Amanda Hodge in The Australian, 11 March 2015, where the title reads “Sri Lanka grounds ex-president’s brother over impounded arsenal”
SRI Lanka’s once-powerful defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has been grounded and his passport seized while police investigate a floating armoury of 3000 weapons linked to the former president’s brother. The boatload of weapons, including machineguns, was registered to the Avant-Garde Security Service, a company that entered into a joint venture with the Defence Ministry in 2011 to provide private security to merchant ships. The passports of three others, including two retired high-ranking military officers, have also been seized.
The arsenal was impounded soon after Mahinda Rajapaksa was defeated in January 8 presidential polls by former health minister Maithripala Sirisena and a coalition of about 40 parties.
A second cache belonging to the Avant-Garde Maritime Service, the shipping security division of the company with a 6500-strong private force, was discovered on the mainland. Investigators have been trying to locate thousands of weapons that disappeared from the inventories of the island’s security forces and are thought to have been transferred to individuals.
The company’s website claims to use weapons registered and owned by the government for providing private security across commercial shipping routes, and ex-military personnel as sea marshals for hire. Its advisory board boasts no fewer than 21 retired senior naval and army commanders.
It is the second serious police investigation into Mr Rajapaksa, known as Gota, since his brother’s shock election defeat. Last month, Rajapaksa government public relations minister Mervyn Silva lodged a police complaint linking Gotabhaya to the “white van” abductions of government critics and the January 2009 killing of Sunday Leader editor Lasantha Wickrematunge.
He was due to testify in a defamation case over articles alleging Gotabhaya’s involvement in corrupt defence deals.
During Mahinda Rajapaksa’s 10 years in office, his defence secretary brother was one of the most powerful and feared men in Sri Lanka. Under his tenure, the navy was suspected of involvement in the lucrative people-smuggling trade. In 2013, Australian intelligence agencies revealed to The Australian they believed a high-ranking official was “complicit” in fuelling the surge of asylum boats.
Later that year, Canberra donated two Bay Class patrol boats to help the Sri Lankan navy stem asylum-seeker boats. National Peace Council of Sri Lanka executive director Jehan Perera said while the discovery of the arsenals may have come as a surprise to some, the defence ministry’s venture into private security was an open secret.
“People knew there was this security force, that it was private, that it was now guarding the universities for instance. We knew this was a stretching of the tentacles of the security state,” Dr Perera told The Australian. “We knew this was happening but large numbers of us explained it away as being in the interests of national security, because that was the propaganda. We were all frightened of the government, of the state, of the paramilitaries.”
Asian Human Rights Commission director Basil Fernando said: “The reports on travel bans imposed on the former defence secretary and some former senior members of the armed forces regarding a criminal investigation that is taking place will be welcomed by all those who wish for rule of law to prevail in Sri Lanka.”
Thuppahi Editorial Comment: The image deployed in this news item by The Australian is an example of rather cavalier mis-directions. Presumably it arises from references to the tales of alleged SL Navy complicity in boats smuggling people out of Sri Lanka in Hodge’s account. But this particular cargo freighter at Merak left from Malaysia and one of the kingpins of this people smuggling racket was Alex Kuhendarajah, ex Canada and Chennai, whose lies were swallowed hook, line an sinker by The Australian’s reporters in Indonesia and its editorial staff at home.
See my articles
—-2009a “Tamil Migration within and beyond Sri Lanka,” 5 October 2009, http://thuppahis.com/2009/12/05/tamil-migration-within-and-beyond-sri-lanka/
—-2009b “Taken in by Tamil Tall Tales,” 4 Nov 2009, http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/opinion/taken-in-by-tamil-tall-tales/story-e6frg6zo-1225794053578
—-2009e “Speaking from Ignorance: Australians on Sri Lanka & Its Boat People,” 4 December 2009, http://thuppahis.com/2009/12/04/speaking-from-ignorance-australians-on-sri-lanka-its-boat-people/
—-2010a “Boat People as Blanket Categories,” 19 April 2010, http://asiapacific.anu.edu.au/blogs/southasiamasala/2010/04/19/boat-people-as-blanket-categories/8
—-2010b “Aussies swallow Lies and Rajapaksas miss a Trick,” 31 Oct. 2010, http://thuppahis.com/2010/10/31/aussies-swallow-lies-rajapakses-miss-a-trick/
—-2010c “From “Leaky Wooden Boats” to the Imbecile Asian,” 27 December 2010 = http://thuppahis.com/2010/12/27/from-%E2%80%9Cleaky-wooden-boats%E2%80%9D-to-the-imbecile-asian-2/
—-2010d “Missing the Boat: Australians at Sea on Asylum-Seekers,” 19 October 2011, http://thuppahis.com/2011/10/19/missing-the-boat-australians-at-sea-on-asylum-seekers/
ADDENDUM: see Gotha speaking in Sinhala = http://www.lankamedia.net/derana-360-political-16032015_d48afb903.html