Sri Lanka removes intelligence chief after Jaffna disturbances

Sri Lanka removes intelligence chief after Jaffna disturbances
Sri Lankan women police officers march during a Victory Day parade in Matara, about 165 kilometers south of Colombo, Sri Lanka, in this May 19, 2015 file photo. (AP)
Updated 02 November 2016

Sri Lanka removes intelligence chief after Jaffna disturbances

Sri Lanka removes intelligence chief after Jaffna disturbances

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s army Wednesday replaced its intelligence chief as the government accused the military of involvement in a wave of unrest in the ethnic minority Tamil heartland of Jaffna.
The army announced the removal of intelligence director Suresh Sallay after civil society groups complained to President Maithripala Sirisena that the officer was responsible for causing instability.
“Brig. Sallay is being replaced with immediate effect by Brig. Vijendra Gunatillaka,” army spokesman Roshan Seneviratne said.
He described the move as “routine,” but government sources said a highly influential group of intellectuals who met Sirisena on Tuesday night had pressed for Sallay’s removal.
The move followed allegations from chief government spokesman Rajitha Senaratne that a Tamil gang which has been terrorizing civilians in Jaffna, 400 km north of Colombo, had the backing of the military.
Senaratne, who is also the health minister, said the military formed the so-called “Aava Group” in Jaffna when former president Mahinda Rajapaksa’s brother Gotabhaya was in charge of the defense ministry.
“Some retired (military) officers and the ex-secretary (Gotabhaya) think they can use this Aava group to destabilize Jaffna and cause problems for the government,” Senaratne said. “We are taking action to arrest all those involved.”
Last month’s fatal police shooting of two Tamil students in Jaffna and protests by residents have raised tensions in the north, where residents suffered years of harassment from the Sinhalese-dominated military before and during a decades-long conflict.
There have been widespread protests against the shooting and against the Aava group, which residents say has been actively supported by military intelligence units in the area.