Attorneys for SLPP presidential hopeful Gotabaya Rajapaksa have sought, in a fresh filing in the California Central District Court, to dismiss a lawsuit brought against him alleging his culpability in the January 2009 torture and extrajudicial killing of Lasantha Wickrematunge.
The new filing asserts, while denying the allegation that he had a hand in the Wickrematunge murder, that even if the allegation were true, that he would be entitled to “foreign official immunity” as the murder would have been orchestrated as an official act of the Sri Lankan government.
“For the purposes of this motion only, Rajapaksa addresses the legal inadequacy of the complaint even assuming that the well-pleaded allegations of the complaint are true. As many Sri Lankans are following this case, Rajapaksa wishes to make clear that assuming the truth of the allegations for the purposes of this motion in no way concedes the truth. To the contrary, Rajapaksa vigorously disputes the allegations,” the filing asserts.
The presidential hopeful’s lawyers explained that the actions alleged by Ahimsa Wickrematunge, “if undertaken by Rajapaksa, were in his official capacity as Sri Lanka’s Defence Secretary.” Therefore, he is “immune from suit under common law foreign official immunity,” the motion asserts, urging that the case be dismissed.
Wickrematunge alleged that Gotabaya Rajapaksa used his “sweeping powers” under wartime legal provisions as well as his “power to direct investigations involving national security and terrorism” to orchestrate the murder of her father and cover up the crime. While denying the allegation, the former defence secretary claims that, even if the charges were true, that would make the Lasantha Wickrematunge murder an assassination or official act sanctioned by the government of Sri Lanka, allowing him to claim immunity through his office.
Rajapaksa’s attorneys point to Wickrematunge’s allegation that the team that murdered her father “was directly under the control of the Ministry of Defence” and that the attack “was part of a larger pattern” of Sri Lankan military strategy as supporting evidence for the argument that, even if he did order the killing of the journalist, that it would have constituted an official act.
“The allegation that Rajapaksa acted in derogation of a peremptory norm of general international law against torture and extrajudicial killing does not change this analysis,” the motion stressed. The filing concluded that Wickrematunge’s case, “brought against a former Sri Lankan Defence Secretary and current presidential candidate just before elections there, has no place in a U.S. Court.” “The Defendant is immune from the suit for the alleged official acts.”