Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 12 June 2016





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Government Gazette

Controversies over stockpile location, weapons inventory:

Salawa fire probes to dig deep

The twin police and military investigations launched into the Salawa military disaster is likely to dig deep into various controversies surrounding the Army’s major arms and munitions storage facility at the heart of last Sunday’s devastating fire, including an imminent government audit of the Army’s weapons inventory. The other big question is over who was responsible for the stockpiling of munitions in a population-dense area and, the reason for the failure to properly maintain the munitions to prevent corrosion and decay.

The Criminal Investigations Department (CID) and a specially appointed Army Court of Inquiry have launched two comprehensive investigations into the Salawa Army munitions disaster.

Army Spokesman Brigadier Jayanath Jayaweera told the Sunday Observer that Army Commander Lt. General Chrishantha de Silva appointed the Army Court of Inquiry on Wednesday to probe into the matter. However, the spokesman refused to disclose the names of officers who were involved in the Court of Inquiry.

“If we disclose the names of the members, it will affect the independence and transparency of the whole inquiry process. Various people will attempt to personally contact the officers handling the investigation,” Brigadier Jayaweera said.

The Army Commander has instructed all authorities at the Salawa army base to cooperate with the CID officers conducting the investigations. Brigadier Jayaweera told the Sunday Observer that every measure had been taken by the Army to facilitate any investigation. He stressed that the Army would act in a professional and transparent manner as far as the investigations are concerned.

The CID, on Friday afternoon, announced that it commenced investigations into the fire at the Salawa Army base. A senior officer of the CID told the Sunday Observer that the department had already obtained statements from nearly 30 soldiers who were present at the base when the fire broke out. The CID was also planning to record statements from the residents in the area, as part of their initial inquiries.

“The CID inquiry will be a comprehensive one. We will also analyze video footage, documents and other background information relating to the fire. We will also record statements from third parties over the incident. It is still too early to make predictions about the time-frame of the investigation,” a highly placed Police source told the Sunday Observer.

To assist the Police investigation, two senior officers from the Government Analyst’s Department also visited the Salawa area on Friday.

Meanwhile, suspicions have now been raised whether the fire at the Salawa Army base has any connection with the impending Weapons audit initiated by the Auditor General’s Department in the light of the Avant Garde controversy.

Although there was no official announcement relating to the matter, top government sources revealed that the Auditor General’s Department was to be entrusted with the task of carrying out an audit, under ‘civil procedures’, into weapons owned by the Sri Lankan security forces.

A senior government spokesman said the government was of the view that such an audit would unravel a lot of mysteries surrounding ‘floating’ and other armouries maintained by certain parties operated under the blessings of the top echelons of the previous administration.

He pointed out that the fire devastated the Salawa camp, last Sunday, has hampered this process. Thousands of records and files pertaining to the weapons stockpile are reported to have been destroyed in the fire.

There was speculation in defence circles as to whether a party that was not in favour of this “weapons audit” was behind the incident.

However, the investigation teams have not found any evidence, so far, to corroborate such suspicions. That is, however, one area the investigators are examining at the moment.


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