Sri Lanka: Current information on the Batalanda Commission, including whether Ranil Wickramasinghe was linked with any wrong-doing, reports of any witnesses refusing to testify, reports of witnesses being pressured to testify or being prevented from testifying, and if so, by whom
|Publisher||Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada|
|Author||Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada|
|Publication Date||1 March 1999|
|Citation / Document Symbol||LKA31183.E|
|Cite as||Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Sri Lanka: Current information on the Batalanda Commission, including whether Ranil Wickramasinghe was linked with any wrong-doing, reports of any witnesses refusing to testify, reports of witnesses being pressured to testify or being prevented from testifying, and if so, by whom, 1 March 1999, LKA31183.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6acfd54.html %5Baccessed 27 September 2016]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
The most up-to-date information on the Batalanda Commission and its findings can be found in LKA31182.E of 1 March 1999.
President Chandrika Kumaratunge established a presidential commission to investigate allegations of disappearances, torture and murder that took place between 1 January 1988 and 31 December 1990 in an unofficial government detention centre at the Batalanda Housing Estate/Scheme (INFORM Jan. 1996, 8; Country Reports 1996 30 Jan. 1997), that was located in Wickramasinghe’s electorate (Sri Lanka Monitor Apr. 1998). The Batalanda Commission commenced sitting on 16 January 1996 (INFORM Jan. 1996, 8), officially concluded its hearings at the end of October 1997 (INFORM Oct. 1997, 9), and submitted its report to Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumarantunga on 27 March 1998 (Sri Lanka Monitor Apr. 1998).
INFORM periodically reported that former Superintendent of Police, Douglas Peiris, was the principal accused in the happenings at the Batalanda detention centre (INFORM May 1996, 10; ibid. June 1996, 11-12; ibid. July 1996, 13 ), although several references had also linked Wickremasinghe to the abuses (INFORM June 1996, 11-12).
In August 1996 INFORM reported that that there were “widespread rumours” that Wickremasinghe “might be arrested for questioning on the basis of disclosures made before the Commission” (11).
On 7 November 1996 the CID interrogated Ranil Wickramasinghe, Opposition and UNP leader, in his office for almost five hours in matters relating to the Batalanda Commission inquiries (INFORM Nov. 1996, 11).
In May 1997 Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Keerthi Kumara Atapattu testified to the Batalanda Commission that Wickramasinghe had an office in the Batalanda Housing Scheme, while Peiris had a home there (Daily News 8 May 1997; ibid. 3 June 1997).
On 3 September 1997 Wickramasinghe testified before the Batalanda Commission (INFORM Aug. 1997, 9; The Sunday Times 31 Aug. 1997) as the last witness to give evidence (ibid.). The Sunday Times reported that Wickramsinghe completed his testimony before the Commission on 4 September 1997, was subjected to “lengthy questioning, [but] fared well as a witness and came out largely unscathed” (7 Sept. 1997).
The Batalanda Commission report that was submitted to President Chandrika on 27 March 1997 found the police Counter Subversive Unit (CSU) headed by Peiris “directly responsible” for the torture carried out at the illegal unofficial detention centre at Batalanda Housing Scheme (Sri Lanka Monitor Apr. 1998). The report also found Wickramasinghe knew of the centre’s existence (ibid.).
INFORM reported in October 1997 that the Batalanda Commission, “in its latter stages, [became] an arena for attacking UNP leader Wickremasinghe” (9).
Eleven police officers were arrested and detained in connection with the Batalanda Commission proceedings (INFORM Sept. 1996, 9; The Sunday Times 11 Oct. 1998). The Defence Secretary, however, revoked their detention orders following the filing of their fundamental rights petitions (INFORM Sept. 1996, 9). On 21 September 1998 the Supreme Court found that the fundamental rights of the eleven police officers had been violated (The Sunday Times 11 Oct. 1998). According to the Sunday Times,
the eleven police officers were taken in on a three fold basis; that there were various threats directed at the Presidential Commission investigating the incidents at Batalanda, that there were information that police officers whose names had come up before the Commission were attempting to leave the island and that there is a possibility that these officers could inflict violence on witnesses before the Commission, and, indeed, on the Commissioners themselves. In the opinion of the Court however, no material implicating the petitioners had, in fact, been placed before Court. The Secretary, Ministry of Defence could not have formed an independent opinion that the arrests and subsequent detention was necessary. Not only was the tenuous material available to him vague and lacking in particulars but it was pure hearsay. Neither before nor after the Petitioners [the police officers] were taken in, did the police have any material to justify their actions. Not even the motions of investigating any threat or wrongdoing had been gone through (11 Oct. 1998).
The eleven police officers also claimed that they had not seen the report and had not been informed of the crimes for which they were accused, yet action had been taken against them based on the Batalanda report (ibid.).
No reports of witnesses refusing to testify before the Commission, of the police or members of the Commission pressuring witnesses to testify, or of the police or others preventing witnesses from testifying, other than that provided above, could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1996. . 30 January 1997.
Daily News [Colombo]. . 3 June 1997. Sarath Malalasekera. “Ranil Had an Office at Batalanda Housing Scheme: Witness.”
_____. 8 May 1997. Sarah Malalasekera and Nadira Gunatilleke. “Batalanda Commission: Chairman Warns ASP Against Giving Irresponsible Evidence.”
Sri Lanka Information Monitor (INFORM) [Colombo]. Situation Report. October 1997. “Follow Up on Commission Reports.”
_____. August 1997. “Commission.”
_____. November 1996. “Batalanda Commission.”
_____. September 1996. “Batalanda Commission.”
_____. August 1996. “Batalanda Commission.”
_____. July 1996. “Batalanda Commission.”
_____. June 1996. “Batalanda Commission.”
_____. May 1996. “Batalanda Commission.”
_____.January 1996. “Batalanda Commission.”
Sri Lanka Monitor [London]. . April 1998. “Torture Chamber.”
The Sunday Times [Colombo]. . 11 October 1998. Kishali Pinto Jayawardena. “Batalanda Report: What Is Happening? A Recurring Tragi-Comedy.”
_____. 7 September 1997. “The Political Column: Circus Within Political Circus.”
_____. 31 August 1997. “Ranil Before Batalanda Commission on Wednesday.”
Additional Sources Consulted
Amnesty International Report. Yearly, 1997, 1998.
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1998. 26 February 1999.
Human Rights Watch World Report. Yearly. 1997, 1998.
Sri Lanka Information Monitor (INFORM) [Colombo]. Situation Report. Monthly. January 1996-April 1998, June-December 1998.
Sri Lanka Monitor [London]. Monthly. August-December 1998.
Electronic sources: Internet, IRB Databases, NEXIS.