Commission fails to contact the LTTE
by K T Rajasingham, ‘Asian Times,’ Singapore, 2002
The question has been raised as to why the Presidential Commission charged with the inquiry into the assassination of Lieutenant-General Denzil Kobbekaduwa and nine others at Araly, Kayts, on August 8, 1992 failed to contact the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), to ascertain whether they had any role in the incident.
According to the last Presidential Commission Report 30 (1), it was reported in the Sulamina and Observer newspapers of August 9, 1992 that President Ranatunge Premadasa at a meeting at Moratuwa said that the vehicle in which the men were traveling drove over a mine buried by the LTTE. And the Divayina newspaper reported that the President, at a meeting in Dambulla, said that the explosion was the result of a land mine explosion.
But the last Presidential Commission, appointed by Chandrika Kunaratunge, the President of Sri Lanka, by warrant dated December 7, 1994, made the following comment on the above statements of the President:
“President Premadasa had no business to give to the country the cause for the blast as soon as he did without any inquiry.” – The Report of the Special Commission of Inquiry probing into the assassination of Lieutenant General Denzil Kobbekaduwa and nine others and causing serious injury to another at Araly Kayts on August 8, 1992, (This report will be hereafter be referred to as Sessional Paper No. IX – 1997) page 78. – Sessional Paper No IX – 1997.
Further, the Inquiry Commission wrote of the media in its report 34 (i) that “a certain small section of the press has been unkind to us. They have demonstrated a rather wicked overbearing posture no doubt with strong political backing, mischievously calculated to humiliate, defame, insult and perhaps intimidate the commissioners. They have highlighted totally unconnected matters regarding the Supreme Court carrying the innuendo of some sort of corruption. They published highly defamatory satanic articles regarding the character of the commission.”
This was indeed a bewildering posture on the part of the Commission, to come out with such a naked and unfounded criticism. It went on to state that, “The previous commission of inquiry held in 1993 referred to some newspaper reports – vide p.44 of Sessional paper VII – 1993.” 34 (v) Whilst concluding on the data available to them, supplied only by a small circle of men in the army, with opinion evidence based on the data which we have now seen as evidence, which has been tampered with, that previous commission concluded that the explosive device was a buried land mine, buried by the LTTE.
34 (vi) Confident of their finding, that Commission proceeded to make mention in their report of; (a) Newspaper stories of the LTTE claiming responsibility for laying the land mine, and commented that, that might well be true. We are of the view that, reference to such hearsay, fanciful and unverified material should never have found a place in the report. The provisions of the statute which gives them power to probe and report on the matter does not extend to permitting them to go on frolics of their own. It smacks of the desire to somehow please their employer. It affects the prestige of that commission.
(b) Photographs appearing in the Sunday Observer of December 6, 1992, were said to have showed the LTTE leader making some awards to some of his followers. Whilst this newspaper asserts that the awards were given for designing, placing and giving security to those who laid the mine at Araly, Kayts, which killed the victims in this instance. In this regard that commission considered two possibilities: (i) That it may be true; or (ii) That it may be a propaganda ploy of the LTTE leader to motivate his men.
34 (viii) That commission however failed to consider a third possibility, which is highly relevant. That is that the photographs were taken in regard to some other past event, something else concerning the LTTE and that the government controlled newspapers were being manipulated to support the government’s version of this explosion by giving the awards ceremony a false and twisted title and description by saying that the ceremony was in respect of this incident. No one can check the veracity what the newspapers said. Further, it was at a time in December 1992, when the wife of General Kobbekaduwa and other relations of the victims were challenging the government’s version and Ismail J’s finding and demanding a fresh inquiry.
These newspaper articles could well be a continued effort at tampering with this case, misleading the public. The reference made in the report was altogether unfair. In this instant inquiry, Mrs Kobbekaduwa spoke of receiving a telephone call to her house on the night of August 8, 1992, the caller identifying himself as a LTTEer and stating that the LTTE wanted her to know that they were not responsible for these killings. We have already referred to the item of evidence in the previous paragraph and have stated that we do not take it into reckoning as it is hearsay and anybody could be the source. We reiterate that we are not taking such evidence into account. The newspaper articles under reference are no more reliable.
The commissioners conclusion on the story that appeared in the said newspaper was highly speculative as well as hypothetic. It is not known on what basis the Commissioners said that “the newspaper articles under reference are no more reliable”. They have not investigated the article that appeared in the said newspaper.
The Sunday Observer belonged to the Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd, a newspaper group under the government’s direction and control. The Commissioners could have summoned the said editor of the paper and asked him for confirmation of the news item and the photograph in question, that appeared in December 1992. It should have been the duty of the said editor to inform of his investigation of the news item and the photograph to the Commission. It is intriguing to note that the Commissioners failed in their duty to summon the editor of the paper, before coming out with their layman’s conclusion.
In Sri Lanka, newspapers are a highly competitive and journalism is a sensitive field. It would not be possible for one popular newspaper to come up with a misleading news item without being contradicted by other independent news media. Further, not only during that period, but even today, it is an accepted fact that, the LTTE runs a very high news and information department and it would not be that easy for vested groups to twist or slant their news items without being contradicted, as alleged by the Commissioners.
Therefore, the conclusion regarding this media blitzkrieg allegation by the commissioners, as recorded in their report was:
34 (viii) Before concluding, we wish to state that, we have referred to this report to two newspaper articles reporting things said by President Premadasa soon after the event. The names of the reporters were given in those articles. Premadasa was alive. The reports were not contradicted by him. If similar press articles have again appeared about the LTTE taking responsibility for the explosion, they are all part of the ongoing effort to tamper with the evidence and are irrelevant. It is intriguing to note that, the Presidential Commission criticized a statement made by an elected President of the country, but it failed to mention why it did not consider to contact the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, to ask them whether they had any role in the killings, as alleged by President Premadasa.
According to the warrant issued on December 7, 1994:
Whereas Lieutenant-General Denzil Kobbekaduwa and nine others were assassinated and serious injury was caused to another on August 8, 1992, at Araly Point, Kayts; And whereas it appears to be necessary to establish a Special Presidential Commission of Inquiry for the purpose of inquiring into the matters hereinafter mentioned, being matters in respect of which an inquiry will, in my opinion, be in the public interest; Now therefore, I Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, president reposing great trust and confidence in your prudence, ability and fidelity, do, in pursuance of the provisions of Section 2 of the Special Presidential Commission of Inquiry Law No 7 of 1978 (as amended by the Special Presidential Commissions of Inquiry (Special Provisions) Act No: 4 of 1974) by these presents appoint you, the said
1. Hon Justice George Randolph Tissa Dias Bandaranayke
2. Hon Justice Dassanayake Padmasiri Swarnajith Gunasekera, and
3. Rajasuriya Apphamilage Nimal Amaratunge Esquire.
To be my commissioners, to inquire into and obtain information in respect of the circumstances relating to the assassinations of Lieutenant-General Denzil Kobbekaduwa and nine others and the causing of serious injury to another at Araly Point, Kayts, on August 8, 1992; and the person or persons directly or indirectly responsible for such assassinations and injury. And to make such recommendations with reference to any matters that have been inquired into under the terms if this warrant.
And I do hereby appoint you, the said Hon Justice Randolph Tissa Dias Bandaranayke to be the chairman of the said commission:
And I do hereby authorize and empower, you, the said commissioners, to hold all such inquiries and made all other investigations into the aforesaid matters as may appear to be necessary, and require you to transmit to me within three months from the date hereof a report or interim reports thereon under your hands, setting out the findings of your inquiries, and your recommendations: And I do hereby direct that such part of any inquiry relating to the aforesaid matters as you may in your discretion determines, shall not be held in public;
And I do hereby require and direct all state officers, and other persons to whom you may apply for assistance or information for the purposes of your inquiries and investigations to render all such assistance and furnish all such information as may be properly rendered and furnished in that behalf; And I do hereby declare that the provisions of Section 14 of the aforesaid Law No: 7 0f 1978 shall apply to this commission.
Based on the above warrant, E U Gunasekera, the Secretary to the Special Presidential Commission of Inquiry published on February 10, 1995, a notice calling for information from the general public and from persons possessed with relevant information.
Meanwhile, the relationship between the LTTE and Chandrika Kumaratunge, who took over as Prime Minister after the elections of August 16, 1994, began to deteriorate. And after she became President on November 10, the relationship was further weakened. In January 1995, Kumaratunge signed a cessation of hostilities agreement with Velupillai Prabakaran, the leader of the LTTE, and a government delegation was already visiting Jaffna for negotiations and armed hostilities between the government and the LTTE resumed only on April 19, 1995.
Therefore, a congenial political situation existed from February 10 to April 19m 1995. The inquiry commission could have made use of the congenial political environment to send notice to the LTTE in Jaffna to obtain their version of the Kobbekaduwa assassination, but it did not. The commission had witnesses to say that President Premadasa secretly transferred weapons and money to the LTTE. So far, no one has heard any confirmation by the LTTE of receiving such weapons and money.
On 8 August 1992, Denzil Kobbekaduwa and nine others- Brigadier Vijay Wimalaratne – Commander Jaffna, Commodore Mohan Jayamaha – Sri Lanka Navy’s Northern Commander, Lt. Colonel Stephen, Lt. Colonel Ariyaratne, Lt. Colonel Palipana, Major de Alwis, Navy Lieutenants Lankatillake, Wijepura and one other rank Army personal the relief driver, were killed.
By letter dated August 11, 1992, a One Man Committee, consisting of a retired judge of the Supreme Court, Justice Ismail, was appointed by General S C Ranatunga, the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, to look into the deaths of Denzil Kobbekaduwa and nine others on August 8, 1992. Justice Ismail held that the “deaths and grievous injury to another have been caused by a buried device on the unused track being exploded by pressure being exerted on it by this ill-fated Land Rover going over it.
“1. (iii) In other words that, it was an accidental happening. This verdict confirmed the utterances of President R Premadasa made soon after the blast was reported in the media, that the explosion had been caused by the vehicle, accidentally being driven over an old LTTE land mine buried in the ground. – Vide newspapers – Sulumina and Observer of August 9, 1992 and Divania of August 18. The names of the reporters are given.” – Sessional Paper No: IX of 1997 – page 2.
Furthermore, it was learnt that, the Army Court of Inquiry, presided over by Major General C J Abayaratne, including the Navy Commander Admiral H C A C Tissera, Brigadier B Munasinghe and Lieutenant-Colonel Rajasinghe, too, came out with an almost the similar decision. Again, another inquiry was held by a Commission appointed by President D B Wijetunga, by warrant in terms of the Commission of Inquiry Act, Chapter 8 of Legislative Enactments. It was held by three sitting Commonwealth judges – Justice Austin Necabeohe Evans Amissah (Ghana), Sir Kenneth James Keith (New Zealand) and Justice Muhammadu Lawal Uwais (Nigeria). They arrived in Sri Lanka on May 21, 1993 and met the secretary appointed to that Commission.
The relatives of the deceased were informed only after their arrival. They called on President Wijetunge on May 24, 1993. Subsequently, they interviewed Tilak Marapana, the Attorney General, in the afternoon and met with Upawansa Yapa, Additional Solicitor General, assigned as the Commission’s Counsel and Ranjith Abeysuriya, representing the interests of the widow of General Kobbekaduwa, to discuss matters relating to the commission.
That commission began hearing evidence on May 26, 1993 and the last day of hearing in Sri Lanka was June 8 during which time 24 witnesses were heard. Thereafter, the commission wanted to hear evidence from one J Waytt, who had submitted a report and the Government decided to permit the commission to resume sittings in London to take the evidence from Wyatt and also agreed to facilitate the attendance of counsel at the London proceedings.
That commission took evidence from Wyatt and one others on June 15 and 16. Submissions were made on the 17th. Their report dated June 22, was submitted to the Government on June 24, 1993 “Appointing foreign judges, who knew probably little about the conditions in this country in the relevant period and the absence of any fresh independent probe being made, but merely repetition of the evidence of the same witnesses who testified earlier (as available in the Ismail Committee report), with the exception of the testimony of Mr Wyatt, and the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses given to counsel representing the deceased’s interests, but without taking the opportunity to visit the scene, or look at the relevant documents or look for the fresh evidence, served little purpose.
“The dimensions of the crater or the damage and debris to be seen in vehicle or in the crater was accepted without scrutiny. No evidence of the witnesses at the spot or soon after the blast scene and crater giving descriptions of much smaller crater was placed before them; they had no access to information relating to possible tampering with the vehicle after the blast. They had no evidence before them any of the suspicious features surrounding the examination of metal pieces said to have been found by Captain Weerasinghe at the scene.” – Sessional Paper No: IX of 1997 – page 2.
The last Presidential Commission wrote in its report about the report and the decision of the Commission consisted of judges from the Commonwealth countries (hereinafter called the International Commission) as follows: “1. (v) The process adopted must be inevitably lead to a confirmation of earlier views expressed by the Ismail Commission [Committee]. No real effort has been made to investigate the possibility of an Improvised Explosive Devise (IED) in or on the vehicle exploding on the command which would have removed this catastrophy from the realm of an accidental explosion to be a pre-planned, deliberate, intentional act of murder. The opinion of Wyatt has been rejected without due consideration. The commission held that the explosion was caused by a land mine of the type used by the LTTE and buried on the spot of the explosion either before leaving Kayts or was successfully brought there by LTTE infiltration after the capture of the island by the army. The devise was of the pressure type set off by the pin being broken by the application of pressure in top of the devise.” – Sessional Paper No: IX of 1997 – page 3.
The Commissioners of the last Commission, wrote: 1 (vi) Our warrant of Appointment stated that, whereas numerous allegations have been made that the investigation into the assassination were not conducted in a proper and impartial manner, it is in the public interest that a proper investigation be made into the matters mentioned.
1 (vii) The terms of the warrant issued to us dated 7th December 1994, are as in the caption in the report. We are required to inquire into and obtain information regarding the circumstances surrounding this blast and identify (if possible) the persons directly or indirectly responsible for it. Finally the commission stated that it was handicapped in several ways. In the words of the commission report:
1 (viii) This commission was initially handicapped in several ways:
(1) This incident has taken place 21/2 years earlier:
(ii) The crater was non-existent: a memorial having been built around it whilst the hole itself had been exposed to the weather;
(iii) The remains of the vehicle and debris were dumped in a yard of the military police compound unprotected in any meaningful way;
(iv) The vehicle and loose parts had been moved at least twice, once from the scene of explosion to the Velany school compound and it lay there unprotected; thereafter to the military police compound in Velany;
No official photographs taken by the army showing the dead and injured at the scene of the blast soon after the blast or the crater or the vehicle at the scene of the blast soon after blast were available. The army had not taken any photographs officially at the scene of the explosion on day one, although they are expected to record important events on film and place them in an album maintained for that purpose. Cameras and equipment and staff were provided for this purpose;
(v) No medical post-mortem examinations had been carried out on any of the deceased in order to ascertain the degree and direction of the blast force in relation to injuries on the bodies; this Kayts Island was under the control of the army, with the no on-going battle with enemy on this island; it was not a war situation; having regard to the fact that the Northern command of the army and the navy had been wiped out, the use of the Emergency Regulations to avoid an inquest or post-mortem examinations appear to have been misused; the question is why?
One of the most unfortunate aspects of the case was the use of a particular witness – Kelum Rohini Hathurusinghe. The last Presidential Commission permitted Kelum Rohini Hathurusinghe to give evidence before the Commission and permitted the evidence to be shown over national television. After the preliminary investigation carried out by the CID, a confidential report was submitted to the commissioners alluding to the fact that Kelum Rohini Hathurusinghe’s evidence could be true or could not be corroborated.
One of the most important features of the evidence of Kelum Rohini was that she saw her husband watching a video recording of the murder of Denzil Kobbekaduwa. She gave a vivid description of the manner in which the bomb was fixed to the jeep. The investigators of the CID found that, this was a figment of her imagination and that she could not have seen any video clippings, as there was no electricity available at the place where she is alleged to have seen the video. Though there was overwhelming evidence that she was lying, and the story she told the investigators was later found to be an absolute fable, the last Commission permitted the evidence of Kelum Rohini Hathurusinghe to be led.
As expected, those who expected political mileage from Kelum Rohini’s evidence, found that, the evidence had a devastating effect on the people. Denzil Kobbekaduwa was their hero. Immediately after the evidence, the President Chandrika Kumaratunge said that, she knew about what had transpired long before it was revealed before the Commission. Brigadier Wimalarantna’s statue was destroyed. There was anger and disillusion among the Sinhala people, when they heard that the UNP was responsible for the death of their most beloved General.
Brigadier Ananda Weerasekera, who had supposedly conspired to kill General Kobbekaduwa, challenged the commission to prove any one of the allegations made by Kelum Rohini Hathurusinghe. He said if proved, he would commit suicide in public. Kelum Rohini became pregnant. The defense showed that, she was an inveterate liar. She filed an affidavit in court and accused even the chairman of the commission and said that the officials under the guidance of chairman Tissa Bandaranaike got her to falsely implicate the members of the UNP and some senior Army officers with the murder of General Denzil Kobbekaduwa. Then she appeared at a press conference and made various innuendoes about Hathurasinghe, the alleged father of her unborn baby. This was the second hoax she perpetrated on the people of the country.
Kelum Rohini was only one example of the number of witnesses who gave evidence, or who were made to give evidence, before the Commission with the prime motive of implicating the political opponents of the government. The promises and other pledges made to the people could not be fulfilled by the government and voters became increasingly vocal. The electronic media were allowed to record the proceedings of Commission and telecast them over national television.
A gullible public watched these proceedings with gaping mouths and believed every single word that was said. But after the revelations of Kelum Rohini , it soon turned out to be an anti-climax. Most people totally and incontrovertibly rejected the evidence led before the commissions as Kelum Rohini personified to what depths the officials of the commission could stoop in order to falsely accuse the political opponents of the government. The appointment of the special presidential commission to inquire into the assassination of General Kobbekaduwa and Lalith Athulathmudali eventually became a nadir of the proud and long history of the judiciary of the country.
To sum up (according to the commission report):
(1) The evidence disclosed that Kelum Rohini had a close connection with army personnel in Welioya, Anuradhapura and other places, she had complained against staff Nugawela (about his atrocities) to the commanding officer Anuradhapura in 1993.
(2) Kelum Rohini alleged husband Hathurusinghe was a soldier, having joined the army twice. While a deserter from his first regiment, he had been taken away by army personnel on Kantalai.
(3) The army knew both of these persons and their backgrounds in detail.
(4) The army was in a position to suggest a connection between them to the commission via the media and Mrs. Kobbekaduwa and introduced her to the commission.
(5) The account she gave of watching a video and her house being surrounded by soldiers in Welioya is an account of an army cordon and search operation.
(6) Although the army said there was no such person as Hathurusinghe, the commission was able to unearth a soldier using different names, identified by Kelum Rohini as her husband Hathurusinghe. He had turned out to be a criminal, using forged and false documents, having false national identity cards, having committed bigamy, having come first in a sniper contest etc. The army took him to custody.
(7) All these suggests that Hathurusinghe was a trained soldier who could be used.
(8) The commission had to instigate the authenticity of Kelum Rohini and Hathurusinghe. In order to do that while not destroying the story being presented to it, the commission continued with it probe to ascertain the circumstances of the blast. In that search the commission unearthed evidence of the fact of tampering with the case in all its aspects by a section of the army.
(9) The story of Kelum Rohini was highlighted by a section of the media which also attacked the commission. It was made to appear as if the commission was seeking to defame the army. Vandals broke General (Brigadier) Wimalaratne’s statute.
(10) Suspecting that witness Kelum Rohini was a false witness introduced to undermine the work of the commission, the commission used it as an opportunity to proceed with its probe unhindered. Furthermore, Lieutenant Vathiyage Priyalal Jagath Wiswakumara testifying before the last Inquiry Commission, described how they had been involved in handing over arms to the LTTE, during the middle of 1989. This was when President Premadasa was having talks with the LTTE, which was fighting the Indian Peace Keeping Forces. The supply of arms to the LTTE, was well known at that time as peace talks, and was not seriously disapproved of. In the south, the LTTE were then spoken of as patriots fighting the “traditional enemy” – India. That it should become an issue later reflects the crisis ridden character of the ruling class and its fragility.
Meanwhile, K H J Wijedasa, who was the Secretary of President Premadasa, in his testimony to the commission said that, Premadasa gave the fax number of the LTTE’s London office and a telephone number and requested him to get the names of the LTTE delegation. Subsequently, what are commonly referred to as peace talk followed. According to Wijedasa’s statement at the Commission: The Government delegation included Wijedasa, B Weerakoon – advisor on international relations to the President, Felix Dias Abeyasinghe, Bernard Thilakaratne – secretary, foreign affairs, General Sepala Attyagala – secretary, defence, while the LTTE delegation was led by Anton Balasingham, which included Yogi and two others. Adele Balasingham was secretary/observer. Politicians joined after four or five rounds. Helicopters were sent to the Welioya jungles to bring the LTTE cadres to Colombo. They were accommodated in the best hotels.
Wijedasa said that the first intimation he got of the arms deal was when General Attyagala came to see him all upset. Attyagala prevailed on Wijedasa to canvas the decision of Premadasa to issue arms and ammunition to the LTTE. It was towards the end of April 1989. Ranjan Wijeratne, the Minister of State for Defense too, wanted Wijedasa to talk to the President.
Wijedasa told that when he spoke to the President and the President explained to him – (a) Why he made the decision namely that Varatharajah Perumal, under the guise of a volunteer force, was establishing a Tamil National Army (TNA) with the help of the IPKF; (b) that he had every right to make the decision and he need not consult anybody, (this he said because that some one suggested that he consult the former President J.R.Jayewardene); (c) that the LTTE would wipe out the Tamil National Army; (d) he did not like Sri Lankan forces got involved, as they were safe in their camps during that period of time.
According to Wijedasa, President Premadasa insisted on arming the LTTE. All efforts of persuading the President to revise his decision on the supply arms to the LTTE failed. Officers thereafter complied. Wijedasa who was the Secretary to President Premadasa from March 1984, when he was appointed as Secretary to Prime Minister Premadasa, until 1 May 1993, when Premadasa succumbed to human bomb assassination. He said Premadasa was opposed to any form of federal form of government for this country. His vision was of a 3 tiered structure: (1) a unitary state,
(2) Provincial councils, and
(3) A Commonwealth of Predeshiya Sabhas.
President Premadasa wanted 2/3 majority with the help of LTTE, to amend the constitution.
General Attyagale summed up in one sentence, when he answered the Commission – ” You know the implication, if we don’t comply with Premadasa’s orders.”
General Attyagala said that he was given the list of weapons by the President himself, to be given to the LTTE, which Premadasa got it from the LTTE. It contained a large number of items. Premadasa told him to get those weapons and hand them over to the LTTE. In the list, there were weapons such as Rocket Propelled grenade and mortars. General Attyagale said that, he was taken aback. He explained these weapons to the President and asked him for his rationale in wanting to give such forces of destruction to the LTTE.
Premadasa explained that, he had met with the LTTE the previous night and he was convinced that the TNA was being formed by the IPKF, who were leaving behind their proxy to carry on. General Attyagale said to the Commission that, he told Premadasa that, this was a risk that one should not take. Premadasa said that he had plan to bring peace; this was his strategy and he does not want Sri Lankan forces involved. Attyagale said he told Premadasa that no general would agree to give such heavy weapons. Attyagale showed the list weapons to Minister Ranjan Wijeratne who was quite alarmed. Wijeratne spoke to Premadasa who insisted on giving weapons. Premadasa has assumed that they will not be used against the Sri Lankan forces. Premadasa’s obsession was to get the IPKF out of the country. General Sepala Attyagale next spoke to Minister ACS Hameed and Secretary Wijedasa complaining of the list of items. He sent General Ranatunge and General Wanasinghe the Army Commander to speak to the President but all to no avail.
As his persuasion bore no fruit he was compelled to comply with the President’s instruction. Accordingly, General Attyagale informed service commanders and the STF (Special Task Force) of the President orders and arms and ammunition are taken from the Government stocks and handed over to the LTTE, by services and STF personnel at different places.
Ilangakoon who was SSP of the STF told the Commission that, that within 3 or 4 days that arms being delivered to the LTTE at Karadiyanaru (in the Eastern Province). This time it was at Kiran camp. LTTE cadres came to the camp and said that leaders had informed from Colombo to collect ammunition. Ilangakoon informed Lionel Karunasena, his assistant, who said that there were no orders. Later Karunasena contacted the Defence Secretary who said to give whatever he could. Accordingly Ilangakoon handed over 5000 rounds of 7.62 and 5.52 ammunition, T 56 rifles and s 84 and M 16 rifles plus 20-25 motor shells.
Brigadier Bohoran under oath to Commission said that, Army Commander General Wanasinghe told him that, there will be a consignment of arms and ammunition to be sent to Welioya for the LTTE and that a LTTE representative would take delivery. He said that General Wanasinghe told him to keep this matter secretly. According to Brigadier Bohoran, the consignment went by road in 4 trucks, the LTTE came by air force helicopters to his Welioya camp helipad. Lawrence Thilkakar and two or three others were there. General Wanasinghe had already told him that being a soldier their feelings did not matter. They had to carry out orders from the top.
Bohoran said that he changed the drivers of the truck and the escorts to take the lorries into the jungle to the unloading point. Bohoran had some special forces troops who helped him put on this operation. He said that he told them to keep secrecy. The unloading took place at a point close to Kent Farm (Kalyanapura). The LTTE was waiting. It was close to midnight. One of the officers who participated in this operation was Lieutenant Vathiyage.
The weapons delivered on 6 July 1989, according to the list of Brigadier Bohoran, were 500 T56 automatic rifles from the Central armory of the Army Headquarters. Again, according to Brigadier Bohoran, he received another consignment in two lorries load on 7 July 1989, the very next day. The consignment included 1 lakh ammunitions for self loading rifles, 200,000 rounds for T56 rifles. He said over 100 LTTE cadres came to secure the weapons in tractors. The handing over of weapons took place about 15 kilometers from the Welioya Base camp.
After the outbreak of the Eelam War 2, on June 11, 1990, Premadasa was in a dilemma. Wijedasa the Secretary to the President told the Commission that, at this point of time, Premadasa told Wijedasa, to do whatever he wanted. The Commission adduced if what Wijedasa said was true, that amounts to the de facto abdication of certain Presidential powers by Premadasa. Wijedasa said that Premadasa told him that he does not know what to do. He had realized that it was too late. Premadasa according to Wijedasa does not talk of resigning from his Presidency, he was a very strong-willed person. According to the Commissioners, they reported that this was the administration that was foisted on the country during those days.
According to witnesses, who testified at the Commission, it became evident that, there was an element of compulsion. Premadasa who insisted on arming the LTTE as part of his political strategy. He named Ananda Weerasekera who was told to take responsibility of the torture chambers and death squads in Anuradhapura, as Commanding Officer and Coordinating Officer, Anuradhapura and later as Commissioner General of Rehabilitation with full knowledge of atrocities committed.
Premadasa had his men in selected position. He insisted on Brigadier Wimalaratne spying on Denzil Kobbekaduwa and gave him that specific task. General Attyagale had to give orders down the line to give Government stocks of weapons to the LTTE, who were by then considered enemies and also import weapons for them. These officers feared Premadas’s revenge if obstructed in any way. Tennyson Edirisooriya, a former Member of Parliament for Tissamaharama, who testified at the Inquiry Commission said that Brigadier V. Wimalaratne had told him two or three months before his death that, he was sent to Jaffna by President Premadasa to do a specific job, namely to spy on General Denzil Kobbekaduwa and if he did not do what the President wanted, then his further prospect would be affected. According to Tennyson Edirisooriya, Wimalaratne has told him that he found Kobbekaduwa to be a very good person. Therefore, Wimalaratne was in a dilemma not knowing what to do?
Meanwhile, according to the Commission report, the earlier findings that explosion was caused accidentally by vehicle going over an old buried LTTE mine lying in the disused track, is such an unlikely occurrence having regard to the evidence before the Commission. Of it were so, why did the mine not explode whilst the track was in use?
The Warrant authorized the Commission, according to the Commission report was to probe other ways in which this explosion could have been caused than what was proclaimed by President Premadasa, soon after the event and confirmed by a close Executive Committee of Inquiry and reconfirmed by Foreign Judges after a very hasty inquiry.
W D G S Gunatilake, Senior Assistant Government Analyst in his report to the earlier inquiries expressed his opinion stating that, the blast was the result of the vehicle going over a buried LTTE pressure mine. That opinion was based on the size of the crater and mine fragments found by him in the crater and fragments received from the Ministry of Defence and damage to the vehicle. According to reports, Gunatilake visited scene on 19 August 1992 – eleven days after the blast. And the Commission considered the conduct of Gunatilake questionable which rendered his opinion as unreliable based on tampered evidence. The Commission said “We therefore consider his views irrelevant.”
The Commission arrived at such a decision because, Gunatilake had failed to consider the use of an Improvised Explosive Devise (IED) on board the vehicle. His concentration as a Blast Expert was mostly on the crater and not on the injuries sustained by the victims. He showed no concern about that or the absence of official photographs of the scene of the blast soon after it showing mangled bodies or injured victims, nor had he asked for medical postmortem findings. There was nothing in his report or evidence that he did so. He according to the Commissioners had given some technical evidence and not even considered the possibility of an arranged scenario. According to the Commissioners, the weakness they attributed in Gunatilake’s reports were:
(1) He has inspected the scene 11 days after the event.
(2) Army was in control: Army could have tampered with evidence of crater, vehicle, etc.
(3) Photographs took were (a) of a barren empty scene in a crater area; no bodies, no debris, no vehicle – only crater; (b) of vehicle at Army Headquarters, Velanay, in a school compound, unguarded, debris heaped up Vehicle not seen in relation to crater.
(4) There is nothing in his field notes even suggesting he considered an IED explosion.
(5) Gunatilake identified the vehicle as Land Rover Defender with Head-rest model; all the rest of the evidence and what is in the photograph and what is shown to the Commission is a Land Rover 110 vehicle which is an earlier model. The question arises, therefore, whether the vehicle being shown to the Commission is the actual vehicle which exploded.
The Commission had dismissed the views expressed by the foreign blast experts Colonel Radmore and that of Wyatt. The commission stated that, there reports to be unreliable and they showed a strong bias in favor of the buried mine.
Furthermore, it came to the notice that the surveyor who prepared the map of the scene was confronted with the writing “disused track”. Both Ismail J and the Commission of Inquiry have treated the track on which the crater seen as a ‘disused track’ not cleared of mines, which permitted an LTTE pressure mine to remain underground, undetected. The Surveyor Alwis stated that, he was given a rough sketch by Captain Weerasinghe when he went to the scene. On that rough sketch it was written the words “disused track”.
Captain Weerasinghe stated that, it was Brigadier Thilakaratne who was responsible for those words in the rough sketch. Thilakaratne admitted this and stated that this particular stretch of track had green on it and an off-white color as compared to the track and road regularly used and so he gave that identification. The Surveyor said that those words were merely descriptive as far as he was concerned, like giving a name to a road.
Surveyor Alwis said that, while he was at the scene, soldiers told him that, the stretch of track was indeed used by Army vehicles and even that morning Army truck had gone on that track. Alwis also said that, when giving evidence before Ismail J ., words were put into his mouth by such leading questions as ,”you saw weeds and shrubs on that track.” He said that he felt intimidated on that respect.
The Commission in its report said that, many witnesses have told the Commission that, this track where the crater was scene was used by military vehicles during this period. So that it would naturally have been subject to daily clearing . Again it is so proximate to the metal road that a team clearing the road in a v shape formation stretching from the centre of the road would include this portion of track where the crater was.
According to the Commission’s investigation on, how all the deceased persons and the injured person came to be at the site if the explosion at the time of the explosion, explains as follows according to how witnesses testified regarding this.
13 (i) Any examination of the circumstances of the blast must take into account as to how and why the affected persons were together at the site of the explosion at the time of the blast.
13 (ii) Witnesses Brigadier T G Thilakaratne, Navy Commodore D S Mohan Wijewickrema, Brigadier S D Tennakoon and Major Anura Wijewickrema have been most helpful in this regard. They have explained in fair detail an operation that has been codenamed Jayasanka for the invasion of Jaffna in August 1992.
13 (iii) General Ranatunga told us that General Kobbekaduwa complained to him that his plans were being disrupted by Army Commander General Widyratne. Waidyaratne admits that he and other service chiefs Admiral Clancy Fernando and Air Marshal Gunawardena had told Kobbekaduwa not to proceed with his plan. General Wanasinghe said that service chiefs said that an idea of an invasion from Kayts was unwise as the mainland could be mined resulting in heavy causalities and that is why Kobbekaduwa went to Kayts. Wanasinghe therefore had a conference. Wanasinghe’s evidence regarding the reason why Kobbekaduwa went to Kayts is not at all satisfactory when considered in the light of the other evidences. We consider General Wanasinghe to be an unreliable witness. We found that he had lied to us suggesting Brigadier Wimalaratne had no prior knowledge of arms transfer to the LTTE until shown Bohoran’s documents.
13 (iv) Things appear to have been sorted out to some extent at this conference. Kobbekaduwa is made aware of the objection.
13 (v) Brigadier Thilakaratne tells us that since July 1992, Brigadier Vijaya Wimalaratne had been talking to him regarding the planned operation.
13 (vi) The general plan was to have two fronts. Brigadier Wijendran was to lead forces from Palaly southwards in three directions. Brigadier Thilakaratne was to lead forces from Araly Point as a subsidiary thrust. He was to take two battalions to the mainland to capture about 4 kilometers and go north and capture Punnalai Causeway on order to have access from Karainagar land route. He was to join forces coming from Palaly as quickly as possible.
Meanwhile, Major Aruna Wijewickrema, the adjutant to General Kobbekaduwa from end of June 1992, in Anuradhapura told the Commission that Tantirimale High priest was killed on 21 July 1992. Kobbekaduwa’s father died on July 25, 1992. General Kobbekaduwa came to Colombo and returned to Anuradhapura on 1-8-92. He again attended a Wijebahu Trust Fund Conference in Colombo on 2-8-92 and returned to Anuradhapura the same night with Major Alwis. On 3-8-92 Kobbekaduwa attended a conference with President Premadasa. He met the President also on 6-8-92. [President Premadasa has said Kobbekaduwa met him on 5-8-92- vide Divaina of 13-8-92].
Witness understood that, the operation had been approved. Kobbekaduwa said that he would be going to Palaly on the on the 7th and returning to Anuradhapura on the 8th and that, he would be going to Palaly on the 10th August and to be ready to go for an operation. Witness was given permission to return to Colombo on the 7th for a wedding. This witness confirmed that Kobbekaduwa had a secure communication hand set. That set was usually in his hands, or Major Alwis’s hands or in Buddy Samarasinghe’s hands. Kobbekaduwa also knew how to use that set.
General Kobbekaduwa, who came with his party after sunset to Karainagar on 7 August 1992, for the conference. Along with General Kobbekaduwa, the others who attended the conference were Brigadier Wimalaratne, Commodore Jayamaha Captain Wijewickrema, Lieutenant Colonel Stephen, Major Rupasinghe, Major Induruwa, Lieutenant Colonel Pallipana, and Lt. Wijepura. Navy had a disagreement as to the launching pad. Navy felt that from Araly Point, the element of surprise would be lost and Navy suggested launching it from Karainagar from Cable Point Jetty.
According to the Navy’s contention, the troops movement would have been visible to the enemy if launched from Araly Point. General Kobbekaduwa indicated that, he would visit Araly Point next morning. Kobbekaduwa was aware of Cable Point Jetty, as he had commanded the invasion of Karainagar earlier and he knew all about the Karainagar island.
At about 8 am General Kobbekaduwa and party including Brigadier Wimalaratne, Commodore Jayamaha Captain Wijewickrema, Major Rupasinghe, Major Induruwa, Lieutenant Colonel Pallipana, Lt Wijepura, Lt Lankatilake, Petty Officer Ambepittya, Cpl Upali, Sappier Samarasinghe and driver Saman A Perera were all set and were ready to go to the Araly Point.
At Kayts Pier, three Land Rover vehicles were waiting. Private Samarasinghe security guard and Buddy to General Kobbekaduwa said in his testimony to the commission that he saw two stars fixed and uncovered at the rear of one of those vehicles. He said that he therefore put their overnight bags into that vehicle with the two uncovered stars, as there was no one senior to Major General Kobbekaduwa, who wears two stars whilst the brigadier wears a one star.
Meanwhile, Brigadier Chula Senivaratne who was in the Military Intelligence was summoned one midnight in June 1992 by General Kobbekaduwa to his residence at Rosemead Place Colombo. He went to the General’s residence around midnight. It seemed that Kobbekaduwa had told him that he received information of a threat to his life from within the army and wanted to know if military intelligence had any information.
Then Brigadier Senivaratne had told Kobbekaduwa that, any attempt on his life was likely to take place in the North and not in Colombo. When asked where in the North, It seems that Senivaratne excluded Elephant Pass, Vavuniya, Anuradhapura or Palaly, as the LTTE did not have access to these places. But, he said the most likely place was Kayts Island as navy, army, police, Eelam Peoples Democratic Front (EPDP) were all there and the LTTE across the water. Blame could not be pointed at the Government or the President or the Army or any grouping of them. He said to the Commission in his testimony the idea was to confuse and it would be difficult to identify the actual assassin then if it was not the LTTE.
Brigadier Chula Senivaratne also warned Major Alwis, the Staff Officer to the General, not to allow Kobbekaduwa to stay overnight at Karainagar and proceed to Kayts the following morning. Unfortunately, the warning went unheeded.