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Another former Sri Lankan military commander joins the SJB

Daya Sandagiri, the 14th Naval Commander of Sri Lanka has pledged his support for the Opposition Party Samagi Jana Balawagaya (SJB) headed by Sajith Premadasa today, becoming at least the third senior Sri Lankan military figure to join the party.

Premadsa announced that he had also appointed him as an advisor on maritime and naval policies. The move comes after Premadasa also welcomed Daya Ratnayake, a former army commander to the party’s ranks last week. Ratnayake joined Sarath Fonseka, the former head of Sri Lanka's army, to become a party member. Both stand accused of war crimes having overseen the Mullivaikkal genocide that culminated in 2009.

Sadagiri also has a chequered history. In 2006, then-president Mahinda Rajapaksa told The Sunday Times that he would appoint a Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) to probe military procurement deals entered into by Sadigiri, who had stepped down as Commander of the Navy and at the time was Chief of Defence Staff. Sadgiri reportedly entered into a deal with an Israeli firm to procure 20-year-old guns for the Navy's Fast Attack Craft (FAC) claiming that they were "brand new”. He reportedly made an advance payment in the millions for weapons that were not in production. In a separate deal, a Colombo firm was awarded a US $30 million contract (over Rs 3 billion), without calling for tenders, for the manufacture of ten Fast Attack Craft. The other two charges include Rs 21.8 million to renovate the Navy House at Bullers Road, Bambalapitiya, which at the time Sandagiri lived in.

During his time in the navy, the former commander was also involved in the death of three LTTE Sea tigers in 2003, which took place as peace talks were underway in Berlin. Chandrika Kumaratunga who was the president at the time, with the backing of the country’s military chiefs including Sandagiri, reportedly took an unprecedented step of directly intervening in the standoff between Sri Lanka’s navy and the LTTE which at the time had been going on for 22 hours. Despite speaking to the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM), there were fears that the vessel would be taken into Sri Lankan custody, and the crew on board set fire to the vessel and killed themselves,  The names of the sea-tigers who perished are Sea Tiger Major Aatalone or Suthan (Krishnaswamy Satheeswaran of Chavakachcheri), Sea Tiger Captain Pothikai Thevan (Sivagnanasundaramoorthy Thayaparan, Puloly South) and Sea Tiger Captain Anton or Oorvannan (Rasiah Kugathas, Ariyalai). Read more from TamilNet on the incident here.

Daya Sandagiri served as the 14th Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy from 2001 - 2005. He was then appointed Chief of Defense Staff with the rank of Admiral on September 1, 2005. In 2016, under the-then 'Yahapalana Government' headed by Maithripala Sirisena, Sandagiri was appointed as the Vice Chancellor of Kotelawala Defense University.

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