Colombo, April 23 (newsin.asia): Former Sri Lankan Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa maintains that he cannot be held responsible for choosing Maj.Bandara Bulathwatte, currently a suspect in the assassination of journalist Lasantha Wickrematunge, for the post of Intelligence Officer in the Sri Lankan Embassy in Thailand.
The choice of personnel for such posts rests with the Army, Rajapaksa told newsin.asia on Sunday.
Commenting on a report in www.economynext.com which said that he had written a letter to the Foreign Secretary recommending Maj.Bulathwatte for the post, Rajapaksa did not deny that he wrote the letter. But he said that he had to do it as per the set procedure.
Requests from the armed forces to the Secretary Ministry of Foreign Affairs have to be made only through the Defense Secretary and not directly, he explained.
In the case of posting to foreign missions as Military Intelligence Officers, the choice of personnel is the army’s. But the request to the foreign ministry goes under the signature of the Defense Secretary, Rajapaksa said.
As regards the choice of Maj.Bulathwatte, the former Defense Secretary said that from the reports he got at that time, Bulathwatte was a good officer.
Rajapaksa further said that it was incorrect to describe Bulathwatte’s posting as a “diplomatic” one. “Intelligence officers posted in the missions are not diplomats.”
Bulathwatte was to be a Second Secretary in the Bangkok mission.
Maj. Bulathwatte was appointed to the post of Second Secretary (Intelligence) a week before the January 2010 presidential elections in which former Army chief Gen.Sarath Fonseka was the opposition’s candidate against the incumbent Mahinda Rajapaksa, Gotabaya’s bother. However, according www.economynext.com, the Director of Military Intelligence Maj.Gen.Kapila Hendawitharana kept changing his decision on the appointment of Bulthwatte.
Rajapaksa does not think that Maj.Bulathwatte was involved in the assassination of has The Sunday Leader Lasantha Wickrematunge. According to Rajapaksa, the officer had been arrested for the abduction of Wickrematunge’s driver and not for the murder of the journalist.
On the driver’s identifying the intelligence officer as a person present when the crime was committed, Rajapaksa said that it is unbelievable that a person, who he alleged is a “drug addict”, could have identified someone after a gap of eight years.
Sunday Leader editor Lasantha Wickrematunge was assassinated on January 8, 2009 in broad daylight at Attidiya in the outskirts of Colombo.
On July 15, 2016, eight years after the assassination, the CID arrested an officer of the Directorate or Intelligence on charges of “abduction of an eyewitness, assault, conspiracy and making death threats.”
And at an identification parade on July 27, 2016, Wickrematunge’s driver identified the military intelligence officer as one of the suspects present at the scene of the crime.
(The featured image at the top is that of former Sri Lankan Defense Secretary, Gotabaya Rajapaksa)