disappearing tsunami millions from the PM's fund
By Sonali Samarasinghe
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse and a
handful of select officials have siphoned off a colossal Rs. 82
million of monies given.....
Nihal and the vicious political cycle
disappearing tsunami millions from the PM's fund
Presidential directive which was flouted and
Shiranthi Rajapakse's letter to Hatton National Bank
By Sonali Samarasinghe
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse and a
handful of select officials have siphoned off a colossal Rs.
82 million of monies given to the Prime Minister's Fund as
tsunami relief and reconstruction, into a private account
called 'Helping Hambantota' maintained at the Standard
Chartered Bank in direct violation of Presidential directives.
The actions of the Prime Ministerial
team may also raise serious issues, which may border on
offences under the Public Property Act, given that the four
signatories to the account are private persons not connected
to the Prime Minister's office.
Signatories to the account
The signatories to this account are
Prof. Epasinghe, a long time friend of the Prime Minister, who
does not work in the PM's office but is paid a salary of Rs.
40,000 plus fuel expenses. Mahinda Gunawardena, another
loyalist, Deputy Minister, Plantation Industries and brother
of the Prime Minister, Chamal Rajapakse and Udaya Abeyratne of
the Road Development Authority who is the chief accountant of
the Prime Minister's 'Maga Neguma' Project.
claimed to have been received for 'Helping Hambantota'
cheque for Rs. 82 million transferred from the PM's fund to the
private 'Helping Hambantota'
The account named 'Helping Hambantota'
maintained at the Rajagiriya branch of the Standard Chartered Bank
bears A/C No. 01-1237322-01 and as at June 29, had an account
balance of Rs. 103,094, 966 (over Rs. 103 million). The account is
still receiving funds and recently a direct cash deposit of Rs.
54,200 was made.
If there was one time in the history of
Sri Lanka that prompted worldwide sympathy and good will towards the
nation it was the days after the tsunami. Apart from government to
government pledges, private companies, the Sri Lankan diaspora, NGOs
and foreign missions literally sent sacks of money to the country to
meet the urgent needs of the tsunami affected.
Many of these donations made its way to
Mahinda Rajapakse as prime minister of Sri Lanka. Certainly money
was flowing in, and steadily. At the time no special accounts were
in existence and the Prime Minister was in control in the absence of
the President who was still in London. For a Prime Ministerial team
to then arbitrarily decide with no official record of the fact
except a verbal assurance by the PM's Secretary, Lalith Weeratunga
that a large chunk of these moneys was given especially for the
reconstruction of Hambantota raises serious issues of public
accountability and transparency.
In any event all donations received by
the Prime Minister or by the Prime Minister's office were donations
given to the country as a whole and not to Mahinda Rajapakse to
nurse his own constituency for personal political gain to give a
generous interpretation to what has taken place. The fact that the
monies have not yet been used but kept in an account for future use
- and this is admitted to by PM's Secretary Weeratunga (see box) -
makes the action even more heinous, considering the untold suffering
that victims in temporary shelters are still going through.
The Sunday Leader learns that since the
commencement of the 'Helping Hambantota' account, 14 outgoing
transactions, each of which was less than a million, have been made
totaling a sum of Rs. 9 million. This means the account had over Rs.
112 million. That is Rs. 30 million more than what was initially
deposited from the Prime Minister's 'Punarjeewana' fund. However
Prime Minister's Secretary, Lalith Weeratunga says no money has been
deposited to this account after the initial Rs. 82 million and no
account movements have occurred.
Remember, President Kumaratunga was in
England when the tsunami struck and it was the Prime Minister who
took over disaster management efforts. Indeed, during those heady
post-tsunami days and after her hasty return to the country,
President Kumaratunga was to scoff at Rajapakse's inefficiency
publicly and berate his one-man-show attempt privately.
Be that as it may, from December 26
onwards, monies received by the Prime Minister personally or by the
Prime Minister's office were deposited in the government account
called 'Secretary to the Prime Minister' as there was no other
account available in the immediate aftermath of the disaster.
It is pertinent to note however that
following the calamity there was no record to show the amount of
money donated and the amount deposited. Simply put, due to various
reasons - most of which were logistical - there was zero
accountability. Sources at the Prime Minister's office confirm that
monies handed over in the presence of other officials at the office
were however documented.
On her return from London, President
Kumaratunga was quick to notify all ministries concerned that monies
received for tsunami relief should be deposited into one account.
Therefore, on December 29, 2004 by Presidential Secretariat Circular
No. PA/272, President's Secretary, W.J.S. Karunaratne sent out a
directive to all secretaries of ministries and heads of institutions
not scheduled under ministries.
It said inter alia: "On the
direction of the President, a special bank account has been opened
at the head quarters branch of People's Bank to accept cash
donations for relief operations that are now in progress.
Name of Account: 'President's Fund for
Bank : People's Bank - Head quarter's
Account No. 204 100 190 136245
Type of account: Current account
Swift Code: PSBKLKLX
Sort cord: 204-7135
Online transfer: Facility not available
"You are kindly requested to bring
this information to the notice of all your staff of your ministry /
institution, and any other institutions coming under your ministry
and the general public who wish to make donation in cash for this
very worthy cause."
Note this: "In the circumstances,
you are kindly advised not to open any separate individual bank
accounts to collect funds for relief operations."
We do not doubt that the PM's
Secretary, Weeratunga would have received this circular.
Notwithstanding, on December 31, 2004, two days after President
Kumaratunga's directive, Weeratunga opened an official account in
the name of 'Prime Minister's Punarjeewana Fund' account No.
014100170136270 at the People's Bank. The signatories to this
account were Weeratunga, Additional Secretary Gamini Senarath,
Senior Assistant Secretary Sunil Hewapathirana and Accountant S.
Thereafter, on the same day a sum of Rs.
73,926,516.74 of tsunami relief monies received into the 'Secretary
to the Prime Minister' government account from December 27, 2004 to
December 31, 2004 were deposited into the newly opened Prime
Minister's Punarjeewana account. Other donations were also now being
deposited to this account and as at June 09, its account balance was
While strictly speaking the opening of
this account was a violation of the President's specific advice
"not to open any separate individual accounts," it is
still an official government account with the signatories being
officials of the Prime Minister's office.
However, the Prime Minister and a
select few of his officials including Weeratunga lost no time in
also opening a separate private account called 'Helping Hambantota'
at the Standard Chartered Bank, Rajagiriya without even any proper
documentation. A website was also launched calling the project the 'Hambantota
Tsunami Relief and Disaster Programme.' (See box)
The project partners named are the
government of Sri Lanka,
the Prime Minister's office of Sri Lanka, United Nations
Development Programme (UNDP), UN agencies, international and
national NGOs, the corporate sector, professional bodies, religious
institutions and communities of those effected.
Whatever the site claims as the
project's partners, the board of directors of the project are in
fact PM's Secretary, Lalith Weeratunga , HNB Chairman, Rienzie
Wijetilleke, Shasheendra Rajapakse (son of Chamal Rajapkse and
nephew of the Prime Minister), Director, Road Development Authority
(RDA), M. Mowjood and Accountant, RDA, Udaya Abeyratne. Its
governing council consists of again Shasheendra Rajapakse, Lalith
Weeratunga and Rienzie Wijetilleke.
The Prime Minister and Weeratunga also
told the PM's office staff that of the donations received by the
Prime Minister's Punarjeewana fund, a certain sum was received
specially for the development of Hambantota only as requested by the
donors. These particular donations had been marked in the funds
register by Weeratunga.
On December 27, both Prime Minister
Rajapakse and Weeratunga verbally directed that Rs. 106,983,247.70
(over Rs. 106 million) be transferred to this private account. Later
the amount to be transferred was changed to Rs. 82,958,247.70 (over
Rs. 82 million).
Accordingly on January 31, a People's
Bank cheque No. 179127 in the name of 'The Manager, Standard
Chartered Bank, Rajagiriya, A/C No.01-1237322-01, Hambantota Tsunami
Disaster Relief and Development Programme' for the sum of Rs.
82,958,247.70 signed by Accountant S. Subasinghe and Weeratunga was
issued to facilitate the transfer.
However, this cheque was returned as
the payee's name was wrong and another People's Bank cheque No.
179128 dated February 3 was issued for the same amount to be paid to
'Helping Hambantota A/C No. 01-1237322-01.
On December 31, 2004, Prime Minister
Rajapakse directed his office to send the remaining moneys in the
Prime Minister's Punarjeewana fund to the National Fund for Disaster
Relief, Central Bank A/C No. 4669. The relatively small sum of Rs.
28,363,135.04 donations received from December 27 2004 to January 5
was accordingly transferred by People's Bank cheque No. 179126. That
was to indicate to the President her directive was being complied
with as regards the monies received by the PM's fund.
Thereafter, as all good little boy
scouts would do, the Prime Minister's office kept sending, in
comparatively small driblets, a percentage of the funds received by
the prime minister's office to the Central Bank National Relief Fund
in keeping with the Presidential directive. For instance on February
8, a sum of Rs. 11,42,780 was sent by People's Bank cheque No.
179129 and again Rs. 441,618 by cheque No. 947362. On March 16, a
sum of Rs. 15,124,891.13 was sent to the Central Bank by People's
Bank cheque No. 179132. These monies were donations received between
December 28, 2004 and February 15.
Meanwhile, for good measure, the Prime
Minister's office ran a full page advertisement in the state media
on February 2, publishing a list of 55 donors and randomly dividing
them into two sections. Twenty-two donors for Hambantota and 33 for
Sri Lanka as a whole.
By a happy coincidence for the Prime
Minister and his select team, those 22 donations were hefty ones
amounting to over Rs. 82 million. Donations received to the National
Fund though larger in number amounted to only a little over Rs. 28
million. Neither did the advertisement mention the private account
'Helping Hambantota' maintained at the Standard Chartered Bank but
merely mentioned instead a generalised Hambantota Tsunami Disaster
Relief and Development Programme.
Consider the following:
The donations arbitrarily and
personally selected by Weeratunga as 'Hambantota only' donations
were in fact received by Mahinda Rajapakse as Prime Minister for Sri
Lanka and not as MP for Hambantota. The tsunami was a national
disaster not an isolated calamity in the south. In any event the 22
donations identified by Weeratunga as aforesaid were made from
December 27, 2004 to January 11. On December 27, 2004, one day after
the disaster, no government fund had yet been set up. Neither had
this private account called 'Helping Hambantota.'
If the Prime Minister's office says
that some monies were given to be used in Hambantota only then as a
government body this must be properly documented. There should be
written indication of this by the donor. A arbitrary pencil mark by
the PM's Secretary is insufficient. These are monies belonging to
the Sri Lankan public and not private funds.
No proper documentation
When the monies were transferred to the
account, 'Helping Hambantota' was not a properly registered and/or
constituted trust, partnership, company or NGO (see box). When the
private account was set up at the Standard Chartered Bank it was
done so without proper documentation and only on the verbal
assurances of the Prime Minister's office. The bank had not insisted
on the proper documentation usually required to open a bank account
of this nature. However, the identity cards of the aforesaid four
signatories were perused and the account opened merely on the
instructions of the PM's office.
This account, which contains public
money, is now in the hands of private individuals and has been moved
away from the control of public officials. It is not subject to
financial regulations and other governmental directives and
circulars that govern public money. Furthermore, if this money is to
be used for reconstruction, then proper tender procedures must be
followed. Is this not a misappropriation of public property and a
criminal breach of trust? But happily for the Prime Minister's
office, these government funds are now in a private account.
The very fact the Willie Gamage (see
box) finds is necessary to hide the fact that Chamal Rajapakse is a
signatory to the 'Helping Hambantota' account and insists there are
only three signatories shows that a game may be afoot. Even though
Gamage states there is only a balance of Rs. 67 million, The Sunday
Leader reliably learns that as at June 28, the balance was over Rs.
By giving this exercise a veneer of
legitimacy with a large newspaper advertisement, select officials of
the Prime Minister's office have opened this private account to
direct transfers of moneys. Certainly the account has swelled
considerably since February this year. As at June 28, its balance
was already over Rs. 103 million.
The Rs. 82 million question
The Rs. 82 million question is also
this - If the money was indeed for tsunami relief and reconstruction
of Hambantota, why pray, is it, that six months after the tsunami,
when victims are still languishing in tents and makeshift
structures, has the money not been used? Is it being saved for some
other purpose over which the government has no control since it is
managed by private individuals?
It is reliably learnt that the money
has now been deposited into a call deposit to generate interest.
While this money purportedly to help tsunami victims is generating
interest, thousands of victims are still living in harsh conditions.
Surely politicians who receive
donations on behalf of the state as a whole after a national
disaster cannot set up private accounts for various districts such
as 'Helping Galle' or 'Helping Batticaloa' depending on their area
of interest for personal or political gain? And who knows at the end
of the day where this money will end up?
If, for example, Rajapakse is no longer
Prime Minister tomorrow, the state will have no control over this
money and the private individuals controlling it can for all intents
and purposes use it to buy houses in the Bahamas.
of the missing money
That money was lying around the
Rajapakse residence was evident. Come February this year the
Rajapakse family was in a dither. Rs. 400,000 had gone missing
from the premises and the alleged prime suspect was a Tamil
servant woman called Chandra who had recently left the home
not only in a huff due to a matter of the heart involving
another Prime Ministerial minor employee but also with a
pocket stuffed with Rs. 400,000 allegedly stolen from the
Prime Ministerial residence.
Having found out about the alleged
theft, Rajapakse's wife Shiranthi lost no time in writing a
letter marked 'Urgent' dated February 3, to the manager,
Hatton National Bank in Colombo 8, requesting him to freeze
the account of the servant woman as a police investigation had
already commenced. (See box)
On the strength of this letter when the
servant woman went to the bank to withdraw a small amount, the
bank informed the police and she was arrested. However, the
Prime Minister intervened and she was released before the
incident about the money could leak out to the press. The only
salient question here in the public interest is this. Why
would Rs. 400,000 be lying around in the Prime Minister's home
in the first place? And why was the police investigation
Secretary to the Prime Minister, Lalith
Weeratunga admitted that no monies from the 'Helping
Hambantota' fund had been used as yet. When asked why that was
the case even six months after the tsunami, he said many
donors had come to construct houses and give relief and thus
it was not necessary. He also said this money may be used at a
later date for community centres and infrastructure
He revealed the 'Helping Hambantota'
account had approximately Rs. 80 million in it and also stated
no more monies had been sent to it. Weeratunga also said in
deference to donors wishes they had to separate the moneys as
donors approached them wanting to help Hambantota specifically
and / or to help Ampara or another area specifically. When
asked whether separate accounts were also opened for Ampara
and other areas he stated the PM's office did not receive such
donations as donors were aware of the Prime Minister's
connection to Hambantota.
Hambantota, PM's office style
The Hambantota Tsunami Disaster Relief
and Development Programme has launched an impressive website -
www.helphambantota.org. The objective of the project is stated
as follows: "To bring together and combine the strengths
of the government, the corporate sector, religious
institutions, the UN community, international and national
NGOs, professional bodies and the communities of those
affected in bringing relief to the people of the district and
in bringing about sustained development in the area. To
facilitate, support and synergise the rehabilitation plans for
the district, and to coordinate with relevant state agencies
in order to expedite relief and development work."
What may well distress bona fide donors
is also this. The site names as its many grandiose rebuilding
projects, the following: Andaragasyaya Housing Project, ASPIC
Village Housing Project, Cine Oska Village Housing Project,
Haritha Housing Project, Helping House Housing Project, Kelani
Temple Houses Housing Project, Kirindagama Housing Project,
Obesekaralabima Walloya Housing Project, Porondugama Red Cross
Housing Project, Samadigama Housing Project, Siribopura
Housing project, Temp. Houses Kirindagama Housing Project and
Tissapura Housing Project. Each is accompanied by pictures of
houses under construction.
However, Weeratunga told The Sunday
Leader that none of the 'Helping Hambantota' funds had been
used and that donors and aid agencies were building houses and
therefore the 'Helping Hambantota' project was keeping the
money for possible infrastructure development at a later date.
This brings the credibility of this
website into serious doubt. If the website is already claiming
to have completed so many projects and even shows pictures of
these ongoing projects, the Prime Minister's office may be
guilty of duping donors into sending money into an account
that does not do anything. However, the website very
passionately calls for donors to 'Help Hambantota NOW.'
The site invites donors to feel free to
write immediately and gives the following details. Programme
name: Hambantota Tsunami Disaster Relief and Development
Programme; Address: Prime Minister's office, Temple Trees,
Sri Lanka; Telephone:
+94 11 2 32 14 06; Fax:
+94 11 2 2 54 29 18; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org,
and gives the account details for money transfer as 'Helping
Hambantota' A/C No.01-1237322-01; Bank: Standard Charted Bank,
Sri Lanka; Branch: Rajagiriya; Swift Code: SCBLLKLX. It also
states that online donation facilities via Visa or Master
would be available soon.
gives PM a helping hand
Senior Advisor to the Prime Minister
and Desk Officer for 'Helping Hambantota.' Willie Gamage told
The Sunday Leader that 'Helping Hambantota' was a temporary
programme to handle tsunami relief and was a fund management
programme. On asked whether it has been registered Gamage
replied in the negative. Excerpts of the interview follow:
Q: Is it part of the PM's office?
A: Not really but it is
supported by the PM's office. It is a temporary programme to
manage funds earmarked for Hambantota.
(He also stated that except for Lalith
Weeratunga and Shasheendra Rajapakse all other members of the
governing council of this programme were private members.)
Q: Who are the signatories?
A: Udaya Abeyratne is an
accountant, Prof. Epasinghe is from the academic field and M.
Gunawardena is a private person.
Q: Only three signatories?
A: Yes. (Of the Rs. 82 million
deposited in the account Gamage said that approximately Rs. 15
million has been spent on kitchen utensils, construction of 15
permanent houses and incidental expenses such as project
Q: Has any more money been put to
A: No. As at June 15, we have
spent Rs. 15 million.
Q: What is the balance now?
A: The balance is Rs. 67
Q: When was this account started?
A: Early January, I think.
Q: Were you not in violation of the
Presidential directive not to maintain separate accounts
issued on December 29, 2004?
A: We were not in violation.
Anyway, direct those questions to the secretary.
Q: You say these were monies
earmarked for Hambantota. Who earmarked them, was it the
donors and was it in writing?
A: It was in writing. For
instance, Plan International was one. I am not authorised to
give you the other donors.
Q: But you took out a full page
advertisement in the state media on February 2, where you
listed 22 donors. The list names the Korean Ambassador. Did he
give you a request in writing?
Q: Could you give me some letters of
donors in the list who have requested that their monies go to
A: Those are with the secretary
but even I may be able to find one or two letters. I'm out of
office, I can give them to you on Monday.
refuses to comment
The Sunday Leader contacted Chief
Accountant, Prime Minister's office, S.Subasinghe for his
comments on the transfer of over Rs. 82 million from the Prime
Minister's fund to a private account. Subasinghe declined to
comment stating he was a public official and that all
questions should be directed to Secretary to the Prime
Minister, Lalith Weeratunga.
Nihal and the vicious political cycle
DIG, H.M.G.B. Kotakadeniya and Nawala Nihal
By Frederica Jansz
Sri Lanka must be one of the few
countries in this world that continues to rate as a banana
republic. For what country would repeatedly arrest, lock-up
and then allow bail for notorious gangsters despite existing
evidence against the suspect.
The need of the hour perhaps is not so
much a debate on how to distribute tsunami aid - but why our
law enforcement authorities and above all the judiciary appear
to be in some convoluted mess - where dissecting right from
wrong, protecting law abiding citizens and upholding the law
has become a major hurdle.
The case involving the notorious
underworld gang leader 'Nawala Nihal' is indeed a concrete
example of how ineffective is our system of law enforcement
It is time this country puts on trial
not the likes of Nawala Nihal - after all, his is a foregone
conclusion - Sri Lanka's erstwhile police force and the system of
justice. At least for those of us who still abide by the law. Nay,
but last week, the Colombo Crimes Division (CCD) led by SSP Sarath
Lugoda were patting themselves on the back for having arrested
Nawala Nihal - caught red-handed in an extortion attempt.
According to the police, the underworld
thug walked into a trap - after police were tipped off by a leading
Colombo press owner who complained that the gang leader was
attempting to extort Rs. 15 million as well as 54 perches of land
from him after he and a relative had put up 400 perches of land for
The CCD set a trap and apprehended the
thug and two of his henchmen when they were coming out after having
completed the illegal transaction.
While the extortion attempt is indeed a
serious crime, what emerges as puerile in this whole exercise is
that this is certainly not the first or even the tenth attempt by
Nawala Nihal to extort money and land. The gang leader has been well
known to do this over the years and the police have been fully aware
of such attempts while also holding evidence to support the
In fact Nawala Nihal at the time he was
arrested last Saturday, June 25, had been released from Welikada
prison just a month ago, after he had been placed there by the
Colombo magistrate pending charges of extortion and assault. Yet, he
walked free - set loose to threaten and intimidate more innocent
citizens. No doubt he will walk free of this crime too in less then
a month - on the prowl once more for more bait - while the police
and Sri Lanka's judiciary literally turns a blind eye.
In order to jog the sluggish memory of
the Police Department The Sunday Leader today will record instances
where Nawala Nihal not only extorted money and land, but also used
physical force to do so instigating, on more than one occasion,
murder as well.
We also draw attention to the close
relationship Nawala Nihal had with leading politicians of this
government - Mervyn Silva being but one.
Nawala Nihal alias Nihal Wickremasinghe
alias Koswattage Donald alias Koswattage Donald Nihal Wickremasinghe
was born on August 1, 1953. He lived sometimes at 76/3 old Nawala
Road, Rajagiriya, at other times at 78/8 Old Nawala Road, Rajagiriya,
or at 5th Lane, Nawala, Rajagiriya, and sometimes at 78/6, Old Road,
'Nawala Nihal' is feared not only by
ordinary citizens but by the cops as well. Sri Lanka's politically
gagged police force, has had to long puppeteer to the whims and
fancies of politicians, literally looking the other way as criminals
saunter under their very noses.
Consider this. In one instance when
former Deputy Inspector General (Crime), H.M.G.B. Kotakadeniya
issued a warrant for his arrest, Nawala Nihal surrendered to Police
Headquarters. Kottakadeniya's victory was however short-lived. The
incident, some years ago was riddled with political innuendo. No
sooner had the gangster given himself up, the top cop publicly
called for complaints from people who had been harassed, threatened,
cheated, assaulted or had family members or friends murdered by the
man to lodge formal statements with the police. Kotakadeniya
promised that the victims and witnesses would be safeguarded and
there would be no reprisals.
One brave man, a director of a private
company came forward and complained that Nawala Nihal had demanded a
ransom of Rs. 2.8 million from him. Until the money was paid, three
vehicles belonging to this businessman including a Pajero were
forcibly taken over by Nawala Nihal.
The matter however ended there.
Kotakadeniya received orders from his superior that he was to stop
the investigation and that the gangster would be handed over to the
Criminal Investigations Department (CID).
The CID soon released Nawala Nihal,
after pretending to begin an investigation which in truth was
nothing more than a cursory line-up of routine questions which
apparently, or so we are told, found insufficient evidence to hold
the wanted man.
Kotakadeniya was furious. Having
trapped the shark, the top cop was demoralised thereafter. This is
how the system works in Sri Lanka. At the time he told us,
"instead of catching small fellows the police must get the big
operators themselves - this is why I tried to get this man."
The top cop was convinced, even then,
that as long as politics and politicians reign supreme within the
police force there is hardly any point in making an effort to snare
The official complaints against 'Nawala
Nihal' at Police Headquarters are not longer than one page. This is
believed to be because people are too scared to buck the thug, and
dare not make their grievances known to the cops.
Assault of officers
On another occasion when someone did
complain, no less than a top cop himself, was brutally assaulted, so
badly, that he lay unconscious in the intensive care unit of a
private hospital until he recovered.
Former DIG and Head, CID, Tyrel
Gunatilleke hardly requires any introduction. Well known for his
sense of fair play and justice, Gunatilleke sported an admirable
track record. Prior to Kotakadeniya's initiative, Gunatilleke, had
objected to Nawala Nihal filling up land in the Nawala, Rajagiriya
and Battaramulla areas, fabricating deeds and selling the blocks at
exorbitant prices. This, in fact was one of Nawala Nihal's major
sources of income.
The gangster had begun doing some work
close to the retired cop's residence at Battaramulla, and
Gunatilleke knowing the man was a fraud and a cheat, took
photographs of the land sites and handed it over to the authorities
Nawala Nihal was enraged. Gathering his
goon squads he allegedly ordered that Gunatilleke be beaten, until
he was black and blue. His thugs obeyed and Gunatilleke was
assaulted so badly he remained unconscious for one month before
A court case followed, but was later
discharged when Gunatilleke was unable to identify his attackers.
Consider this information the police
have long held. Yet, this man walks free time and again. Nawala
Nihal was only 23 years old when he on September 6, 1976 stole Rs.
213, 000 and a pistol. The complaint was lodged at the Colpetty
police station. Later, Nawala Nihal was jailed for a period of six
years because of this incident.
Years later, an entry at the Criminal
Investigation Department at the Mirigama police station stated that
in 1995 a police constable named Nilantha Senaratne was kidnapped
and killed, allegedly by 'Nawala Nihal.'
In 1997 the Welikada police recorded
that at Swarna Place Nawala, Nawala Nihal assaulted a person and
robbed a camera worth Rs 15,000. The cops claim that due to
insufficient evidence he was released in 1999 after being jailed for
At the Kohuwela police station a crime
committed by 'Nawala Nihal' states that a person residing at 26A
Malwatte Road Kohuwela, died after being fatally wounded by Nawala
Nihal. The case was first heard at the Gangodawila Magistrate Court
in 1998. At present the case is before the Colombo High Court.
In 1997 the Criminal Investigation
Department recorded that Nawala Nihal was found to be in possession
of illegal weapons at his residences at Nawala and Rajagiriya. There
is no court number for this case.
What is utterly stupefying is that
police records have listed only these few incidents of crime
committed by Nawala Nihal. The mafia style operator has walked away
from hundreds of cases of violence, brutality and even murder as his
victims cower in fright, too afraid to lodge a complaint at a police
station or are simply dead and can talk no more.
Given the sorry conduct of the police
concerning Nawala Nihal and his diabolical acts of crime all these
years, it is indeed no small wonder that witnesses and victims have
no faith in lodging a complaint with the cops.
Needless to say, such complaints will
certainly go unheeded, as aptly demonstrated when Kotakadeniya
forced the man to surrender but was later ordered to let him walk
An uncle of Casino King, Nalin Fonseka,
Nawala Nihal has always been closely guarded by politicians. Nawala
Nihal has been an essential component for local politicos who depend
on his brawn and brutality to secure points on a political see-saw.
Yet another record of his criminal
activity, also with police, details how Nawala Nihal, determined to
be the leader of the underworld became suspicious that another
well-known gangster Kalu Ajit would reign supreme in the world of
the underworld godfathers. He set in motion a plan that would end
the reign of Kalu Ajit.
Summoning a well known contract killer
known as 'Fiat' Nawala Nihal phoned Kalu Ajit and set up a meeting
at one of the houses he owned at Kohuwela. Kalu Ajit arrived at
around 9 p.m. in a Dolphin Hiace van in the company of two others.
No sooner had they set foot in the house they were set upon by goons
of Nawala Nihal, disarmed, dragged, gagged and tethered to three
They were thereafter taken in the Hiace
van they had arrived in, to Badowita at Attidiya and shot dead.
Thereafter, petrol was poured over the three bodies and the van and
set on fire.
The case remained unsolved until police
captured Fiat. Under intense interrogation, Fiat revealed the sordid
facts that finally linked the murders of Kalu Ajit and two of his
henchmen at Attidiya to Nawala Nihal.
The disgusting part of this entire saga
is this. Nawala Nihal with at least 20 other underworld kingpins and
some 1000 thugs will continue to rain terror on chosen victims and
be used at the whim and fancy of corrupt politicians.
A senior police officer maintained the
sleuths are at times helpless to control this menace, as the law
allows the cops to hold underworld kingpins for a mere three months
until investigations are conducted. After three months they are
usually out on bail back on the prowl.
We recall how in 2003 for the first
time, a cabinet minister actually named Nawala Nihal as having been
approached by an opposition MP of the People's Alliance to have him
Lands Minister Dr Rajitha Senaratne in
an interview to a Sunday newspaper said that he had been cautioned
by the Ministerial Security Division (MSD) about his movements and
been provided additional security on the instructions of the
inspector general of police.
He claimed that a former member of
parliament of the main opposition People's Alliance (PA) was
planning to assassinate him as he had turned to be one of the main
critics of the opposition, led by President Chandrika Kumaratunga.
Dr Senaratne did not name the former MP
in the interview, but indicated who the MP was and said that he was
a close associate of the President. However, the minister named the
underworld gang member who had taken the contract for the
He claimed that Nawala Nihal alias
'Godfather' had given orders to kill him and the plot had been
disclosed by one of the suspects who was arrested while taking a
sniper gun into a high security jail to be given to Nawala Nihal.
The suspect, according to police,
disclosed details about a series of other killings as well.
Regarding the plot to assassinate the
minister, the suspect had disclosed that they had first tried to get
a person from the same district of Dr. Senaratne to approach the
minister and find a job, but the person had refused saying that he
was known to the minister.
The plot had been delayed as they had
to look for another person to carry out the assassination the
minister said, quoting the CID officials who were investigating the
During his tenure as Social Services
Deputy Minister, Mervyn Silva, personally welcomed Nawala Nihal at
the Katunayake International Airport.
The Deputy Minister when asked at the
time why he had personally arrived to escort the well-known gangster
to Colombo replied in Sinhala, "Weda apita issaraha dan
thiayanawa ne" (because there is work to be done soon). The
next day he allegedly drove Nawala Nihal south to Matara where the
duo met up with other compatriots who share the same taste for
And so, we can be certain this will not
be the last this country hears of Nawala Nihal. A man, who should,
if justice stands tall, be locked up and the key thrown away. But
that is not how the system works - at least not in Sri Lanka which
continues to foster and breed characters of the likes of Nawala