COLOMBO: A two-judge bench of the Sri Lankan Supreme Court on Monday clarified that former Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa cannot be arrested in the four cases mentioned in the Fundamental Rights petition he had filed in the court earlier, till the court gives its determination on the petition.
The cases in question relate to the floating armory docked at the Galle harbor with a large consignment of unlicensed weapons and ammunition; allegations of corruption and irregularities in the purchase of MiG 27 fighter bombers in 2006; purported share manipulation at Lanka Hospitals Limited; and the leasing of aircraft by the state-owned Mihin Lanka airline.
On May 14, the court had imposed blanket ban on Gotabaya’s arrest. Following a public outcry, the Attorney General sought a clarification and the court on Monday said that the reprieve against arrest till the case is decided will apply only to the four cases Gotabaya had mentioned in his Fundamental Rights petition.
In his petition, Gotabaya had said that the Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID) of the police had not been properly established. It also carries an inherent political bias. It was created by the cabinet and investigates only cases sent by a cabinet sub-committee chaired by the Prime Minister. Gotabaya said that he feared imminent arrest in “politically motivated” cases.
Senior Counsel J.C.Weliamuna told Express that there is no bar against Gotabaya’s arrest in other cases pending before other institutions of inquiry like the Bribery Commission.
In the floating armory case, it is alleged that the business of supplying arms for anti-piracy work, previously done by the Lankan navy, was given to a private company without floating a tender. Also, when arms could not be brought on shore, all arms transfers were done on shore. The weapons were also unlicensed.
In the MIG 27 purchase case, old planes had been bought at an inflated price and payments were made to the nonexistent Belimissa Holdings.
Gotabaya argued that payments for the MIG 27s were made as per the seller’s instructions and that in the floating armory case, there had been only procedural errors.