Investigations into the assassination of high profile editor Lasantha Wickrematunga has taken a new turn with the authorities focusing on top police officers who may have been involved in a huge cover up.
The then Inspector-General Jayantha Wickremaratne and the then Deputy Inspector General Prasanna Nanayakkara have been questioned by the Criminal Investigations Department about their role in the Wickrematunga case.
The former IGP Wickremaratne was questioned about an alleged cover up of the case at the highest level while retired DIG Nanayakkara as the head of the region was supposed to be in charge of the investigation.
Their failure to make a breakthrough was clear, but the authorities have focused on the instructions they had given junior officers at the time.
“The investigation has taken a new turn with more attention now being paid to the cover up which is as bad as the crime itself,” a top officer involved in the case said.
Earlier this year, former public relations minister Mervin Silva said former president’s younger brother Gotabhaya ran a “death squad” and had ordered the assassination of Wickrematunga, a charge he denied.
Wickrematunga was killed while he drove to work in January 2009. Several military intelligence officials were implicated in the murder and the then head of the military intelligence had been questioned.
Wickrematunga was killed just days before he was due to testify in a defamation case Gotabhaya Rajapakse had filed against his paper, the Sunday Leader, which had been highly critical of the then-ruling family.
Wickrematunga and his Sunday Leader newspaper were vocal critics of Rajapakse’s administration, and had accused Gotabhaya of corruption over the purchase of second-hand aircraft and arms for the military.
In his complaint, Silva described Gotabhaya was the “architect of white van abductions”.
Being “white-vanned” became synonymous with abductions in Sri Lanka after dozens of people were abducted in white vans, their dead bodies later dumped by the road.
The tactic was widely reported to be used by security forces against opponents during and after the island’s drawn-out Tamil separatist conflict, which ended in May 2009. (COLOMBO, Dec 10, 2015)