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Former STF Commander pledges support for SJB

(Image Courtesy: Daily News)

Former commander of Sri Lanka's notorious Special Task Force, Nimal Lewke, has pledged his support to Sri Lanka's main opposition party the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), led by Sajith Premadsa, making him the fourth high-ranking defence personnel to join the party. 

He is joined by the ranks of Daya Sandagiri a former Navy Commander, Daya Ratnayake, a former Army Commander, and Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, who has long been a stalwart support of the SJB. The local press reports that Nimal Lewke obtained the party membership from leader Sajith Premadasa today. Lewke had previously pledged his alliance to the SJB in 2016.

Sri Lanka's Special Task Force was established in 1983 with the support of a private British mercenary group known as Keenie Meenie Services (KMS). KMS is currently under investigation by the British Metropolitan Police for the alleged war crimes they committed against Tamil civilians during the armed conflict. KMS provided military training and support for the STF, a paramilitary police unit that is accused of committing mass atrocities over the course of the armed conflict and is increasingly involved in harassing and surveilling the civilian population across the North-East since the end of the conflict.

The STF are accused of a number of attrocities including summarily executing five Tamil students on a beach in Trincomalee. The case – known as the 'Trinco 5' – remains one of the highest-profile killings in Sri Lanka to receive international attention, listed in 2014 by the then UN High Commissioner for Human Rights' report on the island as one of four ‘emblematic cases’ of the government's failure to ensure accountability and having been raised repeatedly in international forums.

Read more here: Still searching for justice - 18 years on from Trinco 5 killings

Lewke joined the Police Department as a probationary sub-inspector in 1972 and served until 1983 before he joined the Special Task Force (STF). He retired in early 2011 holding the position of commander.

Denial of state-sponsored terrorism

Lewke is also known for having been the Senior Deputy Inspector General of Police for the Northern Province during the period when elections were held in 2009. Despite widespread concerns of state-sponsored terror, Lewke was quick to dismiss it adding that “there was no state terrorism there” and refused to accept accusations of turning a blind eye to it. 

Engagement in 'rehabilitation camps'

Responding to his appointment as Presidential Security Advisor in 2019, The International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) highlighted Lewke's involvement in illegally detaining LTTE cadres post-war in "rehabilitation" camps which became notorious for acts of torture and the ill-treatment of detaines. 


For those who have forgotten the role of Senior DIG Nimal Lewke in 2009 in illegally detaining LTTE cadres post-war in "rehabilitation" camps & interrogating them (which UN Working group says #lka gov should apologise for)- in 2016 he was made presidential security advisor. pic.twitter.com/4fE0aprNdJ

— ITJP (@itjpsl) February 6, 2019

Easter Sunday Attacks

Lewke also made the headlines following the Easter Sunday bombings, which claimed the lives of over 260 people in Sri Lanka, as he told the Presidential Commission of Inquiry that former President Maithripala Sirisena fired him for having warned him of the impending attack.

Lewke, who was a former commandant of Sri Lanka's notorious Special Task Force (STF), was appointed as a security advisor by Sirisena on September 2017. Speaking before a commission examing the Easter Sunday attacks, he claimed that he was not called by the President to discuss security matters.

“After one year, I went to see President Sirisena and told him that more attention should be paid to intelligence services. I said special attention must be paid for the SIS and that Nilantha Jayawardena, who headed the SIS was not as capable as his predecessors". 

Sirisena reportedly claimed he would look into the matter but a week after the meeting Lewke was dismissed.

The SJB has welcomed a slew of former military officials into their ranks, many of whom have been accused of egregious war crimes. An example being that of  former Army Commander Daya Ratnayake to its fold, an official who oversaw military operations during the Tamil genocide and who has repeatedly denied war crimes have taken place. This appears to be apparent bid to gin up support amongst Sinhala nationalists.

The SJB had shared a photograph of the Leader of the Opposition Sajith Premadasa welcoming him, adding that “General Daya Ratnayake, the 20th Commander of the Sri Lanka Army, who played a pivotal role in leading the three-decade-long humanitarian operation against the brutal LTTE, joined the Samagi Jana Balawegaya today.”

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