Sonali Samarasinghe Wickrematunge
WASHINGTON DC, The United States District Court a little while ago granted Plaintiffs Manoharan et al their motion to serve summons on Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapakse by publication or alternative means. President Rajapakse is being accused of war crimes.In granting Plaintiff’s motion filed October 1, judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly said the Plaintiffs were authorised to complete service upon defendant Rajapakse in his personal capacity by publishing in two Sri Lankan newspapers with the largest circulation and on the main page of the Tamilnet website.
“The order read thus “Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(f)(3), Plaintiffs’  Motion for Service by Publication or Alternative Means is GRANTED IN PART. Plaintiffs are authorized to complete service upon the Defendant in his personal capacity by December 27, 2011 by publishing in two Sri Lankan newspapers with the largest national circulation three times per week on a staggered schedule to cover six days each week for a period of four weeks and by posting the full summons and complaint on the main page of the TamilNet website. Plaintiffs shall file proof of service upon Defendant by publication by December 27, 2011. Plaintiffs’ motion is DENIED to the extent it seeks to serve Defendant in his official capacity through means other than as required by Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(j)(1) and 28 U.S.C. § 1608(a). Signed by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly on 10/13/11.(lcckk2)”
Attorney for the Plaintiffs Bruce Fein explaining the order given today at 12.31pm said that in granting the motion the courts had authorised the service of summons to Mahinda Rajapakse in his personal capacity and therefore by publication in a newspaper and website as he would be expected to read newspapers and websites both in his official and personal capacity. The court however denied service of summons through Rajapakse’s facebook, PO Box or twitter account as these accounts had been set up in his and pursuant to his official capacity as President of Sri Lanka and not in his personal capacity.
The Motion was filed in the United States District Court on October 1, seeking court authorisation to serve the summons by alternative means through publication in newspapers of general circulation in Sri Lanka, and through additional means, as all conventional methods have been rejected or evaded by President Rajapakse.
The Plaintiffs in the case are seeking damages in excess of $30 million against President Rajapakse for actions allegedly occurring under his command responsibility as Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.
The complaint alleges that President Rajapakse held command responsibility for the extrajudicial killings of Ragihar Manoharan, the son of Plaintiff Dr. Kasippillai Manoharan, Premas Anandarajah, a humanitarian aid worker for Action Against Hunger, and first husband of Plaintiff Kalaiselvi Lavan, and four members of the Tevarajah family, all relatives of Plaintiff Jeyakumar Aiyathurai.
Now the President can no longer claim he is unaware of the charges alleged against him,” Plaintiffs’ Attorney Bruce Fein told Lanka Standard.
A legal expert told this website that the granting of this motion was in itself a huge victory for the Plaintiffs and perhaps an indication of the acceptance by the Courts that the Complaint is sufficiently serious with a sound legal basis that has the potential to go to term rather than crash in the early stages on preliminary objections.
Meanwhile Fein told the Lanka Standard that “news outlets who publish this complaint in Sri Lanka have my full admiration for their courage in the wake of an oppressive regime who have stifled free speech and continue to act with impunity.”
Up until now all attempts to serve the summons on the President have been refused or rejected by Sri Lanka’s head of State including those under the Hague Convention, but international pressure on the regime is mounting.