Sri Lanka law chief orders swift resolution of cold cases

Colombo (AFP) –


Sri Lanka's attorney-general ordered police Thursday to speed up investigations into several high-profile criminal cases, including the 2006 massacre of 17 French charity workers that remains unresolved.

Dappula de Livera singled out four cases, saying that the delays had caused public distress, and ordered acting police chief Chandana Wickramaratne to report on progress.

The August 2006 killing of 17 workers of Action Against Hunger (ACF) in the eastern town of Muttur, the January 2009 assassination of newspaper editor Lasantha Wickrematunge were the two top cases.

The other two relate to the killing of 11 young men by a navy intelligence unit between 2008 and 2009, and the slaying of rugby player Wasim Thajudeen in May 2012.

No-one has ever been prosecuted for the execution-style killings of the ACF staff -- among them four women.

Members of former president Mahinda Rajapakse's family and close associates have been implicated in the three other cases, but no one has been indicted.

Police sources said much of the investigations had been completed, and any delay was on the part of state in filing indictments.

Two navy admirals -- including the current chief of defence staff, Ravindra Wijegunaratne -- have been accused by police investigators of involvement in a cover-up of the killings of 11 young men who were abducted by a navy intelligence unit to extract ransoms from their families.

They were murdered despite their families paying up.

President Maithripala Sirisena came to power in January 2015 promising justice for a number of politically motivated killings and extra-judicial murders during Rajapakse's decade in power.

But the government has been slow to conclude high-profile cases.

Rajapakse, whose son Yoshitha is also a former rugby captain, has denied allegations by rival political parties and local media that he helped cover up the murder of Thajudeen.

Thajudeen's body was exhumed after new evidence emerged that he had been abducted in a car owned by the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society.

The Red Cross said the vehicle was being used at the time by a charity of then first lady, Shiranthi Rajapakse.