The Sunday Leader

Justice! — Finally

Nihal Karunaratne: The bad cop at his quintessential best

By Frederica Jansz

The hackneyed phrase is certainly clichéd but everybody as the saying goes has a day of reckoning. Some more so and more public than others. This was never more evident than on June 29, this year when Former President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s security chief was jailed for four years by the Kandy High Court.

Deputy Inspector General Nihal Karunaratne was sentenced to four years imprisonment in connection with threatening a police officer and interfering in his duties during an election campaign in 2001 when Kumaratunga’s party lost the parliamentary election.
The courts also imposed a fine of Rs. 50,000 on Karunaratne. He was accused of threatening the Officer in Charge of the Hanguranketha police.

Nihal Karunaratne in December 2001 burst into the Hanguranketha OIC’s office and allegedly threatened to kill and hide him, if he supported S. B. Dissanayake who was then contesting from the UNP.

The Sunday Leader has previously highlighted how then President Chandrika Kumaratunga herself gave approval for the purchase of the 9 mm pistols by Monaro Security, one of which was found in the possession of a PSD man arrested in Maturata on an alleged conspiracy to cause mayhem in S.B. Dissanayake’s Hanguranketha electorate on December 2, 2001.

The Presidential Security Division men were arrested together with the Monaro Security team on December 2, by the Maturata police after an exchange of fire. One of the 9mm pistols purchased by Monaro Security on November 29, consequent to the approval granted by the President, was found fully loaded in the possession of a PSD official during the confrontation. The ammo was from the PSD.

While Nihal Karunaratne held sway, wielding enormous influence in his capacity as chief of the PSD, alleged incidents of violence, assault, robbery and even murder were hushed up.  Top cops were told to lay-off, police inquiries were stopped and the law ignored in order to shield a presidential favourite.

Last week The Sunday Leader in its popular column the Nutshells wrote how Karunaratne’s wife had in a desperate attempt at intervention telephoned her husband’s former boss Chandrika Kumaratunga repeatedly, attempting to plead for her intervention. But Kumaratunga did not even deign to come to the phone.

If nothing else what this proves, or brings to the fore, is that those who choose to function against the grain, compromising and sacrificing all norms of principles, ethics and decent behaviour, as only a common thug would do, convinced his political masters will always protect and shadow him – then Karunaratne must serve as a damning indictment on those who continue in similar vein today as he did during CBKs period of office.

On page 1 today we also highlight the case of Anuruddha Ratwatte. Indeed, these are days of reckoning… bringing to book these political masters and goons of yore who must now face the wheels of justice. Again, to use another hackneyed phrase – better late than never.
The Sunday Leader in 2002 also wrote how Nihal Karunaratne, at the time Director, Presidential Security Division (PSD) uttered raw filth at Inspector S. Samudrajeewa from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) which made even the hardened cop balk.

Karunaratne abused Samudrajeewa in gutter language from his hospital bed as the CID cop attempted to place Karunaratne under arrest on April 2, 2002. His mouth curling, Karunaratne was overheard issuing a death threat.  ‘I have not killed yet,’ he said, ‘but this time before I am taken in I will kill at least three people.’

Removing an officer

Telephoning his boss, President Chandrika Kumaratunga, Karunaratne complained bitterly, demanding the President remove IP Samudrajeewa from the CID team which had arrived with a warrant for his arrest. Kumaratunga duly obliged.
Thereafter he telephoned the then Acting Inspector General of Police (IGP) T. Anandarajah. Kumaratunga ordered the sitting IGP to remove Samudrajeewa from the hospital where Karunaratne lay in fury.  Her demand was quickly acceded to.

Karunaratne’s fury with Samudrajeewa dates back to the days of Baddegana Sanjeewa. On one occasion during the time Samudrajeewa was OIC Crimes at the Peliyagoda Police he had one day received an anonymous phone call giving him a telephone no of 872920 and an address at Duva Road, Pitakotte.  The caller informed the cop that some underworld figures could be found at this residence.  Summoning a special police team, Samudrajeeva arrived at the given address and stormed the house.

Inside sat Capt. Ranji, a well-known underworld thug from Negombo. The police also recovered four pistols and some hand grenades. The cops however were astounded to find that the owner of the house was none other than PSD Police Sergeant Baddegana Sanjeewa.
Sanjeewa had insisted the cops should not arrest Capt. Ranji and had quickly telephoned PSD Chief, Karunaratne.

Karunaratne lost no time in driving himself to Sanjeewa’s home and tried to stop the Peliyagoda police from arresting the underworld thug. Samudrajeeva however was determined not to bow to pressure. Despite both, Karunaratne and Sanjeewa being members of the PSD, the cop insisted on carrying out the arrest.

The case was later transferred to the CID and died a natural death. Samudrajeeva was transferred out of Peliyagoda and ordered to report for duty instead to Vavuniya.
This is the grudge Karunaratne bore against Samudrajeewa, who having served out his punishment posting in Vavuniya was later instated at the CID.

Media attacked

Prior to these incidents, on July 15, 1999, a group of media personnel covering a UNP led protest rally at Dharmapala Mawatha, Colombo 7, were attacked by baton wielding persons.  The press photographers assaulted in the incident and robbed of their cameras and cellular phones had identified members of the PSD as being the assailants.

Despite all of this, Chandrika Kumaratunga on April 10, 2000, in her capacity as Defence Minister presented a Cabinet Memorandum seeking approval to exempt Nihal Karunaratne from sitting the Efficiency Bar Examination but be promoted to the rank of Superintendent of Police. ‘A promotion which he richly deserves,’ the President wrote.

But then in a bizarre, but predictable twist of events, the former heavyweight of the Presidential Security Division in 2002 when quizzed by sleuths attached to the Criminal Investigations Department, said that all his former actions had been carried out on the orders of President Chandrika Kumaratunga.

Karunaratne’s attempt to absolve himself from all blame, followed hot on the heels of Kumaratunga having accused Karunaratne of being a weapons agent for the LTTE.

Only too willing to then spill the beans on his former boss, Karunaratne disgusted and angry at the President’s betrayal ranted and raved at how he had risked his life and limb many times to safeguard hers, insisting  he should have been treated better, and did not deserve being publicly slated.

Not only did he implicate Kumaratunga in his confessions to police, but Karunaratne also named former Defence Secretary Chandrananda de Silva and Presidential Secretary, Kusumsiri Balapatabendi, who he says manouvered many a ‘deal.’

Karunaratne’s statement was recorded on May 6, 2002 in connection with his presence and that of other members of the PSD at the scandalous election held to elect a president to the Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka in 1999.

The violent election has video footage of Karunaratne being present together with other armed PSD personnel during an ensuing fracas that broke out.

Karunaratne has told the cops that his presence at the BCCSL that day was on the orders of President Chandrika Kumaratunga who had ordered him and other members of the PSD to give protection to her uncle, Clifford Ratwatte who was contesting the election against former BCCSL President, Thilanga Sumathipala.

He told police that his presence at the BCCSL in 1999 was after the President had confided to him that she was expecting trouble to erupt and appealed to Karunaratne to take care of her uncle Clifford Ratwatte.

Clifford Ratwatte at the time was resident at Temple Trees where the President too lived and worked from. Defending his presence at the BCCSL that day, Karunaratne said he was only carrying out his duty.

At the time “I was tasked to provide security to the President and her immediate family which included her son, daughter, uncle and aunt who lived at Temple Trees,” he stated.
He denied getting involved in any of the fisticuffs that followed during the disgraceful melee, however admitting that former PSD officer Baddegana Sanjeewa and other PSD officers had also been present at the BCCSL fracas.

“CBK A Turncoat” — Nihal Karunaratne

Disgusted with the manner in which Kumaratunga has publicly slandered him,  Karunaratne charged that it is pure selfishness on the part of the President and others that makes them such turncoats.

Having safeguarded Kumaratunga’s life by putting his own life in danger, Nihal Karunaratne expected gratitude. Instead, Kumaratunga even accused him of conspiring with the Tamil Tigers together with Dhammika Perera.

Karunaratne’s and Dhammika Perera’s friendship goes back to the time when Dhammika Perera wanted to open Bally’s Club at Colpetty junction. Perera ran into opposition when the then OIC for Colpetty, Earl Fernando refused permission. Henry Attanayake who had been contracted to serve as manager of this club then approached PSD Chief, Nihal Karunaratne.

The permission was received in record quick time and Bally’s was open for business to foreigners only.

Also in 2002, Karunaratne made two anticipatory bail applications. The first was made on Wednesday, May 8 and the second on May 9. The first application was in connection with his involvement in the assault on The Sunday Leader Editor, Lasantha Wickrematunge and his wife Raine, in 1995. Bail was not refused but his passport was impounded by the Gangodawila Magistrates Court.

The evidence implicated Nihal Karunaratne, who according to the confessions made to police had allegedly organised and planned the assault together with former media advisor and film star Sanath Goonetileke.

26 Comments for “Justice! — Finally”

  1. Tiny

    Pleasing to note a rare guilty wordict of some one who has so much power to create mayham.

    There are many hundreds of similar not only from past regimes but also more importantly present regime.

    Not only these wordicts are needed but also publicity given to them, to restore some confidence in judiciary which had been recognised as one of the most corrupt institutions.

    There will have to be many more such guilty pleas even to scatch the tip of the iceburg !!

  2. i. s senguttuvan

    There was a time when the Police protected the people from criminals and injustice and the Police station was looked upon as an institution where justice can be expected. But it is the other way around today. In many instances the people have to be protected from the Police. The Karunaratna saga is just one of many thousands. Today, when a citizen goes to the Police station on legitimate business he does not go alone. He/She takes relatives or friends along, just in case?? And yet some of them return in coffins while the more lucky ones come out with broken limbs and signs of torture. Even Sinhala people fear to go to the Police station. One does not need to talk of the Tamil fate, as it is all too well known.

    That is what Sri Lanka has come to now. What is called a Failed State is not one that breaks into pieces right in front of your eyes. But one in which the rights of the people, the decency that society is known for gradually withers and dies.


  3. Bimal Perera

    Very interesting Article. A classic eye opener for masters and goons of politics of current times. Good and bad may be interpreted as it is or vice versa at the circumstantial individual needs of the lawmakers.
    Nevertheless philosophical or religious teaching on good and bad stands unchanged irrespective of the situation or the character of lawmakers.
    It’s the same theory scientifically proved by Newton “with his invention of equal and opposite reaction theory”.
    Yes it said to be “The old sins cast long shadows”.
    I am a great admireer of you courage, style and explosiveness that filled the long lasted vacuum in Srilankan journalism.
    Still for all if you could simplify your language, avoid uncommon, abnormal terms and phrases, your message dissiminated to a greater proportion of the masses with what you really wanted to pass across and not otherwise. It improves the quality of article. True meaning of some of the terms and phrases here do not seem rightly used.

    • garawi

      Frederica is an experienced journalist and an editor of a leading news paper in Sri Lanka. She knows how and what to write! I do not see any complication in the article. It is quite simply written and anybody who read standard English should have no problem understanding it.

      The contents of the article are very interesting. But I have a gut feeling that the punishment went ahead without presidential interference here because Karunaratne was a Chandrika supporter. Grudge! Reflecting back on the case where an SLIIT student was kidnapped and beaten by a MR supporter police high up’s son and the family and how the judge who remanded the officer was transferred from Gangodawila courts does not make me feel hopeful at all, at the justice becoiming neutral in the future !

    • BASH

      The very people who have taken oath to protect the public are allowed to harras torture or kill them… what a state of lawlessness.. this shows that the government cannot manage the country justly and obviously the UN is trying to interfere as a result…. where can the people who are being harassed or tortured go to if not for the UN and why are are we calling them traitors, first the govt should manage the country justly

  4. Psycho

    Now you see that my Hero MR & Co are catching all these thugs and bringing them to justice.

    • Concerned Citizen

      There is a day of reckoning for all the sins one commits. It will dawn for the wrongdoer whether he be beggar or king. Your hero MR & Co. have nothing to fear if they have no skeletons in their cupboards.

  5. CGR

    If at all, this should have come long time back but why now..? The editor knows why and we too know why. Has she taken the contract like she did in white flag? MR wants to increase number of times of President in office. So CBK wants to try again. Now this is the start to make her not to and FJ has cut the deal in style like she did to SF we all know. God bless you Lasantha.

  6. Ralph Herft


  7. nizam

    Well said Ralph.. So when is the time for Chandy Raaja family members?

  8. Samarasinghe

    When I read this I am wondering what CBK had wriiten to the president recently about her family background and how well she was brought up; well your column answers this. The Bandaranayake family started the rot and since then has been the curse of Sri Lanka. Father started the Sinhala only crap, mother took away the property from those owning in excess of 50 acres (whilst saving their’s) and nationalised all well to do private enterprise and the daughter finished with corruption and thuggery. Hope the bleeding lot never ever come back again.

  9. Edison

    This is not only delayed justice but also diversion tactic.Is the kettle calling the pot black? Pathetic…

  10. roger dissanayake

    All the former Presidents, Prime Ministers,ministers,mps and other government officials who have screwed up our Democratic System to enhance their authority and power should be brought to Justice and hanged in public. This should be a lesson to Rajapaksha and his cronies too. Beware and wait for your time.






  12. N.C.Wijeratne

    Good start to this type of crimes! Lets make a list of all the other incidents of this nature including those that are much more serious than this-like the case of Lasantha Wickrematunga-Is the Poice hiding some investigations? Or is it that under the new rule of Law-these are not considered crimes.Or has the Attoyney Generals Dept. closed the doors on one side of crimes-and opened the doors wide on the other side of crimes? Is that what we call the rule of LAW?

  13. Geronimo

    What goes round, comes around. These chaps ruled the roost at one time little aware that someday it will be pay-back time for them. Their arrogance knew no bounds at that time,remember? Retribution catches up with you no matter what, when or where. Present leaders, beware. It will catch up with you too, mabe sooner than later. Dear God, make it sooner!!

    • BASH

      More important for the stooges of the present regime, who think no end of them selves…. beware… will have to face justice at one point or the other

  14. Banda

    Hey, are we seeing it right ?

    Has Justice in SL working again even if it is in fits and starts ?

    Hooray !

  15. Yohan

    Justice delayed but delivered. The present regime will have much more to face and will not be able to escape the country , since they will be hunted down there too by the International criminal court. All corrupt deals should be bought to light and punished.

  16. Peter Casie Chetty

    Extra judicial gossip that can be challenged. Fredrika you should be able to susbstatiate all these statements if you know the laws of journalism.The word “Cops” is as gutter gutter language as any and I suppose Methodist College allowed you to use Burgher Creole as spoken English.

    • BASH

      We knew most of these incidences while it was happening and this DIG was acting as though he was above the IG…… this is JUSTICE SERVED though 4 years imprisonment is not adequate for the crimes committed.

  17. raj

    We applaud when an ex-Prez’s top cop is punished. When will the current one’s cronies be punished? Do we have to wait for eight or ten years ? Why do we object to an UN panel for war crimes ? Are we afraid of justice ?


    chandrika kumarathunge made a mess out of this country. nothing good about her to be written in the future. she pushed the country backward as much as possible. this guy paid dearly for her sins. good lesson. do not follow fools like chandrika. alway stand for the right and justice.

  19. Genaraala

    Why not re investigate Joel Pera murder case too. The country knows who the muderes are!!

  20. charith

    Another good one by Fredrica.
    But I cant see any changes to these things even during MRs stay. (Cannot understand why MR phoned Mrs Kathriarachchi, while husband has been remanded for murder.Very near future he also will be released.??? despite the court decision.

  21. chris


    Are you Sam/Sriyaratne from Kegalle?


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