In an investigative news story, Lanka News Web has highlighted the involvement of former defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa in the human smuggling network to Australia.
According to its story, the Sri Lanka Navy is entirely to be blamed for the human smuggling racket which has led to diplomatic controversy between Sri Lanka and Australia, and ongoing investigations reveal that former head of military intelligence, defence ministry advisor, Maj. Gen. Kapila Hendavitharana had masterminded the racket with the knowledge of former defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. In charge of the racket was Lt. Commander K.C. Welagedara, staff officer of the marine intelligence unit. Welagedara is now planning to flee the country, with the Australian high commission in Sri Lanka having issued resident visa for him, his wife and two children, reports say.
Trafficking out people to Australia by fishing boats occurred regularly in 2012 and 2013, with around 120 such boats leaving the shores of Jaffna, Mannar, Chilaw, Negombo, Wattala, Galle, Hambantota and Trincomalee. Each boat had carried between 100 and 150 persons, mostly Tamils. Each had to pay more than Rs. 01 million.
Those boats had been skippered by civilians recruited by the Navy on contract. Hendavitharana, incumbent Navy commander Jayantha Perera, who was director (operations) at the time, director of Navy intelligence Nishantha Ulugetenna, his deputy Prasanna Hewage, together with Welagedara, had earned an estimated Rs. 130 million from this racket.
Navy teams, unaware of their chiefs’ involvement, had arrested 63 of the boats with the immigrants at sea. Lt. Jayakody of Uswetakeiyawa camp in Wattala arrested five boats that had left from Negombo in late June 2012, and he was transferred to Kandy on July 01. These human smuggling racketeers had been so powerful in the Navy that they had been able, within days, to transfer officers arresting the boats to areas where there is no sea. The Navy commanders at the time had known about this racket, but did nothing to prevent it, as they also knew about the connection of Hendavitharana and Gotabhay in it. Rear Admiral Jayanath Kolambage, who was the Navy commander in the east, too, looked the other way as he feared he would lose the opportunity to become the next Navy commander if he took action.
Lanka News Web claims that it has received a whole lot of information regarding this human smuggling racket, and will publish the entire report soon.