An international rights group on Thursday expressed alarm over the Sri Lanka army’s decision to reinstate an intelligence officer accused of high-profile attacks against journalists, including the assassination of a senior editor.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said reinstating Major Prabath Bulathwatte created new threats for the media in Sri Lanka, which is currently under a state of emergency following the Easter terror attacks.
Bulathwatte was arrested in 2017 in connection with a string of attacks against journalists during the former regime of President Mahinda Rajapakse and is currently on bail.
However, army commander Mahesh Senanayake last week told a local television network that Bulathwatte had been reinstated to boost the battle against local jihadists following the April 21 bombings in which 258 people died.
“Promoting to active duty an intelligence officer who has been implicated in the killing of one journalist and the torture of two others severely undermines Sri Lanka’s claim that it is fighting impunity for crimes against journalists,” said CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Steven Butler.
Editor Lasantha Wickrematunge was stabbed to death in January 2009. Court records have named Bulathwatte as the key suspect.
The CPJ’s Butler said reinstating Bulathwatte within the intelligence setup would create “new threats to journalists in Sri Lanka, who are not safe to do their jobs”.