Colombo, April 8 (Daily Mirror/newsin.asia) Ahimsa Wickrematunge, the daughter of slain journalist Lasantha Wickrematunge, has filed a case in the California Court against former Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa in connection with the assassination of her father in January 2009.
She had reportedly stated that Mr. Rajapaksa, who is currently holidaying in California, should be held responsible for the murder of her father. She has demanded compensation.
Lasantha Wickrematunge was the Editor of the ‘Sunday Leader’ newspaper.
Two Civil Suits
Arjuna Ranawana writes in www.republicnext.com : Former Defense Secretary and presidential hopeful Gotabaya Rajapaksa is facing two civil suits in two separate cases pertaining to his term in office in Sri Lanka filed before the California District Court in the United States.
One is with regard to the assassination of former Sunday Leader Editor Lasantha Wickrematunge and the other a Tamil torture survivor named Roy Samathanam, a Canadian resident of California.
Samathanam’s case is backed by the International Truth and Justice Project (IJTP) headed by Jasmine Sooka. The other case, filed under the name of Wickrematunge’s daughter Ahimsa, is backed by the California-based Centre for Justice and Accountability.
Rajapaksa was served summons in both Civil cases on Sunday evening at the parking lot of a Trader Joe’s in Pasadena, California.
Head of the London Centre for IJTP Frances Harrison told RepublicNext that their organisation had hired private detectives to track Rajapaksa’s whereabouts so that the summonses could be served on him. “He had to be on US soil at the time,” she said.
In Wickrematunge’s daughter’s suit she is seeking compensatory and punitive damages from the defendant “for instigating and authorising the extrajudicial killing” of her father. She notes that her father was exposing corruption in the country.
In the other case, alleged torture victim Samathanam made the complaint in the Central District of California against Rajapaksa, who is a dual US Sri Lankan citizen.
Samathanam, who is a Canadian national, was detained in Colombo in September 2007 by the Terrorism Investigation Division (TID) of the Sri Lanka police, which reported directly to Gotabaya Rajapaksa, a press release from IJTP said.
Samathanam was physically and psychologically tortured and forced to sign a false confession before being released in August 2010 on a plea deal and payment of a fine.
In 2016, Samathanam won a UN human rights committee case which IJTP says Sri Lanka has failed to abide by, particularly its ruling on compensation.
“Rajapaksa has to give up his US citizenship to be able to stand in presidential elections, so this was probably the last chance for a long time to begin to hold him accountable” said ITJP director Yasmin Sooka.
“We hope other survivors of torture will join the suit and make this a class action” she added.
There is a difference of opinion on the strength of the case as there is no evidence yet that Gotabaya Rajapaksa had a hand in the murder of the editor which took place ten years ago. There is also the question whether a US court has jurisdiction over such a case as the crime was allegedly committed outside the US in Sri Lanka.
A section of political opinion has it that there is a political motive for filing the case at this point of time.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa is likely to be the candidate of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) in the coming Sri Lankan Presidential election and is believed to have the best chance to win. Additionally, his application to give up US citizenship is pending before the US government. If he is not released from US citizenship in time, he will not be able to contest the election because the 19th.Constitutional Amendment of 2015 bars dual citizens from standing for elections in Sri Lanka. there is an off chance that the Presidentshsip of Sri Lanka could go to someone else if he is barred from contesting.
So far there has been no war crimes charges against Gotabaya Rajapaksa. And he has travelled to the US multiple times since the war against the Tamil Tiger rebels ended in May 2009.
(The featured image at the top shoes Gotabaya Rajapaksa)