The key state witness in an abduction case has written to the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, complaining that his employer, the Sri Lanka Navy, is victimising him and blocking his promotion. Lt. Cmdr. Krishan Welagedara is a leading witness in a Habeas Corpus application filed in respect of five young Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim men who have gone missing since 2008 (the total number who disappeared is 11). The case is being investigated by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID). Preliminary findings point towards an extortion racket; huge payments had been solicited from their next of kin in exchange for their safe return.
In statements to the CID and court, Lt. Cmdr. Welagedara claimed that he had seen the five men at the Trincomalee Navy Base in 2009 while he was stationed there as an intelligence officer. Among other things, he claimed that they had been beaten up and the victims had begged him to rescue them. He also traced their vehicles to various Navy locations.
Lt Cmdr Welagedara subsequently faced a Court Martial on the charge of going overseas without informing the Navy command and for bringing disrepute to the Navy. He was demoted but the punishment was annulled by President Maithripala Sirisena in July 2016 on an appeal. The only penalty that was imposed on him was the deduction of his salary for the period of absence.
But the Navy officer has told the HRCSL that the President’s directives are being ignored by the Navy which is allegedly blocking his promotion to the rank of Commander. The reason given to him by the Navy is that its legal officer, H M A W Weerasinghe, had committed an offence.
On this basis, the Navy has deducted 10 points from him under the promotion scheme for elevation to Commander, he complains. Since the President has annulled his punishment, this cannot be done, the officer argues.
“I would like to point out to you that as I am the main witness for the State in the abduction of 11 youths, the Navy is using any means necessary to intimidate me,” he says.
Lt Cmmdr Welagedara has appealed to the HRCSL to take note of the injustice he has faced and to help him gain his promotion to the rank of Commander on the basis of seniority.