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Sri Lankan intelligence chief takes legal action against ITJP over 'defamation' claim

A Sri Lankan Major General Sallay who stands accused of a number of abuses including the reported forced confession and denial of medical treatment of a Tamil doctor has sent a Letter of Demand to Executive director of the International Truth and Justice Project, Yasmin Sooka, claiming that the organisation had made "defamatory remarks".

The Letter of Demand details apparent "defamatory statements" made by the ITJP earlier this month. Sallay's letter refers to the information released regarding threats of imprisonment made to Dr Thurairajah Varatharajah and his family forcing them to make false testimonies, just days after the armed conflict had ended with tens of thousands of Tamils massacred. Dr Varatharajah was detained for approximately 100 days and coerced into giving false testimony in a staged news conference in Colombo. Suresh Sallay reportedly used as leverage the fact that Dr Varatharajah needed essential surgery on his arm to force him into the press conference, where they were instructed to state that only 650 people had died during the final phase of the massacres.

Read more on this here.  

According to the Daily Mirror, the letter claims

“the defamatory remarks of Ms. Sooka published by the ITJP Sri Lanka website have caused unto the Major General’s character and reputation, a significant damage which the Major General has valued at 1 Billion Sri Lankan Rupees and in turn, demanded that Ms. Sooka and ITJP pay”.

“The Letter of Demand has also notified Ms. Sooka and the ITJP to cease and desist from issuing further defamatory remarks and the intention of Major General Sallay to seek litigative remedies, both Civil and or Criminal if Ms. Sooka and the ITJP fail to adhere to said demands.”

Read more from the Daily Mirror here.

Sallay had been previously removed from a posting due to links with military-backed gangs causing unrest in Jaffna, until December last year when he had been appointed the head of State Intelligence Service (SIS) by Sri Lanka’s new president Gotabaya Rajapaksa. He held the post of  Sri Lanka’s Director of Military Intelligence (DMI) when a wave of unrest swept through the Jaffna peninsula in 2016, which authorities blamed on the ‘Aava gang’. Sri Lankan police had also shot dead two Tamil teenagers. 

Then Sri Lankan health minister Rajiva Senaratne said the military formed the ‘Aava gang’ when Rajapaksa was previously defence secretary. ”Some retired military officers and the former secretary Gotabhaya think they can use this Aava group to destabilise Jaffna and cause problems for the government," Senaratne said. "We are taking action to arrest all those involved.” At least two intelligence units were reportedly removed after his demotion.

Salley has also been accused of concealing evidence with regards to the murder of Sunday Leader editor Lasantha Wickrematunge and cartoonist Prageeth Eknaligoda.

“What we are seeing is a complex web of alleged perpetrators who have spent years in the security services protecting each another now being promoted to the highest office by the President,” said Sooka. “Impunity is now so deeply embedded that it’s impossible to talk of any kind of institutional reform.”

See more from the ITJP here.

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