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Sri Lankan Army deserter gives ‘rare’ insider account of government forces torturing civilians at refugee hearing; MoD responses- A man of dubious repute and questionable integrity

Passport photo of Ravindra Watudura Bandanage, who was a captain in the Sri Lanka Army until he fled to Canada and deserted. He has told immigration officials the army ordered him to place a bomb in the home of a Tamil Member of parliament in Sri Lanka. / Federal Court of Canada

Passport photo of Ravindra Watudura Bandanage, who was a captain in the Sri Lanka Army until he fled to Canada and deserted. He has told immigration officials the army ordered him to place a bomb in the home of a Tamil Member of parliament in Sri Lanka. / Federal Court of Canada
An officer in the Sri Lanka Army, who fled to Canada and claimed he was ordered to plant explosives at the home of an outspoken opposition politician, is raising new questions about military abuses committed during the island nation’s long civil war.

Captain Ravindra Watudura Bandanage, 38, deserted after flying to Toronto in October 2009.
He has since told Canadian immigration officials he was aware of torture and other crimes carried out by government forces against minority Tamils.


Testifying at his refugee hearing, he said a colonel ordered him to place bomb materials in the home of a member of parliament named “Silva Jilingam,” an apparent reference to M.K. Sivajilingam, a controversial Sri Lankan MP then aligned with the Tamil National Alliance party.
But the captain said he refused and was transferred to Colombo, where he helped with search and cordon operations that rounded up ethnic Tamils. He said he knew the army was torturing, beating and raping civilians.
“I admit that it is a harassment of these people,” he said. “I admit that.”
While there has been mounting evidence both sides in the Sri Lankan conflict committed atrocities, the testimony is noteworthy because it comes from a veteran former commissioned officer.

Passport photo of Ravindra Watudura Bandanage, who was a captain in the Sri Lanka Army until he fled to Canada and deserted. He has told immigration officials the army ordered him to place a bomb in the home of a Tamil Member of parliament in Sri Lanka. / Federal Court of Canada

Frances Harrison, a British journalist and author of Still Counting the Dead, a new book that tells the stories of survivors of the brutal end of the civil war, agreed it was unusual to hear such allegations from an ex-soldier and member of the country’s ethnic Sinhalese majority.

“A few Sinhalese have helped bring out war crimes evidence from Sri Lanka but, assuming this testimony is truthful, it’s unheard of for a Sinhalese soldier to speak out openly about human rights violations. It would be a huge blow to the Sri Lankan government,” the former BBC correspondent said.

The captain’s allegations come amid growing international pressure for an independent investigation into the final months of the Sri Lankan civil war. Two weeks ago, a UN review concluded the international body had failed to protect civilians despite verified evidence of atrocities.

A kung fu champion who joined the army in 1993, Mr. Watudura Bandanage told the Immigration & Refugee Board he had been trained in counterinsurgency.

I know my life is at risk if I go back to Sri Lanka

While he denied taking part in combat, the IRB did not believe him.

He recounted how, in 2008, a colonel had asked him “to do something which was not right…. He said there is an order in regards to this MP, there’s an order from the Defence Ministry…. I was asked to go to this MP’s residence and place some explosive material and detonator, and maybe they had planned to blame him for something and make him leave that area and to do something in that area that way or maybe they wanted to get rid of him.”

The Sri Lankan forces routinely framed government opponents during the war to discredit them and justify their arrests, said Gary Anandasangaree, a Toronto lawyer who has been making presentations about human rights violations in Sri Lanka to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. But he said it was “rare” to hear such an account from a former soldier.

In his refugee claim, Mr. Watudura Bandanage said he spent 16 years in the army, but feared for his life because he had complained to police about a prominent politician and his connection to drugs and prostitution.
He said he had also leaked sensitive information to a Sri Lankan newspaper.
“I know my life is at risk if I go back to Sri Lanka,” he said.

A tank drives its to Puthukudiyiruppu during 2009 fighting between the Sri Lanka army the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Nir Elias / Reuters / Files

But the board ruled in February he was not eligible for refugee protection because he was complicit in crimes against humanity. It said the fact he was asked to place a bomb at an elected official’s home showed he was a trusted officer and aware of the “relentless brutality” of the Sri Lanka Army toward Tamil civilians.
“I find that during the last few years of the civil war in Sri Lanka, which includes the entire period that the claimant was a captain in the Sri Lankan army, military forces conducted ongoing widespread and systematic attacks on the civilian population in Sri Lanka. I find that the military forces of Sri Lanka committed countless crimes against humanity,” IRB member Michal Mivasair wrote.

Mr. Watudura Bandanage’s appeal to the Federal Court of Canada was dismissed last week.

“I think it’s very significant,” John Argue, Amnesty International Canada’s co-ordinator for Sri Lanka, said of the ex-soldier’s allegations.

“I hope it gets discussed publicly because then we get closer to what really happened in the last stages of the armed conflict and could have a serious discussion about accountability.”
National Post

“Lie of a Desperate Man to Stake a Claim for Refugee Status in Canada” – Defence Ministry

(Text of a statement issued by the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development in response to a news story published in the Canadian Newspaper “National Post” )

Through out the course of the conflict in Sri Lanka both internal and external forces that lay allegiance to the separatist agenda and the terrorist outfit have come up with various allegations to bring discredit to country in the international fora. It does not come as a surprise and it is not something new. Because of the LTTE’s unambiguous use of terrorism, more than thirty nations listed it as a terrorist organization including America and the European Union.

With the defeat of the LTTE in mid May in 2009 which up to then was thought to be impossible a notion or a mis- notion that was embedded in the minds of many indeed came as a surprise or more correctly a shock that sent a wave of fear among the war mongering terrorist supporters and sympathizers. Their own survival rested on the continued unrest in the Island. They feared that peace in Sri Lanka would destabilize the luxurious life they lived in western nations. In order to sustain their life, they had to make war not peace.

Sri Lanka’s victory over terrorism did come with a price. The long protracted war cost the country and its people irreplaceable losses in life and material. Three decades of misery was brought to a comprehensive conclusion under a strong political leadership that gave the military a proper plan and support to end the scourge of terrorism once and for all. The rest is history. By conducting the largest humanitarian operations in the modern history of the world Sri Lanka has given the world a role model, not only in defeating terrorism but also in post war reconciliation and development.

But for some this is unacceptable. The LTTE rump and its paid foreign voices that include a number of media sources both print and electronic, continue to operate concocting stories of war crimes and creating baseless allegations against the government and the security forces. Some western nations mis- informed and mislead by the agents of the LTTE rump have raised concern over issues pertaining to the humanitarian operations.

The remnant groups and their cronies start to intensify their spin doctoring whenever there is an issues on Sri Lanka is to be taken up in the international forum. They begin their ‘conditioning campaign’ in order to set the stage for a showdown. Once and again they come up with new claims of atrocities, new figures of civilian deaths, new names as real eye witnesses. So far they are yet to prove beyond doubt the authenticity of their claims or that of their witnesses.

Various allegations that were brought up against the country at UN sessions were never really proved. The conflicting stories and allegations which they were bombarding the world with using characters and outfits of questionable repute like Channel 4, Frances Harrison, Gordon Weiss and of course their eye witness ‘Fernando’ may have convinced the gullible few who do not think twice before coming to a hasty conclusion.

The latest character in this list is Ravindra Watudura Bandanage. A former captain in the Sri Lanka Army who went AWOL (Absent Without Official Leave) in 2009. Lets talk about him. Captain Watudura Bandanage Ravindra
Priyashantha joined the Sri Lanka Army in 1993. After completing training as a cadet officer he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in 1994. He belonged to the SC 7 Intake.

Ravindra Priyashantha, a resident of Galle in the Southern Province was an accomplished martial artist. Recognizing his prowess in Wushu he was provided with the opportunity to re-present the Army and the country at Wushu competitions at local and international tournaments. During his stay in the Army Priyashantha was seen as a controversial character who was caught cheating at promotion exams and other actions which are deemed unbecoming for an officer or a gentleman. He had a habit of going AWOL. In fact it was something of a hobby for him to be away from work without informing the authorities. Due to his long absences he was discharged from the Army and Commission was withdrawn in absentia.

During the humanitarian operations Priyashantha was serving nowhere near the operational areas. In fact from 2006 until his desertion he was serving in and around Colombo. According to media reports he had claimed that he was ordered to place a bomb in the house of a Tamil politician by a Colonel is nothing but lie of a desperate man who had tried every trick in the book to fool the Immigration Officers to stake his claim for a refugee status in Canada. Desperate moments lead to frantic actions and utterances which should not be taken seriously. This conman left Sri Lanka to represent the nation at an international sporting event. While there he jumped ship. He never came back.

While in Colombo he always held posts which are solely administrative duty based, Duties which does not warrant any dealing with operational matters not even a cordon and search operation. Most of the time he was involved in training Wushu together with the national pool. And his claim of his knowledge on Tamils being tortured and beaten up is nothing short of a line from the often repeated catch phrase of the LTTE rump.

A man of dubious repute and questionable integrity towards his motherland left his kith and kin to another land solely to seek greener pasture. He is one of the many characters in the tragedy that the LTTE rump is playing to the international audience.

Is, an officer (?) who cheated at exams, went continuously AWOL on several occasions, had not seen the battlefront for years and who apparently is ignorant to even know the proper name of a prominent Tamil politician to whose house he was supposedly ordered to plant a bomb in, is definitely not someone to be trusted. Did the LTTE rump think that the international community would be naive and gullible to believe to accept the utterances of a so-called ‘veteran’ officer with a questionable past who deserted the post and let down his country?
It is surprising to note the prominence that some media institutes are giving to the blatant lies coming from questionable sources. A bit of background check would reveal the hidden motives and the real reasons and also the behind scene manipulators of the remnant groups and their proxies.

Sri Lanka security forces did not fight a foreign army nor did the government meddle in the internal affairs of another country. The people united to fight a cancer that was eating away the country and its people. At the end we came out winning and uniting the land, its people and the rest is future. Let us go forward. Through reconciliation we have to rebuild the battered nation. Let the wounds of the past heal


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