID intensified. Sources within the CID said it had sent two messages to the administrative branch of Naval Headquarters, for the attention of Navy Commander Ravindra Wijegunaratne on March 1 and March 28, 2017, requesting the Navy to produce Navy Sampath at the CID Headquarters on March 2 and 31 respectively. These requests went unheeded and evidence and witness statements revealed that Hettiarachchi was being harboured by the Navy with the knowledge of the Commander at the Naval Headquarters in Colombo during the time.

Evidence to support this claim comes from the statement made by the wife of Hettiarachchi herself. She had told investigators that she visited Hettiarachchi thrice while he was housed at the HQ between March 3 and March 31, 2017, despite the Navy insisting at the time that they had no knowledge of his whereabouts.

Her statement is also backed by Lt. Commander Geethal Laksiri who cooperates with the CID. In his statement to the authorities, Laksiri claimed Hettiarachchi was housed in the room adjacent to his in the officer’s mess during the time. Once encountering both Wijegunaratne and Hettiarachchi in the lift, Laksiri was witness to a damning conversation between the two. As he puts it, seeing Hettiarachchi, Wijegunaratne had inquired as to where he was heading, only to be told that he (Hettiarachchi) was visiting the Light House to meet his wife. “I will not be held responsible if the Police nab you if you jaunt about,” the Commander had retorted. Laksiri also claimed Hettiarachchi had been given money by Wijegunaratne before he went missing from Navy HQ last year.

While the CID has yet failed to take steps against the CDS based on the evidence at hand, similar allegations of harbouring and assisting a warranted suspect to flee have been levelled against Laksiri Amarasinghe who was arrested on October 10.

The suspect had presented forged documents to a travel agent claiming Hettiarachchi was employed at his organisation in a bid to secure a visa and a air ticket to Malaysia on Hettiarachchi’s behalf, Silva said in court, adding that had Hettiarachchi later sought protection at a coconut plantation owned by Amarasinghe in Dompe on his return.

Reporting their findings to courts last week, the CID said on questioning two members of the staff at Amarasinghe’s place of business it was found that Hettiarachchi had not been employed there.

During questioning by the CID, it was revealed that the duo had known each other for over seven years despite claims by Amarasinghe that he realised only recently that Hettiarachchi was the wanted Navy Sampath. “We are now attempting to find out how these two suspects got acquainted and what motivated Amarasinghe to help Hettiarachchi,” an investigating officer said. 

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