Former Navy Commander Admiral Jayanth Colombage, who was complicit in torture, has been appointed as the new Foreign Secretary.
Colombage served as a Commander in Trincomalee from January 2010 to September 2012 where he was implicated in the running of the Illegal detention and torture site known as “Gota's Camp” within the Trincomalee Naval Complex.
In the International Truth and Justice Project’s (ITJP) 2019 report, ‘The Sri Lankan Navy: A Collective Blind Eye,’ Colombage was listed as one of several navy commanders who “knew or should have known about ‘Gun Site’ (2009-2012) and/ or crimes allegedly committed by the special intelligence unit,” including torture and sexual violence.
The UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances visited the detention site in 2015 and noted that systematic torture had taken place in the underground cells. It also noted that the secret detention site was in existence for years and would not have been “unnoticed” by other officials.
The ITJP report highlights that Naval Intelligence vehicles were not checked when entering and exiting the naval bases. Witnesses told the ITJP that white vans went in and out of the complex, but security staff were not allowed to log them. Witnesses describe being detained for years in the Trincomalee secret detention sites, with various methods of physical torture and sexual violence being used.
In 2016, Colombage was named as a suspect over the case of the ‘Avant Garde’ private security firm accused of running floating armouries. The private security firm illegally acquired hundreds of weapons from Sri Lanka’s defence ministry and was accused of running “floating armouries” in the Indian Ocean, allegedly with the blessings of former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. The charges filed against them by the Bribery Commission were dropped in 2019.
Colombage's appointment also marks the first time a non-foreign office person has been appointed as Foreign Secretary. Since Gotabaya's election last year, several military officers who are credibly accused of committing war crimes and being corrupt, have been rewarded.