Sri Lanka’s State Intelligence Services (SIS) Major General Suresh Sallay filed a formal complaint with the United Nations and European Union last week, claiming that the Executive director of the International Truth and Justice Project, Yasmin Sooka had made "defamatory remarks" in a press release outlining his role in detaining a Tamil doctor.
His complaint comes after a Letter of Demand was sent to Sooka earlier this month demanding 1 Billion Rupees as damages, claiming that Sallay’s reputation had been “slandered”.
Sallay’s lawyer, Pasan Weerasinghe, claimed Sooka’s remarks are defamatory in nature and “detrimental to the process of reconciliation and transitional justice in Sri Lanka.”
The IJTP had earlier released information regarding threats of imprisonment made to Dr Thurairajah Varatharajah and his family by Sallay, 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. 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.
Sooka concluded in the press release, “Impunity is now so deeply embedded that it’s impossible to talk of any kind of institutional reform.”
Weerasinghe further claimed that Sallay’s life could be imperiled by the ITJP, adding that the statements were in violation of the ICCPR Act, which exists to protect individuals from speech that provokes violence and discrimination.
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’.
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.