‘Such sensitive action cannot be based on NGO findings’
Chairman of the Parliamentary Oversight Committee on National Security, Rear Admiral (retd) Sarath Weerasekara, has condemned the blacklisting by the US of Admiral of the Fleet Wasantha Karannagoda over the latter’s alleged involvement in ‘a gross violation of human rights during his tenure as a Naval Commander’ on the basis of finding made by NGOs and independent investigations.
The former Public Security Minister said so at last Friday’s meeting of the Oversight Committee held in Parliament.
The State Department last Wednesday (26) declared that Karannagoda and his wife, Srimathi Ashoka Karannagoda, wouldn’t be allowed entry into the United States in terms of Section 7031(c) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programmes Appropriations Act, 2023.
The US action pertained to alleged abduction and disappearance of 11 youth during 2008-2009. The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) investigated the spate of incidents blamed on a group of rogue Navy personnel after Karannagoda, in his capacity as the Commander of Navy, lodged a complaint with the CID on May 28, 2009.
Referring to the State Department’s disclosure that Karannagoda’s designation was based on findings made by the NGOs and independent investigations, the
Colombo District MP questioned the rationale in the State Department decision. How such a sensitive decision could be taken on the basis of information documented by NGOs, the Oversight Committee Chairman asked.
Rear Admiral Weerasekera reminded the parliamentary group how the US denied visa to the then General Sarath Fonseka during yahapalana administration and years later refused entry to Maj. Gen. Udaya Perera though him being issued multiple visa and then designated General Shavendra Silva in Feb 2020.
Both General Silva and Admiral Karannagoda have been designated by Section 7031(c) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programmes Appropriations Act.
The Foreign Ministry, in a statement issued soon after the US declaration found fault with the State Department for taking unilateral action without following due process. The ministry asserted that the US action is counter-productive to the holistic approach that Sri Lanka has taken on addressing national unity and reconciliation.
Lawmaker Weerasekera said that the US couldn’t stomach Sri Lanka’s triumph over LTTE terrorism. The former Minister pointed out how Canada in January this year imposed targeted sanctions on former Presidents, Mahinda Rajapaksa and Gotabaya Rajapaksa as well Staff Sergeant Ratnayake and Lieutenant Commander Chandana Prasad Hettiarachchi. Canada dealt with them in terms of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Reference was also made to Australia denying visa to Maj. Gen. Chagie Gallage, one of the frontline commanders over him receiving the command of 59 Division after the conclusion of the war.
Former Minister Weerasekera said that Geneva-based Human Rights Council has categorized Sri Lanka conflict as humanitarian conflict. Regardless of that the US, Canada, Australia et al dealt with Sri Lanka in terms of the international human rights law, thereby acting contrary to the Geneva Convention, lawmaker Weerasekera claimed. The MP insisted that Sri Lankan commanders at any level couldn’t be held accountable in respect of command responsibilities as Geneva dealt with Sri Lanka in terms of international humanitarian law.
Responding to The Island queries, the naval veteran said that Sri Lanka should review the situation against the backdrop of Canadian parliament recognizing genocide in Sri Lanka. Referring to a motion by the Canadian government to recognize May 18 as Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day, lawmaker Weerasekera said that Sri Lanka’s response to such drastic move was insufficient. “We rejected the Canadian move, in a statement issued through the Foreign Ministry. That was in May last year amidst a rapidly developing political-economic-social crisis. In January Canada imposed targeted sanctions on four persons, including two ex-Presidents. We issued another statement. Now the US targeted Admiral Karannagoda. And we issued yet another statement.”
The ex-Minister said that the situation continued to deteriorate for want of a cohesive response on the part of Sri Lanka. The parliament should look into this matter, the MP said. The growing threat to the Sri Lankan State couldn’t be addressed by issuing statements, MP Weerasekera said.