A war hero's battle with persecution
By Vimukthi Yapa
Some facts are indeed stubborn. A stubborn
fact about a man called Janaka Perera, one
time Sri Lanka Army Chief of Staff and
diplomat turned politician, is that he
evokes extreme responses. A perpetual
newsmaker, he is either loved or hated -
with equal passion.
His sudden appearance in the political arena
has upset many, not just government ranks
but also his own party, the United National
Party (UNP) that is plagued by its own
Perera is a battle-hardened soldier. As
such, despite being a novice, he opted to
cut his teeth in politics by seeking public
office from Anuradhapura, a district he has
no real link to. But the unprecedented
mandate he received, a personal vote for a
decorated officer who has fought many a
fight in defence of territorial integrity,
has paid off.
He has managed to put his main political
opponent Berty Premalal Dissanayake to shame
with a mandate that is almost double. After
a mere 40 days of campaigning in
Anuradhapura, Perera has ended up as the
Opposition Leader of the North Central
Province (NCP) and is now settled in the
Viewed with suspicion
Janaka Perera courts controversy, there is
no denying that. And his aggressive military
persona has often earned him powerful
enemies and lasting friends. Months before
his entry to politics, he was banned from
entering military camps through a special
circular. His Lakjaya Foundation, founded to
assist war affected military personnel and
their families was viewed with suspicion by
the powers that be.
It is in this context that Perera finds
controversy following him and sometimes
During the recent NCP campaign, Perera was
the single candidate who had to deal with
the highest level of politically motivated
violence. His supporters were harassed or
attacked, homes burnt and security personnel
arrested at will.
Today he finds himself surrounded by a fresh
controversy of plotting to assassinate an
The charge goes back to the recent NCP polls
when the original plot was hatched to draw
in Perera to an inescapable controversy that
would prove utterly devastating to his
newfound political career.
According to intelligence sources, there is
every likelihood that over this cooked up
charge of plotting to assassinate a VIP,
that the emergency regulations could be
effectively used to arrest Perera and to
indefinitely hold him.
The beginnings of the 'assassination plot'
are of recent origin. On August 23, the
night of the election, one of Janaka
Perera's vehicles used for campaign
purposes, broke down. During the day, Perera
used it to visit some booths. When the
vehicle broke down, some of Perera's
supporters went to tow the vehicle back.
A snap roadblock
As it was especially risky to leave a
vehicle unattended during an election
campaign, Perera's supporters wished to
bring back the vehicle immediately. But
strangely enough, there was a snap
roadblock, one that created the impression
that it was specially created close to where
the vehicle was.
Manning the roadblock was ASP Vas
Gunewardena who was specially sent from
Trincomalee to Anuradhapura, an interesting
development given the fact that roadblocks
are generally managed by low ranking police
officers, not above the rank of Sub
Inspector. But this one was managed by an
According to Anuradhapura Police sources,
Perera's men were promptly arrested on the
charge that some of them were army
deserters. All six men together with
Perera's driver were arrested.
Soon, it transpired that there were no
deserters and the plot thickened altogether
in a different direction. HQI Sarathprema,
the officer in charge of the Anuradhapura
Police Station after verifying that there
indeed were no deserters released the men.
But he insisted that there were two pieces
of 'unauthorised' radio equipment in the
The HQI insisted that the equipment was very
sophisticated despite the existence of a
certificate for sale and hire, duly
By now, the contentious issue was that two
walkie-talkies and a knuckle-duster were
discovered in the vehicle in police custody.
Further, it is learned that HQI Sarathprema
insisted that there were also a schedule of
VIP movements and suspected that those who
were conspiring to assassinate VIPs were
possibly using the said vehicle.
But strangely enough, the so-called VIP
movements schedule was of UNP NCP chief
ministerial candidate, Janaka Perera's own
campaign schedule and that of his wife. Yet,
when recording a complaint against Perera's
supporters, the police maintained that the
so-called VIP movement schedules included a
name "Mr. Wajira Perera" - the wife of the
Subsequently, the CID questioned the six
Giving the impression that someone is truly
after Perera's blood, it now appears that
there is a serious attempt to implicate not
just Perera but his close associates in an
alleged assassination plot by invoking
emergency regulations to retard the retired
General's political journey.
On September 9, the CID questioned the
driver of the same vehicle, Somapala
Ranaweera. The reason for questioning him
was that he had signed and received the
radio communication equipment on behalf of
Then they began to close in on Perera
himself. On September 10, the day Janaka
Perera took oaths before UNP Leader Ranil
Wickremesinghe as a UNP provincial council
member, he was summoned by the CID for
Adding a sense of drama, just before the
ceremony got underway at Sirikotha, Perera
had an anonymous telephone call from someone
who warned that he should be 'careful.'
"I have never plotted to kill VIPs. That's
the first time I heard about any such. The
sequence of events prove alarming by any
standards," notes Janaka Perera.
Meanwhile, the authorities were also
focusing on the retired Major General's
A Perera loyalist, retired Major N. G.
Chandrasena was singled out next. He was one
of the most attractive speakers and a
reluctant politician on Perera's platform.
According to army sources, Chandrasena's
commitment to the armed forces had been
phenomenal and his credentials incomparable.
Just to give an idea, Chandrasena is a
decorated officer who holds a record for the
highest number of gallantry awards in one
year. He holds two Weera Wickrema Vibhushana
(WWV), four Rana Weera Padakkama (RWP) and
four Rana Sura Padakkamas (RSP), totaling to
10 gallantry medals.
It is he who founded the
School of the SLA in 1990 under the
instructions of President Ranasinghe
In 1996, Chandrasena was awarded the highest
number of gallantry awards for acts of
bravery among the three armed forces and
notable services as a living soldier.
He also holds a PhD from the
John F. Kennedy Special Warfare School
and is the Sri Lankan Representative at the
Centre for South Asian Conflict Research and
was conferred a doctorate in defence and
peace in Sri Lanka.
An unsuspecting Chandrasena on August 27
telephoned Defence Secretary Gotabaya
Rajapakse for an officer. Chandrasena knew
the Defence Secretary fairly well, having
served in the army together.
When Chandrasena explained his request,
Gotabaya Rajapakse has allegedly responded
aggressively. It is reliably learned that
Rajapakse allegedly thundered that he has
received instructions to arrest him (Chandrasena)
and that he (Chandrasena) would not be
forgiven at any cost for going against the
Chandrasena has made a statement to the
police the very same day, on September 9,
claiming that the Defence Secretary
responded to him in an unbecoming and
aggressive manner when an official request
was put forward to him and that he had
serious reasons to fear for his safety.
He further stated to the police that during
the recently concluded NCP election, the
police had acted in a biased and
unprofessional manner by refusing to record
complaints by UNP supporters and not
investigated the recorded complaints denying
He had also referred to several incidents
including the arson attack on Dr. R.A.C.
residence that was demonstrative of the
politicisation of the police force, as no
action had been taken so far.
Chandrasena had further stated that he had
lost confidence in the police force and that
he made a public statement to this effect by
giving a media statement recently, openly
condemning the police for its lack of
commitment to maintain law and order.
He has concluded his statement; "therefore I
believe that there is an imminent threat to
arrest me and to keep me in custody by
fabricating charges that could aid such
Police sources confirmed that the very next
day, on August 28, an official representing
the Intelligence Branch of the Sri Lanka
Police had visited Chandrasena's Nugegoda
office and questioned employees without
obtaining permission to enter from the
proprietor. Chandrasena according to sources
was attending a wedding at the time of this
On September 5, an unknown person had walked
up to him at a function and warned him to
leave the country immediately for his own
It is in this backdrop that he happened to
record a statement with the police, given
that his experiences with the defence
establishment had hit an all time low since
his call to the Defence Secretary.
Questioned by the CID
In the meantime, the reputed security
company that sold the radio communication
equipment to Janaka Perera also had its
proprietor questioned by the CID on Friday,
Meanwhile, an angry UNP feels that Perera is
proving too much of a challenge to a
government that was growing complacent with
its own power.
UNP General Secretary Tissa Attanayake
alleges that having rigged the NCP poll, the
government could not stomach the fact that
Perera received an unprecedented mandate
from the people. Now they want to
incarcerate the man and block his progress.
He is seen as a catalyst for the UNP to gain
popularity and the government fears that, he
"The government manipulated the election. By
doing that, the President robbed the mandate
of the people and Berty robbed the mandate
of the SLFP supporters," notes the defiant
Janaka Perera who feels that he is being
incarcerated and unduly tried with a view to
disrupting his political journey.
Punishment would come
Perera feels that
Anuradhapura, a sacred place where the Sinhala race flourished
and where the Sri Maha Bodhi is found and is
said to be blessed and protected by Lord
Pullayar, punishment would come in a way
that people could see it and understand why.
Meanwhile, all he wishes to add is that it
would be in the interests of every soldier,
sailor, airman and policeman not to have
decorated officers like Chandrasena falsely
"These are respect-worthy officers who have
given life's best years to defend the
country. What is being done to him is a
disgrace," adds Perera, referring to
What needs to be remembered in the ugly game
of politics is that whatever Perera's and
Chandrasena's political beliefs may be, at
one time, when the country needed them the
most, they fought bravely with risk to life
and limb. It is a commitment that should not
be forgotten merely because they have chosen
to be identified with opposition politics.
It is tragic that real heroes like Perera
and Chandrasena have to oftentimes attempt
to clear their names, file legal action and
show defiance when the CID appears utterly
incapable of apprehending the real criminals
in society who roam free. It seems that they
are eager to investigate two radio
communication sets and a knuckle-duster just
so that they please their political masters.
Makings of a 'Gota-po'
Gotabaya Rajapakse, P.B.
Jayasundera and Sarath Silva
By Ranjith Jayasundera
While the battle between the judiciary and
the executive is fast turning into a
simmering pot set to burst at any minute, a
case recently heard in the Supreme Court had
led to Chief Justice Sarath Silva
questioning in open court how the Defence
and Finance Secretaries formed a private
security company for duties that should have
been performed by the army or police.
The case stems from the Defence Ministry's
move in October 2006 to set up a private
security firm called Pramuka Arakshaka Lanka
Limited. The company was formed in typical
Chinthana style, like Mihin Lanka and Lanka
Logistics and Technologies (LLTL), in effect
avoiding the oversight of either parliament
or the Auditor General.
Pramuka Arakshaka Lanka was set up as a
limited liability company with 205 shares.
100 of those shares are held by Defence
Secretary Gotabaya Rajapakse. Another 100
shares are held by Treasury Secretary P.B.
Jayasundera. Defence Ministry Lawyer Mohan
Peiris (P.C.) and four Additional
Secretaries of the Defence Ministry hold one
The company's registered address is that of
the Defence Ministry at 15/5 Baladaksha
Mawatha, behind the Taj Samudra Hotel at
Galle Face. The company's secretary is SLT
Chairperson and LLTL Company Secretary,
The private security industry is one that is
completely dependent on the Defence
Ministry. Each private security firm and
private security guard needs to obtain a
license from the Ministry to operate, and
separate licenses are also required to bear
firearms. This new company, supposedly owned
by the Defence Ministry and Treasury, is
thus in a position to scuttle its
competition towards its own end.
Whether it is a company actually 'owned' by
the Defence Ministry is a yet unanswered
question. When The Sunday Leader contacted
both the Defence Ministry, telephone
operators were unaware of Rakna Arakshaka
Lanka's very existence. More so,
parliamentary approval was never obtained
for the formation of this company and
investment into its shares.
Rakna Arakshaka Lanka Limited (RALL) has
since taken over security at installations
owned by the already cash-strapped Ceylon
Petroleum Corporation, the Hambantota
Harbour and Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT).
It is the manner in which the company took
over security at SLT that saw it brought
before the Supreme Court in July. The
security of SLT installations in the Central
and Southern Provinces was tendered in
November 2006 and awarded to a security firm
named C.P. Lanka. That company was awarded a
three month extension to continue their
services until the end of April 2008, in
order to allow SLT to call a fresh tender as
per proper procedure.
SLT thus opened a tender, L8/01/SEC/2008,
for the provision of security services for
its installations in the Southern, Central,
North Western, North Central and Western
Metro areas. C.P. Lanka and several other
firms submitted bids, and meanwhile SLT had
on May 1 extended C.P. Lanka's existing
contract in writing, by another two months
In early June, the tender was mysteriously
scrapped, and a new tender, L8/01A/SEC/2008,
was called and several companies
re-submitted their bids. The Defence
Ministry's RALL did not submit bids for
either of these tenders. While the tender
board was reaching its decision, SLT again
extended C.P. Lanka's South and Central
Province Security contracts in writing, from
July 1 to August 1. However when the C.P.
Lanka guards had reported for duty at
several Central Province installations, they
were confronted and turned away by employees
of Rakna Arakshaka Lanka Limited, who had
taken over security in the cover of night.
RALL had no contract with SLT and was not a
bidder in any of the tenders. They would in
any case have been ineligible to bid as the
tenders required a minimum of three years
experience in the private security industry
- RALL had none, and was incorporated less
than two years ago.
In a heartbeat, over 400 security guards
working for CP Lanka were unemployed, due to
an arbitrary off-the books decision by SLT
to terminate their employment contract and
give their jobs to a company in which the
SLT Chairperson Chandrasena had a clearly
C.P. Lanka was even harder hit. As per their
contract with the individual guards,
arbitrary termination required that they pay
each of the 400 employees three months
salary, or Rs 15.3 million.
RALL then on July 6, published an
advertisement in Irida Lakbima newspaper to
employ 'junior security officers' for a
company affiliated to the Defence Ministry.
According to court documents obtained by The
Sunday Leader, C.P. Lanka had noticed the
ad, received "reliable information" that SLT
was to sack them from the Southern Province
also, and fearing the worst, filed a case in
the Supreme Court to prevent SLT from
unfairly terminating their contract.
The defendants were Rakna Arakshaka Lanka
Limited, Defence Secretary Gotabaya
Rajapakse, Treasury Secretary P.B.
Jayasundera, SLT Chairperson and RALL
Secretary Leisha Chandrasena, and Attorney
General C.R. De Silva. The lawyer for the
petitioner was Attorney J.C. Weliamuna.
When the case was taken up on July 25, it
was heard by none other than Chief Justice
Sarath N. Silva, who took his rulings on
government excess and corruption to another
level entirely. According to lawyers present
in court, the Chief Justice had been on fire
from the start of the hearing. He warned
President's Counsel Mohan Peiris, who
represented the respondents, that he was
putting himself at risk, as he too would be
made a respondent as a director of the
"You should know where you should serve and
where you should not," the CJ had warned.
"Ultimately you will also be held
responsible for these things." He also
questioned how ministry secretaries could
serve upon the boards of companies such as
RALL. "How can a secretary of a ministry
serve in a business venture in another
capacity?" he is to have asked, eliciting no
response from Peiris.
It was noted in court that RALL was not a
body assigned to any ministry by the
President, and that it did not come under
the oversight of either Parliament or the
Auditor General, and thus was a law unto
itself and the Defence Secretary alone.
Chief Justice Silva also noted that Treasury
Secretary P.B. Jayasundera had resigned from
the RALL board of directors before the case
was filed. Jayasundera was replaced not with
another Treasury representative, but by a
private citizen named Mahinda Saliya
Marukkudeva of Mahabodhi Mawatha, Kadawatha.
With Jayasundera's resignation, the company
was left totally in the hands of the Defence
Ministry with no Treasury or other
government oversight whatsoever. Again in
May 2008, one of the Defence Ministry
Additional Secretaries, Santha Kumara
Sirisena, resigned as a director of RALL,
and was replaced with another private
citizen, Arunthavanathan Ravindran of 2nd
The Chief Justice's most scathing comments
according to lawyers present in court
however, were saved for SLT Head, Leisha
Chandrasena. Silva chastised her on the
immorality of her abusing her position as
state-appointed SLT Chairperson to subvert
procedures and give business to a company in
which she had a vested interest.
When Mohan Peiris cited 'security reasons,'
stating the specially trained and armed
people were necessary to provide security at
these state institutions, the Chief Justice
had snapped back "why don't you give it to
the army or the police?"
"That is free of charge, and it's what the
people are paying for," he noted, no doubt
leading to the question in the public mind
whether a private army was in the making.
The fact that the tender evaluation board
had actually come to a decision to award the
security tender to some of the bidders makes
the move to hand over security to RALL an
even more flagrant abuse of power. An SLT
accounting officer said that the company has
not received a contract from RALL, and no
invoices have been raised as of yet. She
said that they have however been informed
that the RALL guards would have to be paid
Rs 1000 per eight hour shift.
This would require three guard shifts (Rs.
3,000 in wages) per post per day. Before the
Defence Ministry company was brought into
the picture, SLT paid Rs 475 for a 12 hour
shift, and two guards on 12 hour shifts were
able to man a post, costing SLT Rs 950 per
day per post.
Chandrasena's role has thus cost SLT
millions of rupees to no benefit. For
example, before July 1, around 400 guards
from CP Lanka were employed at SLT
institutions in the Central province, to man
200 posts. They were each paid Rs 475 per
day and the posts were manned every day of
the month. Thus the total cost to SLT of
providing security services in the Central
Province was Rs 5.7 million per month.
After Rakna Arakshaka took over, the
schedules were re-arranged for the day to be
divided into three eight hour shifts instead
of two 12 hour shifts. A guard was paid Rs
1,000 for working an eight hour shift, and
thus the cost of 30 days' security services
for SLT in the Central Province from the
Defence Ministry is Rs 18 million - more
than three times what it was previously
Although The Sunday Leader could not obtain
official comments from anyone at SLT, Rakna
Arakshaka or the Defence Ministry to verify
these figures, a group of employed guards we
spoke to also claimed that SLT was charged
Rs 1,000 per shift for their services. "But
this money is not all for us," they said.
"The other companies used to take Rs 50 as
their commission and we would keep the rest.
Now the government one keeps Rs 500 rupees
and we get the rest. We make a little more
money because they charge so much more, but
most of it is not for us."
Two of them were middle-aged ex-army
soldiers whose income was supplemented by
their pensions. One of them was employed at
a Colombo CPC installation and alleged that
several army deserters were also employed by
Rakna Arakshaka and thus were awarded
protection from arrest. "We are not
complaining though. Now we are not fighting
the war, but we are employed for a reason.
One day they will need us and we will be
ready," the veteran said ominously.
The General (Manager) of this 'army' is a
retired army officer, a Major General, whom
the guards we spoke to allege is paid "well
over two lakhs."
The officer in question is Major General
Egodawela, a retired officer with no known
bravery awards in his career, but with
strong SLFP roots. General Egodawela had a
close rapport with the Rajapakse family well
before the 2005 presidential election.
When asked about his achievements while in
the army, officers of his vintage reply
wryly with but two words: Elephant Pass.
This is the man selected by Gotabaya
Rajapakse to run his 'private army,' it was
It is quite possible that RALL can afford Rs
200,000 for a General Manager, since the
company should be running at a phenomenal
profit, if it truly does keep Rs 500 per
eight hour guard shift. From SLT's Central
Province installations alone they would make
Rs 9 million per month; money that for all
intents and purposes, is not subject to any
form of government audit.
After the July 25 Supreme Court hearing, it
was clear from the Chief Justice's
hard-hitting observations and comments that
the case would lead to disaster for Gotabaya
Rajapakse, P.B. Jayasundera, Rakna Arakshaka
and Leisha Chandrasena if it continued.
With the petitioner company, C.P. Lanka,
being a security company and thus dependant
on Defence Ministry issued licenses for its
operation; the Defence Ministry had all the
leverage it needed to diffuse the case. In
addition, one of the directors of C.P.
Lanka, C. Palihawardena, is also supposedly
a school classmate of President Mahinda
With these and other 'Chinthana' style
factors coming into play, C.P. Lanka was
pressured into dropping a case that could
have emerged into a landmark Supreme Court
judgement. Their fear was so great that when
we contacted Palihawardena, he claimed that
he never had any problem with a Defence
Ministry security company, despite a court
affidavit filed by him to the contrary.
Within days of the case being dropped - and
in violation of another contract extension
issued by SLT to C.P. Lanka - Rakna
Arakshaka guards took over control of SLT
installations in the Southern Province also,
denying entrance to the C.P. Lanka
The rationale touted by the Defence Ministry
for running its own private security company
is that it could provide employment for
retired armed forces personnel. This is the
message conveyed to both SLT officers and
the Petroleum Resources Development
However, this is what most existing security
companies do, since these retired soldiers
and officers are the best-suited people to
work in the security industry due to their
training and experience.
The Defence Ministry starting their own
private security company is senseless, as it
in effect allows Gotabaya Rajapakse to
select which former security forces
personnel get the best retirement benefits,
and thus cultivates more loyalty and
cronyism at state expense. The formation of
this company and the abuse of power by
officials such as Chandrasena to employ its
services in state assets when there is a
conflict of interest dramatically increases
the risk of Sri Lanka coming under a
Even when former Deputy Defence Minister
Anurudha Ratwatte was accused of using armed
forces personnel to wreck havoc in Kandy
during the December 2001 parliamentary
elections, there were service records, a
chain of command and some level of
accountability that allowed the public to
find out what happened.
Rakna Arakshaka Lanka has no publicly
accountable chain of command. The government
has already demonstrated its willingness to
deploy state assets and personnel for its
election related and political work. With
the armed forces and police however, there
are limitations on what government cronies
can do, even at the whim of their political
Without a trace
Due to the structure of the services,
policemen and soldiers on the ground have a
plethora of officers to whom they are
answerable between themselves and the
Defence Ministry, making it more difficult
for notorious orders to be given without a
But with this company, the Defence Secretary
has the unrestricted and arbitrary power to
issue firearms licenses to thousands of
ex-soldiers employed by him, and they would
be a law unto none other than themselves
given that the only arms of government who
could control them by law - the police and
the armed forces - also fall under the
Ordinary Sri Lankans need to have a serious
think about whether there is to be any limit
to the power of the executive and whether
they will allow this government to continue
arbitrarily infringing the rights and
privileges of ordinary Sri Lankans.
A monk's arrest that stumped the JHU
Sarath N. Silva, Ven. Pannala
and Suhada Gamlath
By Vimukthi Yapa
The Buddhists of Sri Lanka should perhaps
shed bitter tears for what Sri Lanka has
become and how a section of the Buddhist
clergy, by no means the majority, dabbles in
politics in a way that embarrasses those who
want to believe in the Buddha putras and
consider religion to be above partisan
There is no gainsaying that much of the
Sinhala Buddhists in the Western Province
more than others, welcomed the advent of the
all monk outfit, Jathika Hela Urumaya, and
in the aftermath of the death of Ven.
Gangodawila Soma Thero, considered it timely
that the saffron robed should take up the
Buddhist cause in the political arena and
work towards the preservation of the
Buddhist heritage in a country supposedly
thrice offered to the Buddha.
What the JHU later became is history,
conspiracies and defections causing
credibility crises time and again leading to
immense disenchantment amongst the very
people who voted the nine monks to
It therefore comes as no surprise that the
JHU plays divisive politics even today, and
the much-highlighted recent case of a
Buddhist priest, Ven. Pannala Pagngnaloka
Thero, being arrested for failing to answer
a Supreme Court notice brings this stubborn
fact to the fore.
Sentiments of the
The arrest of the monk no doubt injured the
sentiments of the Buddhist clergy and the
Buddhists themselves, especially when the
likes of Mervyn Silva, his errant son Malaka
and close associate Kudu Nuwan manage to
evade the law at will.
Yet, the attempt of a senior public official
to influence the superior court and the
JHU's unrepentant move to embarrass the
judiciary and forcibly obtain freedom for
the arrested monk is a classic example of
Sri Lankan politics and manoeuvering
Unimpeachable sources confirm that Justice
Ministry Secretary Suhada Gamlath, a devout
Buddhist and a frequenter to Sambodhi
Viharaya, Colombo 7 tried to lobby Chief
Justice Sarath N. Silva to release the
Buddhist monk who was remanded for contempt
of court for failure to answer a notice
With a worried President Mahinda Rajapakse,
the JHU and even individual monks striving
to show that they played the role of saviour
of the arrested monk, it is none other than
Ven. Kusaladhamma Thero's quiet contribution
that eventually paid off.
The drama began on Monday, September 1, when
a Supreme Court Bench presided by the Chief
Justice issued a warrant against Ven.
Pannala Pagngnaloka Thero for failing to
appear in court after being noticed in a
noise pollution case. The Welikada Police
was directed to arrest the monk and he was
Re-remanded the monk
Thereafter, though a bail application was
submitted to court, the Supreme Court
re-remanded the monk and fixed the case for
It is in this backdrop that agitated monks,
instigated by different vested interest
groups organised an ad hoc protest of their
own within the Supreme Court premises on
September 5. The main contribution in this
regard was made by the JHU, wanting to
secure Ven. Pagngnaloka Thero's release at
any cost amidst growing pubic condemnation
for failing to stand by the monk.
It is reliably learned that the President
wished that the JHU monks took up the matter
as the arrest was considered an insult to a
President who projects a strong Sinhala
Leading the monk protest and ridiculing the
judiciary within the Supreme Court premises
was Ven. Rajawatte Wappa Thero, a monk with
strong connections to the JHU.
Inside sources claimed that despite getting
implicated in the sangha fiasco, it was
another Buddhist monk who has broken ranks
with the JHU who originally took up the
arrested monk's cause, though without
political motives. It was none other than
Ven. Galagodatte Gnanasara Thero who felt
strongly about the remanding of the monk who
is also from a neighboring temple and tried
to correct a situation that he considered
might go really wrong.
Urged a show of support
He took the initiative to telephone several
monks in the area and urged that a show of
support was necessary to try and get the
monk released. But some of the monks did not
wish to get associated with a monk now
linked to the opposition.
While Ven. Gnanasara Thero contacted fellow
monks and invited them to gather before the
Supreme Court to march together, it is
learned that it was Ven. Rajawatte Wappa
Thero who tipped off the JHU that there was
growing discontent among the Buddhist clergy
over the situation.
It was a situation the political party was
desperate to seize, given the fact that the
cause for the arrest - the new noise
regulations were introduced by the JHU
itself not long ago. This was to be a face
saving exercise, if any.
The JHU's intervention sadly was to be in
the form of a protest before the Supreme
Court, disregarding conventions and decorum.
Judicial sources said that some of the monks
were denouncing the Roman-Dutch law as they
shouted their refusal to be bound by an
alien law thrust upon the country.
Contempt of court
One may conclude that it was indeed merciful
that the group of protesting Bhikkus were
not charged for contempt of court, though
reliable sources from the JHU itself
confirms that being arrested indeed was
their intention to draw more attention to
the case and portray the monks as a wronged
It was pre-planned that the monks would not
stand up when the judges walked in and it
was hoped that the considerable saffron
robed presence would influence the court to
speedily release the monk, informed sources
The large number of monks who went to the
Supreme Court to show solidarity with Ven.
Pagngnaloka Thero refused to stand up as a
curtsy in keeping with court convention when
the Chief Justice and Justices Andrew
Somawansa and Jagath Balapatabendi entered
The Chief Justice informed counsel for the
monk on that occasion court conventions have
to be observed by every person.
The matter turned sour when despite
protests, the court issued a re-remand order
for non-compliance with notice issued.
Some monks it is learned were also seen
blaming Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva and
criticising his projected image as a strong
Buddhist and associated with Sambodhi
Viharaya, witnesses said.
Also, they were calling for the Malwatte and
Agiriya Chapters to explain the position
with regard to showing respect to the
judiciary and whether or not monks be
compelled to stand up before the court
There is another dimension to the post
arrest trauma. President Mahinda Rajapakse
was none too pleased with the legal
development and felt he would have to take
the blame at some point for what had
transpired. On Wednesday (3) at the cabinet
meeting, President Rajapakse openly worried
about the serious situation that had arisen
following the Supreme Court order remanding
the monk for which he said blame was being
apportioned to him. He felt that people
would happily lay the blame on his doorstep
though the judiciary dealt with the matter.
Re-arrest of the monk
The worried President had his concerns
intensified when the re-arrest of the monk
was ordered due to non-appearance in court
after being noticed.
Desperate times call for desperate actions.
Making a last ditch attempt and trying to
salvage some semblance of respectability on
behalf of the President was Justice Ministry
Secretary, Suhada Gamlath.
The same day the court ordered the re-remand
of the monk, Friday, September 5, Gamlath
hurried to the Sambodhi Viharaya. At the
temple, there was Chief Justice Sarath N.
Silva and Chief Incumbent, Ven. Daranagama
Kusaladhamma Thero in conversation.
Gamlath, according to informed sources threw
caution to the wind and appealed to the
Chief Justice to ensure the speedy release
of the monk which was by now a growing
concern among the Buddhist community. In
turn, the Chief Justice castigated Gamlath
for attempting to discuss a pending case
with him and cautioned against any further
discussions on the same matter.
Soon afterwards, Gamlath reportedly went to
Welikada remand prison with Ven.
Kusaladhamma and paid obeisance to Ven.
Pagngnaloka Thero. The Justice Secretary has
assured that President Mahinda Rajapakse
would do everything possible to ensure a
speedy resolution of the issue and to get
Among those who visited the monk while under
arrest, besides Justice Secretary Suhada
Gamlath was JHU Parliamentary Group Leader,
Ven. Athuraliye Rathana. At the Welikada
remand prison, the JHU monk too had assured
the fallen monk that the JHU would do its
utmost to secure his release. But nothing
came to pass.
By now the matter had become a huge
political embarrassment for President
Rajapakse and the JHU.
Making his stance public was the Maha Nayaka
of the Asgiriya Chapter, Ven. Udugama Sri
Buddharakkitha Thero. The respected monk
came out in support of the Supreme Court and
called for dignified conduct and due respect
Respect the judiciary
Delivering his anusasana at the Asgiriya
Pirivena where an English training programme
was launched by
School, the Maha Nayaka Thero maintained
that both monks and laypersons must respect
the judiciary and its hallowed traditions to
ensure discipline in the country.
The Chief Prelate also said traditions such
as getting up when judges enter a courthouse
or standing up in parliament when the mace
is brought in, should be observed by all
persons including Buddhist monks without
Meanwhile, it became incumbent upon Chief
Prelate of the Sambodhi Viharaya, Ven.
Daranagama Kusaladhamma Thero to play a
significant role in the drama to ensure
Working hard to secure his release through
legal means was the Sambodhi Viharaya Chief
Priest, though no drama was associated with
him and his attempts.
Released on bail
The Chief Incumbent visited the arrested
priest and upon being released on bail on
September 8, brought Ven. Pagngnaloka Thero
to Sambodhi Viharaya.
In the meantime, the President sent a
missive to Kusaladhamma Thero to come over
together with Ven. Pagngnaloka Thero. Ven.
Kusaladhamma Thero politely declined the
offer to meet the President.
In the meantime, it is reliably learned that
the Ven. Pagngnaloka Thero was quite
clueless as to the drama that had unfolded
on his behalf where the JHU had strived to
take political advantage by showing a
significant saffron presence. It is learned
that the monk felt outraged by the fact that
the monk political outfit had taken
political mileage from his predicament.
It has transpired that Ven. Pannala
Pagngnaloka Thero was granted bail based on
his affidavit which explained the
circumstances under which he unintentionally
violated the court order.
It is reliably learned that the priest
pleaded innocence with regard to the drama
that unfolded within the court premises on
his behalf and stated clearly that he had no
intention of disrespecting the judiciary.
The monk, it is earned has apologised to
court and disassociated himself completely
from the disgraceful organised protest by
the JHU monks that was a callous
demonstration of disrespect for the law.
He further stated he did not get a clear
message as to when he was supposed to appear
in court and re-appear.
Without political influence
It is little known that Ven. Kusaladhamma
Thero assisted the monk in this exercise and
to secure release without paying homage to
any political influences.
On the same day came the Presidential invite
for the monks to meet him at Temple Trees.
Having refused once, Ven. Kusaladhamma
decided to go, as the President went to the
extent of sending a vehicle to the temple
requesting a visit. So together went the
Buddhist priests to meet President Rajapakse
at Temple Trees.
While it was Ven. Kusaladhamma Thero's quiet
contribution that eventually paid off and
the arrested monk was released without
outside influence, adding a further twist to
the tale is the fact that the land upon
which Ven. Pagngnaloka Thero has built his
temple is not legally owned by the temple
Informed sources claimed that the President
at the Temple Trees meeting pledged to clear
the legality for the fallen monk and
summoned Urban Development Minister, Dinesh
Gunawardena to Temple Trees at that very
moment and instructed that the matter be
attended to immediately.
Avoid a collision course
It is also learned that it was at this
meeting that possible methods to avoid a
collision course with the judiciary was
discussed and it was suggested that separate
chambers be created in court rooms to have
monks seated until their respective cases
In the meantime, the JHU is now calling for
the amendment of the noise regulations they
themselves created and originally earned the
wrath of all religious communities for
interfering with religious activities. Now
that the legislation had backfired and that
too victimising a Buddhist monk, the JHU is
now busy blaming the Asgiriya chief priest
for his stance that both the clergy and
laypersons should show respect to the
An embarrassed President Rajapakse who
expected the JHU hooliganism to have the
desired effect causing the arrested monk to
be released is likely to have a rethink now.
The arm twisting attempted by the JHU also
backfired, as much as its legislation did.
Needless to state that the constituent
partner's failure, given its immense
Buddhist identity is a massive embarrassment
to the Head of State.
As we record all of the above that led to
the politicisation of a monk's arrest over
violating environmental regulations relating
to noise pollution, let us also not lose
sight of the fact that the initial
regulations, much as the JHU may protest,
oppose and publicly not acknowledge, were
intended to quell the 'noises' that emanated
from other places of religious worship,
particularly mosques during call to prayer.
A classic case
This is a classic case of the only religious
heritage the JHU seeks to protect, namely
the Buddhist heritage also being ridiculed
by others owing to the ill-conceived
political motives of a party steeped in
Strange it is for a party that speaks much
about Buddhist heritage that it should
anyway clamp down regulations, making temple
administrations squirm. And other places of
religious worship suffer in silence.
Such is the embarrassment that the JHU
suffered that it had to hurriedly hold a
press conference to announce that the
regulations would be shortly amended.
The general thinking is that when the
regulations were proposed it had no idea
about the cultural practices in the country
and were roundly condemned by all religious
When politically embarrassed by the arrest
of a monk thanks to regulations that were
created by none other than the JHU, the
party is now having a knee jerk reaction.
And it is pertinent to question whether the
same offer would have been made if a mosque,
a church, or a Hindu kovil were found
violating the law.
And that's the JHU's legacy of misguided
policy making and opportunism, a fact the
devout Buddhists should carefully consider
when they walk into the booth the next time
to elect legislators.
In the end, all the slogan shouting and
attempts to ridicule the judiciary had
proved futile. A quiet monk who legally
sought to help the affected Buddhist priest
has shown the way - that it is not militancy
but adherence to Buddhist living, which
includes working within the legal system
only, that can show results.
Hindu priests will get up
General Secretary, All Ceylon Hindu Congress
and senior lawyer, Kandiah Neelakandan said
Hindu priests would not be reluctant to get
up and pay respect to judges in 'courts of
Neelakandan explaining the special reference
to 'courts of justice' said that it should
be remembered that the respect is not to the
individuals coming on the benches but to the
justices/judges coming in their robes to the
"If that individual is outside court, he
cannot expect the same respect," he added.
Neelakandan added that if anyone
thinks/believes that one should not get up
when the judges come on the bench, such
person should enter the court after the
judges have come on the bench and should
also leave the court room before the judges
A senior parliamentary source explaining
tradition said that the Buddhist monks in
the galleries stood up when the mace was
brought in to commence the legislative
The source explained that the JHU monks who
are legislators disputed this tradition and
they were requested to enter the chamber
after the mace is placed in its bracket and
the Speaker has taken the chair.
"It is a new arrangement. After all, there
is no convention to be guided by," the
Monks sit - JHU Leader
JHU Leader, Ven. Dr. Ellawala Medhananda
Thero said that Buddhist monks were not
required to stand up in court or in
parliament, as there were only three
instances for them to stand up.
The monks should stand up before Lord
Buddha, in reverence of his teaching, the
Dhamma and finally, for a senior monk.
"Nothing else applies to the Buddhist
priests," he explained.
Officials at the National Christian Council
said that Christian religious leaders do
stand up when judges enter a courtroom.
Mervyn - a law unto himself
Construction has begun in the land
in question (inset) Mervyn Silva
By Malaika Fernando
With threats, intimidation and a don't care
attitude for the laws that govern the
country, Minister Mervyn Silva continues to
bulldoze his way through the media, law
enforcement agencies, and has now moved to
allegedly acquire by force, state owned
In continuance of his acts of intimidation,
Silva has allegedly commenced the
construction of a temple complex in a 3.5
acre land in the Mudun Ela area in Kelaniya
belonging to the Sri Lanka Land Reclamation
and Development Corporation (SLLRDC),
without SLLRDC approval.
SLLRDC owns 360 acres in the Kelaniya area -
Vedamulla, Mudun Ela, Manel Gama, Vanavasala
and Dippitigoda divisions. Most of the lands
in the Kelaniya area are maintained by
SLLRDC as part of the Greater Colombo flood
management programme and are considered to
be reserved land.
The land allegedly acquired by Silva by
force a few months back is located within
the Mudun Ela project. The Sunday Leader a
few weeks back highlighted the land in Mudun
Ela being allegedly filled by persons
connected to Silva.
Over three acres of the 12 acre Mudun Ela
land belonging to SLLRDC has been allegedly
encroached upon by Silva to build a temple
complex. Construction on the land has begun
amidst protests from SLLRDC workers who have
even lodged several complaints related to
the issue with the Peliyagoda Police.
SLLRDC officials, who wish to remain
anonymous, told The Sunday Leader that
Silva's supporters in the Kelaniya
Pradeshiya Sabha had allegedly entered the
land by force and taken it over for
construction without obtaining any approval
from the corporation.
SLLRDC had first lodged a complaint to the
police on the alleged entry into the land by
persons affiliated to the Kelaniya
Pradeshiya Sabha on July 30.
The Sunday Leader learns that around 2.15 pm
on July 30, several persons including those
attached to the Kelaniya Pradeshiya Sabha
had attempted to enter the land in Mudun Ela.
When SLLRDC workers at the site prevented
them, they had been informed the land was
being used for a project launched by Silva
with the President's consent.
However, disregarding requests made by
SLLRDC workers, these people had allegedly
entered the land by force and conducted a
SLLRDC had then lodged a complaint bearing
number CIB3 293-300 with the Peliyagoda
During the first week of August, another
group of people had allegedly entered the
land and conducted some religious ritual.
About a week later, construction work on the
land had begun after the laying of the
SLLRDC has lodged two more complaints with
the Peliyagoda Police on the alleged entry
by force to the land without any approval. A
complaint bearing number CIB2 173-206 was
lodged on August 20 and another bearing
number CIB2 205-232 on August 23.
However, when the police had called all
parties for an inquiry on August 28, the
respondents had failed to be present.
After allegedly entering the land by force
and commencing construction work Silva had
in writing requested SLLRDC Chairman for a
3.5 acre land to construct a temple complex.
Silva in the letter had requested for 3.5
acres of the land belonging to SLLRDC near
the Bulugaha junction on the Kandy Road to
build a temple complex as part of President
Mahinda Rajapakse's concept of building
The letter was written by Silva on August 15
and was received by the general manager's
office on August 19.
Interestingly, Silva's request for a 3.5
acre land in Kelaniya to build a temple
complex comes weeks after allegedly
acquiring the land forcibly.
However, following the alleged acquisition
of the land by Silva's supporters, SLLRDC
had decided not provide water and
electricity connections to the construction
Officials from SLLRDC told The Sunday Leader
that following the corporation's decision
not to provide water and electricity to the
site, Silva had approached Urban Development
and Sacred Area Development Minister Dinesh
Gunewardena to intervene to solve the issue.
"Following a 'request' SLLRDC decided to
provide temporary water and electricity
lines to the construction site. However, no
final decision has been made on handing over
the land for the project," they said.
A few days later, SLLRDC Chairman had
informed the Peliyagoda Police to
temporarily suspend the inquiries into the
complaints lodged by SLLRDC on the alleged
entry and construction of a structure by
force on a land belonging to the corporation
as the matter was being 'negotiated between
the parties concerned.'
According to SLLRDC officials, the
corporation was yet to grant any sort of
approval for the temple complex project to
However, regardless of the legality involved
in the alleged forcible acquisition of a
land, Silva and his supporters continue with
the construction work at the Mudun Ela land.
The Sunday Leader that visited the land
witnessed workers engaged in construction
SLLRDC Chairman meanwhile said he was not
aware of any construction work taking place
in the Mudun Ela land as permission had not
been given for any such activity to take
place (see box).
While the SLLRDC is still in 'discussions'
over the issue, construction work at the
land continues, as the helpless SLLRDC
workers stand by, uncertain of the real
position with regard to the land.
Apart from the Mudun Ela land, Silva has
also allegedly acquired land belonging to
SLLRDC in Manel Gama as well as in Vedamulla.
According to SLLRDC, the land in Mudun Ela
consists of 150 acres and was acquired by
the government for a development project.
Workers attached to SLLRDC allege that Silva
with several of his supporters attached to
the Kelaniya Pradeshiya Sabha had forcibly
acquired about 20 acres in Vedamulla in
Kelaniya belonging to the corporation to
commence a "green revolution."
Interestingly, part of the land Silva and
his goons have allegedly encroached on have
been earmarked for a housing project by the
Board of Investment (BoI).
The Sunday Leader learns that the said
housing project would have helped the
corporation earn a sum of Rs.300 million but
the land has now been taken over allegedly
by Silva for 'cultivation' leaving SLLRDC
without any funds.
According to SLLRDC officials, the BoI
project is now on hold till the land falls
However, during Silva's acquisition of
SLLRDC land in Vedamulla, he had also
allegedly encroached on land that has
already been given to several employees
attached to SLLRDC by the corporation in
Former SLLRDC Chairman, Somaweera
Chandrasiri in 2005, following a request
made by the SLLRDC Workers Union to provide
land to its employees who did not have
either a permanent residence or any land had
allocated land in the Vedamulla area to 21
employees attached to the corporation.
Construction goes on
When The Sunday Leader visited SLLRDC land
in the Vedamulla division a few weeks back,
we witnessed the land being demarcated and
separated into small plots and vegetable and
fruit plants cultivated in them.
Another section of the land even had a huge
billboard erected with the pictures of Silva
and President Mahinda Rajapakse and the so
called expressing of gratitude of the
farming community to Silva for allocating
the land for cultivation in line with a
concept initiated by him.
The only assets that bring revenue to the
SLLRDC are the lands owned by it and they
are the main funding source for the
corporation. "It is through leasing out
these lands that we get funds for the
corporation as we do not get any Treasury
funding. It is these earnings that help us
maintain our 1,400 employees attached to
SLLRDC," workers said.
Urban Development and Sacred Area
Development Minister Dinesh Gunewardena when
contacted by The Sunday Leader said queries
on the temple complex being built by
Minister Mervyn Silva in the Mudun Ela area
in Kelaniya should be directed to the Sri
Lanka Land Reclamation and Development
Corporation (SLLRDC) Chairman.
in the dark
Sri Lanka Land Reclamation and Development
Corporation (SLLRDC) Chairman, Karunasena
Hettiarachchi said he was not aware of any
construction taking place in any of the
lands under the Mudun Ela project as the
corporation was still considering a request
made by Minister Mervyn Silva for 3.5 acres
to build a temple complex.
Hettiarachchi told The Sunday Leader that
SLLRDC was not in a position to give land to
any minister, but only to an institution.
However, he said Silva has made a written
request from the SLLRDC for 3.5 acres to
build a temple complex.
"The request is still being considered and
no land has been given to anyone," he said.
When asked as to how construction was taking
place in the said land, if the land has not
been officially handed over to any party,
Hettiarachchi said he was not aware of any
construction taking place in the land in
He added that since the matter was still
under negotiation, SLLRDC has requested the
Peliyagoda Police to temporarily halt
inquiries into the several complaints lodged
at the police by the corporation with regard
to forcible entry and construction on the
Mudun Ela land.
As for the alleged forcible acquisition of
about 20 acres in Vedamulla, Kelaniya by the
Kelaniya Pradeshiya Sabha, Hettiarachchi
said since the land has been used for
cultivation of fruits and vegetables, the
land would be re-acquired once the crop is
"The land has been used for cultivation
under the Api Wawamu, Rata Nagamu concept
and once the crop is harvested, the
encroachers have agreed to move out," he
Hettiarachchi said that since some of the
land allegedly encroached in Vedamulla had
been initially earmarked for a BoI project,
once the land is released, the project would
take off the ground.