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BHC too busy to comment on alleged undiplomatic intervention

(Courtesy of The Island)

The British High Commission (BHC) in Colombo has said that as it is busy handling the Covid-19 crisis, our questions regarding interdicted former Chief Colombo Magistrate Thilina Gamage’s recent testimony before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) cannot be answered presently.

The PCoI consists of retired Supreme Court Judge Upali Abeyratne, retired Court of Appeal Judge Daya Chandrasiri Jayatilake and one-time IGP Chandra Fernando.

The BHC said so in response to The Island queries as regards Thilina Gamage’s allegation that the BHC intervened in the wartime Navy abduction case heard, in his court, in the 2014/2015 period. Initially, when The Island raised the issue with the BHC, it said it was in the process of checking its records. However, when the issue was raised again 10 days later, we were told that the mission couldn’t spend time on PCoI issue at the moment due to the corona crisis.

Claiming that the Attorney General Department and the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) had interfered in some high-profile cases handled by him, Thilina Gamage, on March 04, told the P CoI inquiring into cases of political victimisation, the BHC had intervened in the Navy abductions case.

The interdicted Magistrate said that he had received a letter from the BHC, proffering unsolicited advice. Gamage was referring to the case regarding the alleged involvement of the Navy in some wartime abductions in Colombo and its suburbs.

Asked whether the Foreign Relations Ministry or any other government institution had contacted him following his revelation before the P CoI, Thilina Gamage yesterday, (23), told The Island no one got in touch with him.

Among those indicted in connection with 11 abductions are wartime Navy Chief the then Vice Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda and the then Navy Spokesman Captain D. K. P. Dassanayake.

Gamage has been indicted in the High Court over the illegal possession of an elephant calf named ‘Sakura.’

Gamage told the PCoI that the British High Commission had told him how to handle the case at issue. He said a letter from the BHC had been handed over to him by a representative of the foreign mission. Gamage said he had replied that Sri Lanka was no longer a British colony and, therefore, such advice was not required.

The Island in its earlier news item titled ‘Gamage: UK intervened in Navy abductions case’ with strapline ‘Many an eyebrow raised over revelation BHC wrote to Magistrate’ in its March 7 edition inadvertently said that Thilina Gamage had written back to the BHC; he only scoffed off at the UK recommendations.

Gamage told the PCoI that he had been sacked and subsequently indicted in the Colombo High Court over alleged illegal possession of ‘Sakura’. Karannagoda and Dassanayake, now, Admiral of the Fleet and Rear Admiral, respectively, too, sought redress through the intervention of the PCoI.

Gamage told the PCoI that the then Ministers, Dr. Rajitha Senaratne and P. Harrison, as well as members of the JVP, had flayed him in Parliament as they took offence at the way he handled cases. Gamage also claimed that a section of the civil society, too, had attacked him.

Gamage said that the then Chief Justice K. Sripavan had been under pressure to remove him. Subsequently, Gamage received a transfer from the Colombo Chief Magistrate’s Court to Hulftsdorp, where he heard a case involving the then President Maithripala Sirisena and a child. Gamage said that action was initiated against him soon after he had called for a DNA test on the child.

According to Gamage, his troubles started after the case against one-time UNP General Secretary Tissa Attanayake was taken up before him.

The police initiated action against Attanayake for producing an allegedly forged document on an secret agreement between UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and the then common Opposition candidate Maithripala Sirisena in the run-up to January 2015 presidential poll.

Gamage told the PCoI, the AG Department and CID personnel told him that the then Prime Minister Wickremesinghe had evinced a keen interest in the case.

Gamage alleged that the government had reacted angrily when he granted bail to Attanayake as evidence against the latter was insufficient.

The PCoI was also told how the AG’s Department and police investigators had harassed Gamage as he refused to fall in line.

Appearing before the PCoI Rear Admiral Dassanayake alleged that the pro-LTTE groups operating overseas had also been involved in six cases against Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Their bid was to hinder wartime Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s political journey, Dassanayake said, adding that the abduction case was among the ones used against Rajapaksa. In addition to the case involving the Navy personnel, Dassanayake mentioned the disappearance of Prageeth Ekneligoda on the eve of the January 26, 2010 presidential election, abduction and assault on Deputy Editor of The Nation Keith Noyahr on May 22, 2008, the assassination of The Sunday Leader Editor Lasantha Wickrematunga on January 08, 2009, the attack on Rivira Editor Upali Tennakoon on January 23, 2009 and the incidents inside the Welikada prison on Nov 09, 2012.

By Shamindra Ferdinando

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