MOD orders probe

By Skandha Gunasekara

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has ordered an investigation into allegations that weapons belonging to the Sri Lanka Navy had been sold illegally to foreign nationals.

State Minister of Defence Ruwan Wijewardene told The Sunday Morning that he had instructed the Navy to carry out an investigation. Avant Garde Maritime Services Ltd. Chairman Nissanka Senadhipathi told The Sunday Morning that he had information that proves several low-ranking Navy officers had sold around 800 weapons to foreign nationals for $ 5,000 before the floating armoury business was handed over to Avant Garde.

“The weapons-handling business carried out by the Sri Lanka Navy on the ground was handed over to our ‘MV Mahanuwara’ vessel docked at the Galle Port due to the corrupt actions of several low-ranking officers involved in the weapons-handling business of the Navy. Key among the reasons for handing us the weapons-handling business from the Sri Lanka Navy was the sale of over 800 weapons to foreign nationals for $ 5,000 (this number could be much higher), issuing licenses to these weapons, extorting money from these foreign nationals, and the entrance of foreign nationals to the country carrying these weapons posing a threat to national security.

These weapons have fallen into the arms of foreign terrorist organisations like ISIS and Al-Qaeda. The future consequences of these actions are unimaginable,” Senadhipathi alleged.

He said that he had withheld this information thus far so as not to tarnish the image of the Sri Lanka Navy, but was forced to reveal the alleged corruption due to various allegations being levelled against him.

“I decided to write this statement in response to the many misleading and hateful statements being publicised by some elements about the reason for removing the floating armoury business from the Sri Lanka Navy and vesting it with the Avant Garde company. Despite holding documentary evidence to respond to the various allegations levelled against us continuously during the past few years, we refrained from publicising these facts since it would have placed the Sri Lanka Navy in an embarrassing situation and also because the retired senior Navy officers in our company objected to the publicising of these documents,” he said.

Wijewardene told The Sunday Morning that he was informed of these allegations and had instructed the Navy Commander to conduct an inquiry into the matter so that they can ascertain the veracity of these allegations.

However, he went on to say that it was highly unlikely that such allegations were true.

“I highly doubt that Navy personnel illegally sold weapons. If it were true, then the Navy Commander at the time would have been aware. Investigations will reveal more,” he said.

Meanwhile, Navy Spokesman Lt. Commander Isuru Suriyabandara charged that Senadhipathi should have gone to the proper authorities with the allegations instead of the media.

“If he has any allegations, then he should lodge such complaints at the proper agencies. He could have lodged his complaint at the Police, the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption, or even the Ministry of Defence. He is just making these claims to the media.”

Furthermore, the Navy Spokesman questioned Senadhipathi’s intentions for making the allegations.

“Why did he keep this a secret for so long? He said that there was a threat to national security. Why then didn’t he expose this much sooner?”