- PM orders Army probe
handbag came in Diplomatic -bag
The co-incidence seems ironic if not comical. Two of the
hottest political controversies to come into public focus in the eight-month
rule of the United National Front (UNF) Government centres on two
of the nation's most important intelligence services.
First, it was
the Army's Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI). An "Int
Cell" as the DMI calls it, or now well known as the Safe House
at Athurugiriya, it was claimed, was the hideout from where plots
were hatched to assassinate United National Party leaders.
Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe talks to President Chandrika
Bandaranaike Kumaratunga at last Tuesday's Gallantry Medals
Award ceremony for Security Forces personnel held at BMICH.
This was after
the then SP Kulasiri Udugampola (Special Operations) Kandy, conducted
a raid on January 2. Army men who were there were arrested and treated
like common criminals. This was despite revelations that the men
were DMI's own Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols (LRRPs), who conducted
covert operations deep inside Tiger guerrilla dominated areas in
the East, killing some top rung cadres.
In the backdrop
of a growing controversy when then SP Udugampola conducted follow
up inquiries, Interior Minister John Amaratunga handpicked H.M.G.B.
Kotakadeniya, Senior DIG to obtain the help of officers from the
Criminal Investigation Department (CID) to direct the process.
him and wanted to ensure a full inquiry was held with nothing suppressed.
The CID assigned SSP D.S.Y. Samaratunga to assist Mr. Kotakadeniya.
of the Interior Minister's own inquiry team confirmed that activities
at the Safe House were legitimate. "
it cannot be gainsaid
that this team has in fact been involved in such undercover operations,
which has had a positive destabilising impact on the morale of the
LTTE operatives in the East," said Mr. Kotakadeniya's report.
Report - June 23)
a high-pitched propaganda campaign backed by some retired Army officers,
with the help of disgruntled sections in the Directorate of Military
Intelligence (DMI) continued. They even challenged the findings
of the Kotakadeniya Inquiry ordered by Mr. Amaratunga and insisted
the DMI had no role in covert LRRP operations in the East. Even
this campaign has now failed to hide the truth.
The Army has
launched a hunt to identify the traitors within who collaborated
with those outside by leaking sensitive information. Commendably
none other than Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, has asked Army
Commander Lt. Gen. Lionel Balagalle, to probe this aspect among
This is on
the basis of recommendations made by an Army Court of Inquiry that
probed the activities of the Safe House soon after the January 2
raid. More on that episode later.
And now, at
the centre of another major controversy is the Directorate of Internal
Intelligence (DII), the country's premier national intelligence
agency. That is over the "VH09 Covert Audio Video Handbag"
which has reportedly gone missing from the DII. This controversy
is after Minister Ravi Karunanayake raised issue at the Cabinet
meeting on July 17.
company that markets this video product describes it as "one
of a number of bespoke camera hides offered by TSL (Technical Surveillance
Ltd.). It is designed for law enforcement or intelligence professionals,
who require high-resolution colour images and all the advantages
of stereo sound in a covert package. All of the system components
sit comfortably within the handbag enabling the operator to remain
inconspicuous to the suspect or target being filmed.
continued, "The VH09 features twin microphones for stereo sound
recording and a single vertically aligned colour camera. Sound and
images are recorded onto digital DVC tape using a specially modified
Sony DCRPC9 Camcorder, that is automatically triggered into record
mode by means of a dedicated car alarm key fob.."
A leaflet containing
details of the Covert Audio Video Handbag and the copy of a letter
dated November 13, 2001, written to Roshan Motha, owner of General
Engineers and Suppliers, the local agents for TSL by T.V. Sumanasekera,
a former DIG (CID) who later served as Additional Director General
of the DII, were brought out at the cabinet meeting by Mr. Karunanayake.
Mr. Sumanasekera is now Security Advisor to President Kumaratunga
and functions from an office in the Presidential Secretariat.
He told the
local agent he wanted a digital "camcorder, incorporating super
night shot low light capability" and asked them to advise the
principals to deliver it to Sunil Munasinghe, a staffer in the Sri
Lanka High Commission in London.
Times learnt that this Covert Audio Video Handbag arrived at the
Foreign Ministry in Colombo in the diplomatic bag sent by the Sri
Lanka High Commission in London. A payment of Rs. 445,000 - the
cost of the equipment - had been paid.
This was the
second Covert Audio Video Handbag to be acquired by the DII. The
first, a source said, was used "on a few occasions" by
a leading lady socialite when she travelled to the Wanni periodically.
"The pictures she brought back after her meetings with some
Tiger guerrillas were hazy. Hence, it was suggested by a senior
officer (name withheld) that a sophisticated camera be brought down,"
the source added. According to the source, this equipment is part
of several such other items acquired. Another sophisticated piece
of equipment was brought down in the diplomatic bag from Israel.
But what has
made the difference is the fact that this sophisticated handbag
has gone missing. The Director General of DII, Felix Alles DIG received
a typed note from Sergeant (3498) K.A.A. Chandrasiri in the Technical
Division stating that he went to President's House for a meeting
with President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga in the company
of Mr. Sumanasekera on December 20. He had not been able to meet
her even after two and half hours. Hence he has claimed that the
Covert Audio Video Camera was handed over to Mr. Sumanasekera.
That note has
formed the basis of an investigation. Acting DIG (CID) Lionel Gunatilleke
named veteran investigator SP Ravi Waidyalankara, who is widely
credited for laying bare details of how Tiger guerrillas carried
out attacks on the Air Force base and adjoining Katunayake International
Airport last year, to lead a probe team.
They had to
begin by recording a statement from Mr. Sumanasekera. But Mr. Sumanasekera
raised objections on grounds of personal differences between him
and Mr. Waidyalankara when both were serving in the DII. DIG Gunatilleke
named SP Asoka Galgamuwa and Inspector W.W. Karunaratne, to record
Mr. Sumanasekera's statement last Tuesday. However, he retained
Mr. Waidyalankara to head the inquiry. Since Mr. Sumanasekera was
a one time DIG (CID), his request that the statement be recorded
in his office in the Presidential Secretariat was allowed.
has denied he accompanied Sgt. Chandrasiri to meet the President
on December 20 to hand over a camera. After he relinquished office
as Additional Director General (DII), he said, he had paid a farewell
call on President Kumaratunga either on December 13 or 14. Since
then, he claimed, he had not met the President.
has argued in his statement that obtaining a statement from him
was illegal and added it was not his duty to take a lady's hand
bag (the covert equipment) to President's House. On being shown
Sgt. Chandrasiri's note, Mr. Sumanasekera has said that it did not
bear a signature or a date. He has also denied asking the Director
of DII to purchase the "lady's hand bag." However, he
has admitted that since the equipment arrived in his name, it could
be something that he requested.
has said he could not remember from which countries quotations were
called for. If state funds were paid for, he has said, it would
have been recorded. He has also said he could not remember why the
"lady's hand bag" was ordered. "It must be for some
purpose," he has claimed.
other inquiries, CID detectives conducting a "fact finding"
probe into this matter do face some technical difficulties. It has
come to light that payment for the "lady's hand bag" has
been made from "Secret Funds." As the name implies, these
funds are not subject to audit and those disbursing them are not
accountable to any official. The Sunday Times learnt details about
to whom moneys from the secret vote were disbursed. Then Additional
Director General (DII) Mr. Sumanasekera had been authorised a "Secret
Fund" of Rs 500,000 every month. A sizable volume of this amount
has been paid out to some top rungers in moderate Tamil political
parties. One prominent Tamil politician in particular has been a
Mr. Sumanasekera used "Secret Funds" to purchase a property
in the Gampaha district has turned out to be incorrect. It has been
found that he had sold a house and property in Kohuwala for over
eight million rupees to purchase the estate. Moreover, the Rs 500,000
monthly allocation is not adequate to purchase a house and property.
CID sources say their probe into the "lady's hand bag"
issue now revolved around the Public Properties Act. "We have
established that State funds were paid for the procurement of this
'lady's hand bag.' It has now gone missing.
We will now
have to find out who misappropriated it," one source said.
Those arrested under this Act are not entitled to bail. The same
sources said 'an arrest or two' is imminent by next week.
outcome of the CID probe will be, the focus on the DII has laid
bare some hitherto unknown secrets. One is the jamming equipment
used when a Presidential motorcade is in motion. As it passes a
point, all radio communications are automatically knocked off when
the jamming equipment is used.
The idea is
to thwart any possible attackers from passing information via radio
or cellular phones to tip off any possible attacker that the motorcade
was passing by. Another secret that has become public is the use
of sophisticated, remote controlled "sun glasses." They
in fact have inbuilt miniature cameras remotely linked to a recorder.
With secret after secret becoming public knowledge, intelligence
operatives will undoubtedly have to change their standard operational
Now to the
DMI "Int Cell" or Safe House at Athurugiriya. It is not
only the Police-CID inquiry that has established the legitimacy
of operations carried out from there. It can now be revealed that
an Army Court of Inquiry, appointed soon after the Police raid on
January 2 on the Safe House at Athurugiriya, also established conclusively
and without any doubt, that the DMI had carried out covert operations
from there. Major General Lohan Gunawardena, Chief of Staff of the
Army, headed the Court. Contents of their detailed report cannot
be revealed in view of its delicate and sensitive nature where "covert
operations" have been gone into in detail.
of the recommendations of this Court of Inquiry said "The Court
recommends both the above incidents to be investigated for breach
of secret information." In other words, a probe be conducted
to ascertain the traitors within the Army who passed out information
about the Safe House which interested parties twisted to their own
On July 25,
Army Commander Lt. Gen. Lionel Balagalle, appointed a four member
Court of Inquiry. It is headed by Maj. Gen. Jayantha Ranaweera,
Military Secretary and comprises Maj. Gen. Sivali Wanigasekera,
Brigadier M.R.W. de Zoysa and Colonel A.W.J.C. de Silva.
Order for this Court of Inquiry, issued by Lt. Gen. Balagalle gives
three reasons for the appointment of the four member Court of Inquiry:
(A) Proceedings of the Court of Inquiry conducted with the recovery
of "weapons, explosives and other military equipment in a house
at Athurugiriya on 2nd January, 2002, (page 44) Section 7 i.e.
"The Court recommends both the above incidents to be investigated
for breach of secret information. (B) Instructions given
by the Hon. Prime Minister to the Commander of the Army. (C) Instructions
by Secretary, MoD dated 19. 07.2002 confirming verbal instructions
of the Hon. Prime Minister.
The terms of
reference of the Court of Inquiry further debunks the continuing
false propaganda that the DMI Safe House was for "political
assassinations" and had nothing to do with deep penetration
and attacks on targets in Tiger guerrilla dominated areas in the
East. Here is what the Court of Inquiry has been called upon to
any member of the Army obtained, or sought to obtain, without authority
and did cause a leak of any information relating to the existence
of the Int Cell, otherwise referred to as the "Safe House"
at Athurugiriya, or any, or all, authorised activity carried out
by obtaining, and or, leaking such information, did any member of
the Army, willfully and or deliberately, exercise spiteful and traitorous
secret and operationally lethal military information regarding the
existence of the Int Cell (Safe House) and its activities.
such acts were calculated to bring into ridicule the Army in general
and the DMI in particular.
there were any attempts, willfully or otherwise, to tarnish the
reputation of any senior officer or officers.
any unauthorised action by any member of the Army has:
the nation's National Security Interests.
covert operations which brought great honour and success to the
Army's counter terrorist operations.
the identities of members of the Int Cell (or Safe House) at Athurugiriya
and consequently endangered their lives.
the enemy by providing inside information of covert operations of
the DMI, which the enemy otherwise would not have had access to,
and thereby traitorously assisted the enemy to formulate counter
the identities of informants and
a completely erroneous and wrong image about the Army in the minds
of Political Leaders, Security Forces, Police and the General Public.
The Court of
Inquiry has been called upon to recommend what action should be
taken against any member of the Army, if they are found to be responsible
for indulging in unlawful activity, thereby helping the enemy, directly
or indirectly. The Court has been called upon to submit its report
by tomorrow (August 5). However, it is likely this time limit will
the latest Court of Inquiry was appointed to track down traitors
within the Army, Tiger guerrillas have launched a fierce witch-hunt
to track down and murder informants and civilians who have been
helping in operations run by the DMI from the Safe House at Athurugiriya.
On July 7,
Colonel Lalith Daulagala, Brigade Commander for the Army's 231 Division
in Welikanda, complained to the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission office
in Batticaloa of what he called "provocative actions."
He said after entering security forces controlled area in the Polonnaruwa
district wearing combat uniform, guerrillas hurled a grenade into
the house of Thiyagaraja Premadas. Both Premadas and his wife, Saraswathie
Parameshwarie who lived at Soruwila (in the Elahera) area were killed.
Premadas, a former LTTE cadre, had been helping the DMI.
On July 25,
the Army's 233 Brigade Headquarters in Batticaloa complained to
the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission in Batticaloa of how a Tamil soldier
attached to the 9th Battalion of the Sri Lanka National Guard had
been abducted by guerrillas, tortured and killed later. He has been
identified as Lance Corporal A. Saundrarajah (S/9Q 02195). He had
been helping the DMI. Earlier, V. Vidyarthan of Ariyampathi, Batticaloa,
had been abducted and killed.
On July 12,
Kumar Alias Madan, an informant of the DMI who has helped in Safe
House operations, was shot and injured at Pamankade. When he was
admitted to the Kalubowila hospital, DMI received reports of an
attempt on his life at the hospital. Defence authorities promptly
granted permission for him to be shifted to a military hospital.
Teachers for Human Rights in their 14th Special Report has observed
The LTTE's confidence in having total control and
untrammelled manoeuvrability in its area of control was shattered.
were LRRPs that in spite of continuous deployment for many months
they evaded LTTE interception with almost total success
The report, among other matters, added "It was at the height
of the success of LRRPs that the LTTE began conscription in Batticaloa.."
Ranil Wickremesinghe, has taken the most appropriate step to set
the record right over the Safe House affaire. He should be commended.
The move will further re-establish the truth and lay to rest propaganda
that has hurt national security interests and tried to blatantly
bury the truth.