Diplomatic source says staffer was abducted in white car, molested, questioned and threatened Berne to deliver strong message to Sri Lanka while other EU countries also express concern CID’s Chief Inspector goes to Switzerland with copies of important documents on high profile cases Sajith insists on being party leader and leader of opposition; Ranil [...]


Swiss embassy employee abduction shakes new Govt.


President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa are seen with the new State Ministers after they were sworn in on Wednesday. Former President and SLFP leader Maithripala Sirisena whose party had linked with the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna, says he was not even consulted on the appointment of SLFP State Ministers


Diplomatic source says staffer was abducted in white car, molested, questioned and threatened

Berne to deliver strong message to Sri Lanka while other EU countries also express concern

CID’s Chief Inspector goes to Switzerland with copies of important documents on high profile cases

Sajith insists on being party leader and leader of opposition; Ranil willing to cede post of opposition leader

Sirisena sidelined and left alone, not even consulted on appointment of new ministers, state ministers from SLFP


The alleged abduction of a Sri Lankan staff member of the Swiss embassy in Colombo has jolted the two-week-old new government. The grave seriousness is in the light of the international implications and the political fallout it portends.

“We are taking the matter very seriously. We have ordered a full investigation by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID),” Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa told the Sunday Times. His remarks came after a meeting he held on Thursday with acting Police Chief, Chandana Wickremeratne, Senior DIG (CID) Ravi Seneviratne and the CID’s newly appointed Director SSP W. Tillekeratne, who served earlier in Rajapaksa’s security detail for 12 years.

It came in the aftermath of Swiss Ambassador Hanspeter Mock meeting the Premier to express his government’s concern and seek an immediate investigation. He also met Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, who assured continued protection to the embassy. Investigators are still expecting a statement from the embassy and the victim. They believe the statements could help expedite investigations. The Swiss envoy also met Prof. G.L. Peiris, senior advisor to the Premier.

In Berne, the Swiss Foreign Ministry has summoned Sri Lanka’s Ambassador in Germany, Karunasena Hettiaratchchi, who is concurrently accredited to Switzerland, for a meeting tomorrow (Monday). Switzerland is expected to deliver a message to the government. This is whilst groups of western envoys including those of the European Union met Foreign Minister Gunawardena to urge immediate action. They have been told that the CID was on the job.

“I will have an open mind until the investigations are concluded. However, I suspect this could be part of a plot to embarrass our government. It comes immediately after Tamil references in name boards were tarred,” Premier Rajapaksa said. This was a reference to instances in Panadura and Wattala. In the name board, the Tamil name had been removed. This came soon after the presidential election results were announced.

Details of how the abduction took place are still sketchy. However, talking to diplomatic sources, the Sunday Times  has been able to piece together some of the events. The incident is said to have occurred just after 5 p.m. on Monday (November 25) along R.G. Senanayake Mawatha (former Gregory’s Road) where the Swiss embassy is located. In the vicinity are the Japanese embassy and the Australian high commission.

The female Sri Lankan embassy staffer was an aide to the lady Migration Officer in the Swiss embassy, a national of that country. For reasons of security and for their safety their names are not being divulged. When the local staffer had walked out of a school nearby, to her office premises, five persons in a white Toyota Corolla car had followed her, bundled her into the vehicle and driven away. She had been released only two hours later.  “She complained that she was sexually molested. The abductors had bound her and covered her eyes with a black cloth,” said a diplomatic source familiar with the incident. “She was questioned on why she helped her embassy in the issue of a visa to CID Chief Inspector Nishantha de Silva.” She was questioned on this repeatedly. At times, they threatened her of consequences she would have to face if an answer was not given, said the source.

Chief Inspector Nishantha de Silva, who was head of the Organised Crimes Investigation Division of the CID, fled Sri Lanka on November 24 without official leave. The government has learnt he was Geneva bound and has sought asylum in Switzerland. It has now transpired that two days before his departure from Colombo, CI de Silva had surrendered his service issue pistol and motorcycle. Even this fact has not been brought to the attention of higher authorities or the new government leaders. This has fuelled fears that there was an organised effort to send him out of the country with assistance from those outside the CID. Such fear is based on the association of a group with CI de Silva over the many investigations he was conducting.

Copies of case documents

CI de Silva worked directly under the CID’s former Director, Senior Superintendent Shani Abeysekera, who has since been transferred as Personal Assistant to the Senior DIG (South). Abseysekera in turn worked under Senior DIG Ravi Seneviratne, to whom then President Sirisena granted a one-year extension after his retirement. It ends this month. It has come to light that Chief Inspector de Silva took along with him copies of documentation relating to several high-profile cases. These included documents/statements/records relating to investigations into the murder of Lasantha Wickremetunga, Editor of the now defunct Sunday Leader, the alleged abduction and killing of cartoonist Prageeth Ekneligoda and the abduction and torture of Keith Noyahr, Associate Editor of the now defunct Nation  newspaper. That is not all. He had also taken along documents relating to investigations of alleged murders or human rights violations by military personnel including cases that are now pending.

The fact that the CID, once the most coveted institution in the Police Department, had deteriorated to become a political tool has been cause for concern in recent years. This has been highlighted many times in these columns. One aspect, which is now under probe after orders of the present government, is the degree to which the CID collaborated with outside parties in the conduct of investigations on politically related cases. One accusation, if true, is chilling. Investigators want to determine whether a few of the key investigations were subjective. That is whether they first decided on or were told of the suspect and then they went looking for evidence. Little wonder they could not connect, thus delaying many indictments.  As reported before, in one high profile case, a wrong person has been targeted. The coming weeks and months will bare details of how this has been going on.

The task of investigating the alleged Swiss embassy staffer abduction has also fallen on a CID team. However, it has not been easy for them. On Thursday they failed to obtain the identity or statement from the local female staffer. Nor were they able to obtain surveillance video footage from them. The team has also made a request from the nearby Japanese embassy for copies of video footage from surveillance cameras in its premises. “The Police are seeking a statement from the victim and the embassy so they could proceed with the investigations expeditiously,” a Foreign Ministry source said.

However, the issue has become a dilemma for the Swiss authorities. They feel exposing the identity of their local employee to the investigators would add to her trauma. In fact, the Swiss embassy has made a formal request to the Foreign Ministry, to allow the local staffer to leave Sri Lanka. Yet, the request does not carry her identification. This is for fear that investigators would be able to track her down. They are also concerned of the danger to her family. This is exacerbated by another issue. Just days before the alleged abduction, the diplomatic source said, some members of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) had to face “very unpleasant” situations after they visited the Swiss embassy.

“There were unidentified persons who would accost them and ask questions on whom they went to meet, what was discussed and what the response or answers from the Swiss diplomats were,” the source complained. They had also sought the identities of the diplomats, the source revealed. “Berne will lodge a strong protest with the Sri Lanka government and demand a thorough investigation,” the source familiar with the development said.

Just hours after Premier Rajapaksa’s meeting with Swiss Ambassador Hanspeter Mock, the Foreign Ministry in Colombo said in a statement “the Government of Sri Lanka has taken serious note of the alleged criminal incident concerning a locally recruited staff member” and, “take this opportunity to reaffirm unequivocally its commitment to give effect to the obligations as a State Party to the Vienna convention on Diplomatic Relations.”

Former Law and Order Minister Ranjith Madduma Bandara claimed at a news conference that the Swiss embassy local staffer was kidnapped at gunpoint by those in a white van. However, it is not clear from where he learnt that the abductors carried a weapon or came in a white van. His United National Party (UNP) also condemned the incident. He said “we urge the President not to make the CID inactive. If it continues, the drug mafia will increase and so will robberies and thefts.”  The former Minister appears unaware that the drugs menace is tackled by the Police Narcotics Bureau while crime (thefts and robberies) is handled by different police stations.  With such knowledge how he ran the Police then is puzzling.

The issues arising from Chief Inspector de Silva’s sudden departure from Colombo, the abduction of the local staffer at the Swiss embassy and issues arising from them are sure to reverberate at the next UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) sessions in Geneva in June next year. A propaganda blitz is certain to flood the media. This is if CI de Silva chooses to come out with those documents which only relates to his investigations. Some aspects have already come into question. A newly sworn-in State Minister simply dismissing issues before the UNHRC as a thing of the past is a joke. It is a public display of their ignorance and a sign they were beginning to learn from nursery classes onwards.

This week, The New York Times reported on the abductions together with CID arrests of web journalists who had reported on different issues. This is sure to be exploited. Like the introduction of the US backed resolution and the resultant wide publicity, the previous government was unable to counter the
propaganda emanating from them. New state sector officials leaking identical reports to the media about the travel ban on 702 CID personnel also appears to have done more harm than good. It has demoralised higher ups in the Police Department. Some are questioning the legality of it. The reports overseas have placed the new government in bad light with the accusation that detectives, who probed bribery and corruption allegations, were now being punished. The new government needs the Police not only for the peaceful conduct of the parliamentary elections, like the presidential, but also for the continued maintenance of law and order.

The Defence Ministry’s move to scrap the Police Media Division is widely welcome. At present the focus is most on the spokesperson or the one who tells the story and not the story itself. They have successfully managed the art of news management in the absence of enterprising reporters who, like detectives, closely followed the police round in the past. OICs of police stations were barred from speaking to the media so that news management could be done by headquarters, often on the directions of the political apparatus. Since the Police are a civilian outfit and deal with the civilians, the MoD will be better served by a professional communication team that could protect the interests of both the department and national interest. Many lessons could be learnt from the April 21 Easter Sunday massacres where various finds including kitchen knives and bread knives were officially reported. Yet, not one involved linked to the incidents probed by the CID has been tried in courts; nor their foreign links established.

Issues facing UNP

For the UNP, which is now championing the cause of the CID, there were other big issues. There was suspense on Thursday when the media were told that the former Prime Minister and new Opposition Leader designate Ranil Wickremesinghe would address a news conference. It was heightened by a tweet from Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, something which he does not resort to usually. He said at 7.30 a.m. on November 27: Recognition of the Leader of the UNFGG (United National Front for Good Governance) as the Leader of the Opposition was done upholding established parliamentary tradition that should not be violated. While I emphasise with the challenges too, it is best that a party’s internal disputes are settled from within.”

Wickremesinghe did not attend the news conference where Akila Viraj Kariyawasam, Thalatha Athukorale and Ranjit Madduma Bandara spoke on other issues. This is because things in the UNP had taken a different turn. Wickremesinghe was speaking to groups of party seniors sounding them out over what they thought if he stepped down from being Leader of the Opposition designate to pave the way for Sajith Premadasa,

Premadasa was then invited to a meeting where Wickremesinghe and Speaker Jayasuriya were both present. The duo waited at Jayasuriya’s Amerasekera Mawatha residence for well over 50 minutes but Premadasa did not turn up. He later informed them he was ill. During the period, Premadasa did not answer phone calls and only responded to SMS messages.

Thus, Speaker Jayasuriya who declared he was “upholding established parliamentary tradition” was forced to change his mind. His media unit said in a statement: “A letter requesting Sajith Premadasa to be appointed as the opposition leader and signed by 57 UNP parliamentarians was submitted to the Speaker on November 27.

“The speaker’s office has sent a letter to the UNP General Secretary notifying him of this letter.  Also sent to him was a copy of the letter sent by the 57 MPs.

“In his letter, the Speaker has informed the UNP to inform him of its official position in view of the letter sent by the 57 MPs.

“At present, there are two different views regarding the opposition leader’s post; therefore after the final decision is officially conveyed to me, following the discussions between members of the opposition, I will as the Speaker act according to parliamentary traditions. I would announce the name of the opposition leader at the next parliament sitting and officially conirm the position of the opposition leader.”

As the Speaker’s statement came out on Thursday, Premadasa ‘re-appeared’ again. This time, he hosted a lunch for leaders of partner parties of the New Democratic Front (NDF). There he came under pressure to accept the post of party leader and allow Wickremesinghe to continue as Leader of the Opposition until the parliamentary elections are over. Some of the NDF leaders who took part in the luncheon left with the belief that Premadasa had relented under their pressure. However, Premadasa was to tell a senior UNPer thereafter that if he were to agree, he would want to be both leader of the UNP and the Leader of the Opposition.

At long last, on Friday Premadasa had a meeting with Wickremesinghe and Karu Jayasuriya. During a lengthy discussion, he insisted that he wished to be both leader of the UNP and Leader of the Opposition. In a conciliatory move, Wickremesinghe agreed to put the matter before the party for a decision. He said he can’t hand over any posts to Premadasa merely because he asked for them. The party as a whole can decide what role, if any, the seniors in the party need to play in the future, he added.

Prior to the UNP troika meeting, three members from the NDF coalition met Wickremesinghe separately. The three were Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) leader Rauff Hakeem, All Ceylon People’s Congress (ACPC) leader Rishard Bathiudeen and Democratic People’s Front (DPF) leader Mano Ganeshan. They urged the UNP leader to yield the party leadership to Premadasa. This was on Friday morning after they had met Premadasa over lunch the previous day. Wickremesinghe had told the NDF partners to leave the internal workings of the UNP to the UNP.

A meeting of the UNP parliamentary group has been summoned for tomorrow (Monday) to take a decision. Thereafter, Speaker Jayasuriya is to make an announcement when Parliament meets on Tuesday. It is, however, likely that Parliament will be prorogued after the sittings on Tuesday. A date for the re-opening when the President makes a policy statement of his government is yet to be determined. As for the post of leader of the UNP, Wickremesinghe will continue. The matter is to be determined later with the summoning of the party’s Working Committee. The indications on Friday were that Wickremesinghe appeared willing to step down if the party could have clarity on the succession plans.

Sirisena has no formal role in new Govt

There is still no firm decision by the leadership of the new government over a new Speaker. As reported in these columns last week, Democratic Left Front (DNF) leader Vasudeva Nanayakkara was earmarked for the post. The new government leaders then learnt from former government circles that fielding a candidate on their behalf may become difficult since it could be defeated since there is no majority vote for the government in the House. Hence, the idea was temporarily dropped. However, the matter is now being reviewed again and a final decision is due. Some other names have also been mentioned. That, however, does not include former President Maithripala Sirisena who had shown interest in that post.

For the first time since the November 16 presidential election, Sirisena chaired a meeting of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) parliamentary group at his residence at Mahagamsekera Mawatha. The purpose was to tell them that he had “no role at all” in the preparation of the party’s list for Cabinet Ministers, Deputies and State Ministers. “I was not even shown the list,” he said explaining himself over a new controversy that has arisen over appointments. If it is correct, the SLFP General Secretary Dayasiri Jayasekera was said to have done it on his own.  It is over allegations that the list did not bear any form of seniority and that one or two interested persons wanted to look after themselves. At one point, Sirisena declared he was willing to visit any district or electorate if an MP was to invite him. There was stoic silence.

Those who took part in the meeting noticed an interesting feature. Sirisena’s main conference room had changed. The two long tables on each of his side and the chairs had been removed. The MPs had to sit around a smaller table. Taking a better part of the conference room was a Billiard Table (Bola Mesa). It came to light that Sirisena was now playing billiards in his spare time. On the walls around this table hung portraits of Lenin, Karl Marx, Mao Zedong and Stalin. With more time on his hand, Sirisena still cannot resist the temptation of practising the tasks he undertook when he was President. On an occasion, he telephoned his successor Gotabaya Rajapaksa to suggest names for posts of Governors for the provinces. He has also written letters to some ministries recommending names of persons for appointments. Government leaders have, however, put a stop to such moves on the grounds that he has no constitutional basis to do so.

These developments have made distinctly clear that Sirisena will not find for himself any formal role in the new government. This is notwithstanding his re-installing himself as SLFP leader after staying ‘neutral’ during the presidential election. However, SLPP leaders are livid with him in the belief that despite being ‘neutral’, he was supporting the candidature of Sajith Premadasa. Of course, Sirisena will find himself secure with a fledgling SLFP since efforts by onetime leader Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga to make a political comeback have flopped. Moreover, the SLFP suffered an electoral blow in the Gampaha District during the presidential election. What the future holds for the SLFP will come into further focus when candidates are picked for the upcoming parliamentary elections.

Officials of the new presidency are uncovering issues which raise eyebrows over the conduct of the previous office holder. There were 18 Additional Secretaries handling some 20 projects. All funds for these projects have been accumulated in one – Smart Sri Lanka – where Rs 500 million has been placed. Former President Sirisena had set up a National Economic Council (NEC) to replace the Cabinet Committee on Economic Management (CCEM). Two floors of office space were acquired in the World Trade Centre in Fort for the use of the NEC. Sirisena himself wound up the NEC with Cabinet approval. Two floors of office space have since been unutilised. The government has been compelled to pay rent since the contract is for three years. Lying idle as a result is millions worth of equipment including computers, scanners, copiers, fax machines, projectors, printers and other electronic items. Worse enough, the NEC has also acquired for itself a government bungalow for residential use. This is with the approval of then President Sirisena.


Two weeks have gone since the presidential election. Many a change is being felt. Garbage collectors are knocking at city homes at nights. Streets are being swept. Posters and placards that adorned telephone and electricity posts have been removed and taken away in police trucks. These were areas that affected the common man. Their hope, naturally, is that these measures would not die with the heat of the elections turning cold. As for the bigger promises, the country waits.


New PM finds bombshell files at Temple Trees

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has stumbled on a treasure trove of information on deals by Cabinet Ministers of the previous Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government.

Whether it came by chance or otherwise remains a ‘billion-dollar question’. However, there is little or no doubt about its authenticity, a highly placed source said yesterday.

Premier Rajapaksa moved into ‘Temple Trees’, occupied for over four and half years by his predecessor Ranil Wickremesinghe. There was an all night pirith ceremony followed by a dana last Wednesday.

Helpers cleaning up the premises for occupation by the Mahinda Rajapaksa family found a neatly packed set of files. Did then Premier Wickremesinghe forget to take it along?

To find out what it contained; they opened the package. They were files on some ministers and contained details of “various transactions” they have promoted or engaged in. There was one file for each minister.

For example, if it was a tender, the names of the parties including local agents, their addresses and contact phone numbers were there. The sums involved in the tenders too have been listed.

They have been compiled by then Premier Wickremesinghe. What his successor Mahinda Rajapaksa will do now remains the critical question. One source said he was making a close study and may turn it over to the relevant authorities to ascertain factuality before initiating action.

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