ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday March 2, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 40

I was not given a chance to explain, says Maj. Gen

SC grants leave to proceed with FR petition

By Chandani Kirinde

Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva said an army officer holding the rank of Major General should be given the security that a person of such a position is entitled to; despite the fact the person may not have a formal appointment. The Chief Justice made this comment during the hearing into the fundamental rights application filed by the former Commander of the Security Forces (East) Parakrama Pannipitiya who has been asked to vacate his official quarters in Colombo and has had his security withdrawn since his recent transfer to Army Headquarters.

Former Commander of the Security Forces (East) Parakrama Pannipitiya

State Counsel Nerin Pulle told Court that only those holding appointments were entitled to additional security while even a Major General, despite the rank, is entitled to only a staff car and another vehicle.“He is a Major General. His rank is second to that of the Commander. The fact he has not been given an appointment is a matter of choice,” the Chief Justice said.

The Supreme Court on Friday granted the former Commander of the Security Forces (East) Major General Pannipitiya leave to proceed in a fundamental rights application and also granted interim relief for him to retain his official quarters at Summit Flats in Colombo in view of threats to his life from the LTTE. Court ordered that he be granted security and vehicles entitled to a CO.
However, Court said it could not declare the removal of and/or transfer of Major General Pannipitiya from the post of Commander SF East pending inquiry null and void, as was sought by the petitioner as interim relief.

Respondents are the Army Commander Lt. General Sarath Fonseka, Military Secretary Brigadier D.M.D. Alwis, and Quarter Master General W.G.M.U. Perera, Overall Operations Commander Colombo Major General M.S.M.P. Samarasinghe, Director-Assets Management Brigadier R.V. Udawatta, Director Quartering Brigadier K.S. Fernando and the Attorney General.

The petitioner states that at the time he took over command as the Commander/SF (East), operational troops cleared Mavil Aru, Sampoor and Muttur. Under the petitioner’s command, the troops liberated Vakarai, Kadiraweli, Verugal Aru and also cleared the jungle areas of Kadawana Pararu and Kuburuppiddi.

The petitioner also states that continued operations in the Batticaloa district under his command led to the capturing of the Thoppigala jungle and other major strong holds of the LTTE by July 2007. The petitioner states that with effect from 28.12.2007, his appointment as the Commander/SF (East) was discontinued and he was attached to the Army headquarters.

In November last year, the petitioner had been informed by an officer of the Special Investigations Branch of the military police that an anonymous petition had been received against him by the Army HQ and that he had been appointed by the 1st respondent to investigate the matter and submit a report.

The petitioner had been informed by the officer that among the charges against him contained in the petition are that he had used an army captain to manage an estate in Puttlam, that he had hired a vehicle in an irregular manner, that he had taken food items from the officer’s mess beyond his entitlement and the he had used abusive language in the Officer’s Mess.

The petitioner has strongly denied all the allegations levelled against him as baseless and made with a view to tarnish his image. The petitioner claimed he was not given an opportunity to explain and/or to answer the allegations levelled against him.

The 1st respondent had also asked the petitioner to step down from his post of Commander of SF (East) by 28.12.2007 without ceremonial function or any other function as is customary in the Army and also to submit his retirement papers.

When the petitioner said he was not willing to do so, he was told by the 1st respondent that he could either submit his retirement papers or face a Court Martial. He ordered the petitioner to make his choice known in writing by 31.12.2007.

The petitioner said that by a letter dated 14.01.2008, the 6th respondent had requested him to handover his Summit Flats official quarters to the Sri Lanka Army before 31.01.2008. The petitioner said he informed the 6th respondent that in view of the threat to his life from the LTTE, he did not have a secure place to live and therefore was not in a position to vacate the staff quarters. The petitioner added that the double cab which was used as his back-up vehicle was withdrawn.

The Petitioner stated that the fundamental rights guaranteed to him under Article 12 (1) of the Constitution had been violated by the respondents by the arbitrary removal of the petitioner from the post of Commander SF/East requiring him to vacate his quarters, a reduction of his staff and vehicles without giving due regard to the threats to his life.

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