'Enemies within' - PM orders Army probe
Controversial 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.

Prime 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.

He trusted 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.

The findings 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. (Situation Report - June 23)

Despite this, 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 other matters.

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.

The London 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.

The description 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.

The Sunday 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.

Mr. Sumanasekera 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.

Mr. Sumanasekera 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.

Mr. Sumanasekera 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.

Unlike their 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 greater beneficiary.

Claims that 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.

High ranking 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.

Whatever the 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 procedures.

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.

However, one 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 advantage.

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.

The Convening 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 probe:

a. Whether 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 threat.

b. Whether by obtaining, and or, leaking such information, did any member of the Army, willfully and or deliberately, exercise spiteful and traitorous motives by:

(1) Leaking secret and operationally lethal military information regarding the existence of the Int Cell (Safe House) and its activities.

(2) Whether such acts were calculated to bring into ridicule the Army in general and the DMI in particular.

(3) Whether there were any attempts, willfully or otherwise, to tarnish the reputation of any senior officer or officers.

(c) Whether any unauthorised action by any member of the Army has:

(1) Affected the nation's National Security Interests.

(2) Compromised covert operations which brought great honour and success to the Army's counter terrorist operations.

(3) Exposed the identities of members of the Int Cell (or Safe House) at Athurugiriya and consequently endangered their lives.

(4) Assisted 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 measures.

(5) Exposed the identities of informants and

(6) Caused 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 be extended.

Even before 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.

The University Teachers for Human Rights in their 14th Special Report has observed that "…The LTTE's confidence in having total control and untrammelled manoeuvrability in its area of control was shattered.

So successful 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.."

Prime Minister, 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.

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