HRC’s position reconfirmed
By Shamindra Ferdinando
The Court of Appeal has asked Army Commander Lt. Gen. Vikum Liyanage to promote petitioner Brig. Chandana Ranaweera to the rank of Maj. Gen. with effect from 01 Jan., 2021.
The Court of Appeal bench consisting of Justices Nissanka Bandula Karunaratne and Chamath Moraes has also directed that the petitioner, an officer of the Light Infantry, be paid salary, etc., he is entitled to as a Major General, with effect from that day. The ruling pertained to a fundamental rights application filed by Brigadier Ranaweera in terms of Article 140 of the Constitution.
Attorney-at-Law Namal Rajapaksa, counsel for the petitioner told The Island yesterday (07) that there had never been a previous instance of a court issuing such a directive to any other Commander of the army following an intervention made by the Human Rights Commission (HRC).
The counsel said that the HRC had received an assurance from Lt. Gen. Liyanage that once the Court of Appeal made its ruling the army would abide by it. Brig. Ranaweera now serves as the Chief Executive officer of the Nelum Pokuna Mahinda Rajapaksa theatre.
Responding to queries, Counsel Rajapaksa said that acting on a complaint made by Brig. Ranaweera, who had served the army for a period of over 35 years, to the HRC, the latter initiated an inquiry having deemed an injustice had been caused to the officer. In his petition to the Court of Appeal, Brig. Ranaweera said that though fellow officers of intake 28 had been given promotions to the rank of Maj. Gen. beginning Nov 30, 2020, he had been denied the promotion in 2021 and 2023.
Rajapaksa noted that the Court of Appeal ruling had been given in the wake of the post of Chief of Staff being vacant since 13 Oct., 2023. The post of Deputy Chief of Staff fell vacant on 01 Dec., 2023. If the army headquarters abided by the Court of Appeal ruling, Brig. Ranaweera would automatically receive seniority among officers holding the rank of Major General.
Lt. Gen. Liyanage is due to retire on 31 Dec., 2023 unless he receives another extension.
“My client is eligible to be the next Chief of Staff,” Counsel Rajapaksa said, acknowledging the possibility of army headquarters moving the Supreme Court against the Court of Appeal decision.
Among the respondents in the fundamental rights application filed by Brig. Ranaweera were Gen. Kamal Gunaratne, Secretary to the Ministry of Defence and the then Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Channa Weerasuriya, who functioned as Chairman of Army Advisory Board (AAB) and seven other officers of the AAB.
According to a petition, the AAB on 06 Dec., 2022 dismissed ROG (Redress of Grievance) furnished by the petitioner requesting him being considered for promotion to the rank of Maj. Gen.Lawyer Rajapaksa said that his client had resorted to legal action besides moving the HRC.