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17th May 1998

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Kandy courts going to Getambe

By R.S. Keeriyawatta

The Kandy court complex is to be shifted temporarily to a building belonging to the Agriculture Department at Getambe till a new building is put up within the town, President Kumaratunga has informed the Asgiriya Mahanayake.

She was replying a letter from the Mahanayake who had referred to the inordinate delay in shifting the court complex for security reasons in the aftermath of the terrorist bomb attack on the Dalada Maligawa.

The Mahanayake had suggested that the court complex be shifted to a building at Yatinuwara Street. But the President has said it would be too costly.

The President has also said that after the shifting of the court complex, action would be taken to set up an army unit in that area to provide more security to the Maligawa.

Jaffna people need me, they have no one

Brigadier's last words to his son

By Shelani de Silva.

Major General Larry Wijeratne's love and respect for the people of Jaffna was immense. Once when his son had argued that the family needed more time with him, he had replied that the people of Jaffna also needed him because they had no one.

The respect they had for this officer and gentleman was so great that they sent an appeal to the Government to cancel his transfer to Colombo. Major General Wijeratne indeed had reached the heights that great officers like Denzil Kobbekaduwa had attained in winning the hearts and minds of the people of Jaffna.

Major General Larry Wijeratne

Major General Larry Wijeratne

Major General Wijeratne who was to assume duties at the Kotalawela Defence Academy a day before his death had served in the operational areas for the past fifteen years. After two and a half years of service in Vadamarachchi he had been happy to come to Colombo mainly to be with his family. Instead it was only Major General Wijeratne's body that was brought to his home in Battaramulla .

The Major General's wife who is also attached to the Army holds the rank of Colonel. For their two young sons aged 12 and 14 the loss of the father is still a shock. Fourteen year-old Bhagya the eldest is still trying to come to terms with the death of his father.

Infact Major General Wijeratne had confided in his son that since he was away from home for so many years he had been unable to spend as much time he wished with them but promised that once he is in Colombo the three could catch up on all the lost years.

"He did not have much time with us but whenever he came home he used to check on our school work. There have been times when we stayed up till midnight going through the books. Whenever he called home he would tell us to study well. Even when he left home the last time he told us to study hard and assured he would come back soon," he said.

Incidentally the Major General had come home on Sunday May 10 for the Vesak weekend, and left on Wednesday for Vadamarachchi. It had been after many years that the family had been able to go and see Vesak pandals and lanterns together.

"This time we had made the Vesak Lanterns before he came home, without waiting for him. He was thrilled that the two of us had done it on our own. Most of the weekend was spent in writing Vesak cards for thaththi's friends. We all got involved," he said.

Since their vehicle had broken down that Wednesday the Major General had sent the two boys in his vehicle to school quite early so that he would have time to get to the airport.

"We really did not feel like he was leaving for Jaffna because we knew he would come home in two days. He did say the people wanted him to be with them, but when I said he was our father he laughed and said that they too needed him but he was coming home to us," Bhagya said.

The news of his fathers death was broken to Bhagya in the most unusual manner. He had been attending a tuition class when he was informed that his grandfather was seriously ill and they wanted him to come home, but when he came home his mother broke the most heart rending news to the lad.

It had been just eight months since the Wijeratne's shifted to their new home in Battaramulla.

The Major General's brother in law Srinath de Saram said Major General Wijeratne may have not spent more than four days with his family in their new home.

"He was such a devoted father and husband. Whenever he came home he used to spend all the time with his wife and two boys. They were a very close family," he said.

Athas case: CID blowing hot and cold, says Counsel

The senior counsel in the Iqbal Athas case has told court he would invoke provisions of the Criminal procedure Code to get the court to arrest and produce the suspects if the CID failed to expedite the case.

The case in which a gang allegedly including Air Force officers attacked the residence of The Sunday Times consultant Editor and Defence correspondent Iqbal Athas, was taken up at the Gangodawila Magistrates courts on Wednesday before Magistrate N.V.Karunathilaka.

Counsel Hemantha warnakulasuriya appearing for Mr Athas asked why the CID had so far failed to arrest other suspects besides the two officers already taken in when it was evident that the attack and death threats on the journalist were carried out by an illegal outfit of the former Air Chief Oliver Ranasinghe.

Inspector K.M.Dhammika of the CID told court the Air Force authorities had so far not yet handed over registers relating to the movement of Air Force personnel and weapons handed over to them. An examination of those registers particularly the duty register would help the CID track down those involved in the incident.

The CID would interrogate higher officers of the Air Force and record their statements. After the conclusion of the inquiries it would be possible to arrest other suspects and produce them in court. The CID had still not concluded its investigations, Inspector Dhammika told court.

Mr Warnakulasuriya said that the main suspects in the case should be the former Air Force Chief Ranasinghe and other senior officers. The CID had not so far recorded their statements. Though President Kumaratunga and Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera tried to get the CID to conduct an impartial inquiry, they had not succeeded in their efforts.

Mr Warnakulasuriya said he didn't know why CID officers were dragging their feet and why they were blowing hot and cold when the motive behind the attack on Mr Athas was so manifest, viz, the exposure of alleged massive corruption involved in certain purchases of helicopters and other equipment for the Sri Lanka Air Force.

Submitting copies of Mr Athas'situation Report that had appeared in The Sunday Times on four separate days exposing these shady deals, Counsel said that President Kumaratunga appointed a committee headed by Defence Secretary Chandrananada de Silva to go into these alleged deals. The Committee found that there were irregularities in the purchases but no action has still been taken against former Air Force Commander, Oliver Ranasinghe. The attack took place when there were rumours that Commander Ranasinghe's tenure of office was to be extended, he said.

Counsel further submitted that the other person who would be in a position to give information about the illegal outfit and the motive behind the attack would be Anselm Peiris, the former Chief of Staff and asked why the CID hadn't interviewed him so far. He said that if not for some intervening factor, what happened to the late Richard de Zoysa would have befallen Mr Athas.

At a parade held on a previous day both Mr and Ms Athas identified Squadron Leader Rukman Herath, personal bodyguard of the former Air Chief Oliver Ranasinghe and Flight Lt. Pradeep Kannangara as those among others who stormed their residence carrying arms on the night in question. Both these suspects were remanded by court that day and released three days later. The CID did not object to the bail application. Further inquiry was put off for May 27.

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