Former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa said two individuals were behind the assassination of Sunday Leader Editor Lasantha Wickrematunge, the assault on journalist Keith Noyahr and the disappearance of Prageeth Ekneligoda.
In an interview with the Daily Mirror, Mr. Rajapaksa said he was not involved in any of these things including the disappearance of Ekneligoda.
“We did not want to do such things. These were done purely for personal reasons by two individuals. I do not want to name them. Immediately after Lasantha’s killing, the then Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and former MP Joseph Michael Perera categorically said in parliament that it was the work of the then army commander. After that when the army commander joined hands with them and decided to contest elections in 2010, they did not talk about it. Thereafter, they put the blame on me,” he said.
When asked why he didn’t look into these cases as the then Defence Secretary, Mr. Rajapaksa said he was concentrating fully on the war.
“That is true. Under such circumstances, we cannot stop the war to devote ourselves fully on various investigations. The CID and the intelligence authorities had a task assigned to them. With bombs going on around the country and killings by terrorists happening everywhere we had to direct our resources to counter them. That was the reality.
After the then army commander sided with the other side later, we never hunted him for personal reasons. We went after him with proper charges only. I asked the CID to do proper investigations regarding these matters and they carried out such investigations with proper evidence.
If the present government is genuine, it must target people on legitimate charges. It is unjust and unfair to put the blame on anyone sans a legitimate basis. True to my heart, I know I was never involved in any of these murders.
Q: However in a recent newspaper article written by Lasantha Wickremetunga’s daughter in connection with his death anniversary, she had drawn a link between the murder and the articles carried in the newspaper regarding the MiG deal in which your name too was implicated. Your comments?
I have to tell you that whatever he (Lasantha) wrote was wrong and I went to court on that.
He also wrote even worse articles criticising the then army commander. At that time, if anyone wrote anything against the then commander, some incident took place. On the other hand what happened during the time of former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga? Lasantha wrote extensively against Chandrika, Mangala and others as well. Why aren’t those things brought out? Why is there reference only to this particular article?
What I did was to take the proper course of action and go to court against that article. I did the proper thing. In the history of the war, the MiG deal was the most transparent transaction. We have proven it. In short, the Air Force asked for MiG attack aircraft. That request had been made since the time of Chandrika’s Presidency. It was a genuine requirement. The selection was done by them. During purchasing, the Air Force was involved. It is not that I got involved. It is the whole process. It was one of the earliest purchases we made. I followed the exact procedure, examining financial evaluation and appointing tender boards and negotiation committees. It is not a one man operation. There were a whole lot of officials involved. The negotiation committee chairman became the auditor general later on.
The Ukrainian Government submitted proposals. A team from the Air Force visited Ukraine. They had discussions in Ukraine. Two air force commanders were involved.
If somebody says that Lasantha was targeted because of this article, then, what about other articles written by him against other people? On one previous occasion, much before we came to power, Lasantha and his wife were attacked. Once, Mangala Samaraweera called Lasantha an unpatriotic person as well.