The Sunday Leader

A Murderer Turned Politician Let loose to kill again

By Nirmala Kannangara in Tangalle - Pictures by Thusitha Kumara

Sampath Vidanapathirana, Police guard at the resort- picture taken over the closed gates, The Nature Tangalle where the unfortunate incident occured, Kuram Shaikah Zaman, The poster that announced the Christmas party at The Nature and The lawn where Zaman lay bleeding

Sri Lanka’s booming holiday season has been marred by the brutal murder and assault of two tourists in Tangalle on Christmas Eve.
British tourist Kuram Shaikah Zaman was murdered while his friend, Russian national Victoria Alexandrovna, was viciously assaulted during a visit to a tourist resort in Tangalle.
According to the International Committee of Red Cross, Zaman worked in the Gaza Strip fitting prosthetic limbs.
Police say the Chairman of the Tangalle Pradeshiya Sabha, Sampath Vidanapathirana is the main suspect in this case.
The politician allegedly stabbed and then gunned down Zaman, a British national of Israeli origin, on the dance floor of The Nature Tangalle.
An eye witness recalled witnessing the sexual assault of Alexandrovna, although charges are yet to be confirmed by authorities.
The tragedy spells disaster for the government’s ‘Visit Sri Lankan’ campaign which has predicted a tourism boom in the next five years.

Holiday Tragedy

32 year old Zaman and 23 year old Victoria were in Sri Lanka to celebrate Christmas and see the New Year in together in the picturesque town of Tangalle.
Zaman reportedly organized a Christmas party for his friends to celebrate the holiday season at The Nature Tangalle. However what began as an innocent night with loved ones has ended in bloodshed and an international media frenzy.
The suspect Vidanapathirana, who is known to be a close confidante of MP Namal Rajapaksa, allegedly stabbed  Zaman to death at The Nature Tangalle while the victim attempted to settle a brawl  between the politician and a local restaurant owner known as Ryan.
Ryan told The Sunday Leader, “It was around 10 p.m. when Vidanapathirana and eleven others walked into the resort to have some dinner and drinks. I was dancing with two foreign girls”.
“The  altercation began because none of the foreign girls wanted to dance with Vidanapathirana. He and his companions then assaulted me and a brawl broke out. It was at this time that Zaman and his friend rushed to the scene from the pool side. When the British tourist tried to settle the fight, Vidanapathirana attacked Zaman with broken bottles”.
Ryan described the growing intensity of the attack saying, “Zaman and Victoria were cut several times  before they ran for their lives. I watched as Vidanapathirana and his men followed the couple with a T56 weapon and empty bottles in hand. Since I was hiding behind a wall I could not see exactly how the tourist was killed but I witnessed Victoria being dragged away by four men”.
The scene Ryan goes on to describe is a disturbing one, “they stripped and raped her mercilessly although she was bleeding from her head. Later I saw Zaman lying on the lawn next to the restaurant but did not know whether he was dead or alive,” he added.
While running to the beach for safety, Ryan cannot recall who took the injured to hospital or how Vidanapathirana and his men fled the scene.
“I only came back when I heard the vehicles leaving the hotel. When I returned I saw many tourists fleeing the hotel in fear,” he said.
According to Ryan, the police arrived one hour after the incident and all hotel staff were prohibited from leaving or giving statements.
“All those who were in the hotel when the police arrived were held there for three days for questioning,” he said.
Following the attack, the two tourists were rushed to Tangalle hospital where Zaman was later pronounced dead.
Suffering stab wounds to the head, Alexandrovna was immediately transferred  to the Matara General Hospital and later to the Karapitiya Teaching Hospital for an urgent operation. She is now confined to a hospital bed at the Lanka Hospitals in Colombo.
According to the Director of the Karapitiya Teaching Hospital, Dr. Priyani Senadheera, Alexandrovna was brought to Karapitiya for a brain CT scan.
In an exclusive interview, Dr. Senadheera told The Sunday Leader, “The patient suffered a blunt trauma and has sustained a skull fracture. She was immediately admitted to the emergency trauma unit and was taken for an urgent operation. She was kept in the High Dependence Unit of the Neurosurgical Unit until she was transferred to Lanka Hospitals on Tuesday December 27. This was requested by the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Tourist Board Dr. Nalaka Godahewa”.
According to Dr. Senadheera, the Chairman of the Tourist Board made a special visit to the Karapitiya Hospital on Monday December 26, to see Alexandrovna and make arrangements to have her transferred to Lanka Hospitals.
Along with increased care and comfortable quarters, a reliable source from the Karapitiya Hospital told The Sunday Leader that the patient was given a police escort to the ambulance which then transferred her to Colombo.
The care did not stop there. The source explained that, “in addition to the police escort, two uniformed policemen guarded the High Dependence Unit preventing the media from approaching her. Since she is the only person to recall the disturbing incident clearly, the government is trying to prevent her from talking to the media”. The informant wished to remain anonymous.
Sources  expressed their concern to The Sunday Leader, that the Buddhist leaders of this country who observe sil and listen to bana every Poya day are the same individuals who give refuge to the criminals who terrorize civilians and tourists on a daily basis.
All sources including the eyewitness told The Sunday Leader they wished to remain anonymous as they fear for their lives. Each informant willingly spoke to the newspaper  with a desire to educate the people about the true state of affairs in Tangalle over the past few years. For them, Tangalle and Hambantota are becoming the most dangerous cities in the country.
“Tangalle was one a peaceful town. But if things continue this way it will become one of the most dreadful places to live in” they said.
These people live in constant fear that their families will be attacked by ruling political groups who keep a tight reign on information disseminated to the media.
The Tangalle police have also come under fire from residents, accusing them of not arresting the main suspect immediately after the incident even though they were aware of his location.
“The Tangalle police knew where Vidanapathirana was taking refuge, but did not take any action because of his connection to high level political families in the district,” an angry holiday resort worker explained.
“It is jungle law that prevails in this part of the country. Law and order do not exist in Tangalle, Hambantota and other areas in the district. Anyone with connections to high level political families will not be prosecuted after committing criminal offences”.
This explains why Vidanapathirana was released after murdering an elderly woman in Thalunna in the run-up to the 2010 Presidential elections.
Neighbouring resort workers now fear for their jobs in the wake of this incident. It is clear that the attack will prove to be a major set back for the tourism industry in Tangalle and indeed Sri Lanka.
Outraged workers told The Sunday Leader they have lost faith in the Sri Lankan police and judicial systems as politicians consistently skip prosecution after committing some of the most heinous crimes.
“When Vidanapathirana was arrested for murdering an elderly woman, the police submitted a medical  report to the courts stating he was mentally ill. He was later released on those grounds. If Vidanapathirana is mentally ill, why then is he allowed to continue working in politics?”
The question remains as to whether the police will follow the same course of action in this case. Sources told The Sunday Leader that, following Vidanapathirana’s surrender to the Tangalle police on December 26, authorities from the highest levels of government requested  that the officers arrange a comfortable room for Vidanapathirana in the police station.
It is also believed that Vidanapathirana has been directly involved in several other crimes in Tangalle and Hambantota over the past several years.
“Even before he was elected to the  Pradeshiya Sabha, Vidanapathirana had committed many crimes with a pistol that he owned. During the last local government election he damaged UNP MP Sajith Premadasa’s vehicle, vandalized the house of a southern provincial council member and has even threatened his own party members,” sources said.
Meanwhile almost all tourists holidaying in nearby resorts had checked out immediately after the incident.
“Although there were several bookings up to mid-January we are concerned about the growing number of cancellations since then. We had great hopes for the winter season but there seems to be a bleak forecast in the wake of this killing”.
When The Sunday Leader visited the Nature Resort Tangalle, the media were prohibited from entering the premises. However our staff photographer was able to capture photos over the parapet wall. The photographs reveal police on constant guard at the hotel and staff running to hide themselves from being photographed.
When The Sunday Leader visited  Lanka Hospitals to speak with Alexandrovna in the Intensive Care Unit, permission was not granted. The Chief Executive Officer Lakith Peiris spoke to the newspaper over the phone and explained that only Russian Embassy officials are permitted to see her.
“Her condition has improved a lot and she is recuperating. No visitors other than embassy officials are allowed,” he said.
When asked as to why police protection was given to her, he first said  that he does not know but later revealed that it was on request of the Russian Embassy.
“There are three police constables and hospital OICs in the ward. Sources say although the patient is recuperating, she is suffering from a conjunctival hemorrhage in her eye due to injuries sustained to her forehead,” the sources said.
Meanwhile  Police Spokesperson SP Ajith Rohana said that Zaman  died on admission to Tangalle hospital due to fatal injuries to the neck from a sharp object. Rohana says the gunshot injury he sustained to his head was not as serious as the stab wounds which were the cause of death.
“He died due to stab injuries to the neck and according to the JMO’s  report the bullets did not penetrate his skull. The death was due to stab injuries to his neck with a sharp object,” said SP Rohana.
SP Rohana also revealed that although  onlookers recalled seeing a T56 used in the attack, it was not the weapon which was used to shoot Zaman.
According to SP Rohana, six suspects including five main suspects and the driver of the vehicle were remanded on Tuesday December 27 and will remain in custody until January 6, 2012 as ordered by the Tangalle Chief Magistrate.
“They will be produced on January 6 for an identification parade,” he said.
SP Rohana revealed that Alexandrovna has been given full security as she is a key witness in this tragedy. “She was in a terrible condition upon admission so we had to provide security until she recovered sufficiently to give a statement. In addition to this, the patient is a foreigner and there is no one for her in this country. So we provided extensive security for her until she leaves the country. We are not sure what plans the perpetrators have for her if she is left unprotected,” he added.
When asked why the police did not allow media presence at the scene of crime after three full days, SP Rohana said it is general practice to seal off a crime scene until all investigations are completed.
He denied any allegations against  the Tangalle police for providing special quarters to Vidanapathirana. “This is a baseless allegation. When I checked with the Tangalle police I was informed that the main suspect spent the night in a cell with all the other suspects,” he explained.
Meanwhile UPFA General Secretary and Petroleum Minister Susil Premjayantha has said that stern disciplinary action will be taken to reprimand the Tangalle PS Chairman.
“It is not only this instance. There have been several cases he has been involved in since the local government elections. Once the case is filed in court we will appoint a committee to take disciplinary action against Vidanapathirana and all UPFA members who commit crimes,” he said.
When asked why Vidanapathirana was nominated to the party since his arrest and subsequent release from a previous crime, Minister  Premjayantha said he only signs the nomination paper approved by the district leaders and does not know the individuals personally.
Minister Premjayantha told The Sunday Leader, “It is the district leader  who must take responsibility in such a case. I do not however, have any suspicions in this instance, I believe the police will do their job without any prejudice”.
ICRC Sri Lanka Spokesperson Sarasi Wijeratne told The Sunday Leader that Zaman was a dedicated ICRC worker in the Gaza Strip and his absence will be felt terribly.
“We are sure that justice will prevail and the culprits will be punished,” said Wijeratne.
President of the Tourist Hotels Association of Sri Lanka Anura Lokuhetti insisted to The Sunday Leader that this random act of violence must be left behind.
“There is no reason to talk too much about this as it is not good for the tourism industry. These things happen regularly in other countries but are left behind in favour of working towards the betterment of the industry and the country as a whole. This was a horrible incident. We have a duty of care to our guests. Those who were involved in this murder should be punished immediately,” Lokuhetti said.

34 Comments for “A Murderer Turned Politician Let loose to kill again”

  1. Eddy

    This incident is a terrible tragedy alright, may God bless and protect Alexandrovana, and hope for her speedy recovery, but this horrific incident will haunt her for the rest of her life!! Who’s going to pacify her and take responsibility for her status? The Rajapakse Royal family? They are directly responsible for this tragedy, why I say this is, it is the Rajapakse brat,Namal who had given this psychopath murderer PS Chairman Vidanapathirana nomination to contest,and patronage, to unleash mayhem in Tangalle, Susil Premajayanth can not just act, and say, ” I only signs” but we all know that he’s as slippery as an eel, when it comes to accountability!! There are so many psychopaths like Vidanapathirana in the UPFA ranks, one is now hiding in Singapore, one dead, one is in the Holy city of Kelaniya to name a few!! Mr MR, be prepared for more mayhem, and cover up all through your bribe taking lackeys in our judiciary!! ” Asiyawe Ashchrya” My bloody foot!!


    These thugs should be arrested immediately and imprisoned without any delay for this totally unnecessary crime committed by them. This incident is shameful for our country – especially when a person from the International Red-Cross – and moreover a Palestinian – was the victim. In order to weed out thuggery, these thugs need to be jailed for a long time.

  3. Arunachan

    So there we are this Vidanapathirana, is a close confidante of MP Namal Rajapaksa who has just “passed out” as a lawyer. Did Vidanapathirana want to dance with the foreign girls or did he want them to dance to his loony tune? Typical gung ho of some barbarians to attack people with broken bottles and tarnish the good name of our paradise isle. The budding politician cum lawyer should realize that his confidant and stooges face not only murder but rape charges as well and as a self respecting individual will he be associating with such likes in the future. It is also interesting to note that Buddhist leaders of this country who observe sil and listen to bana every Poya day are the same individuals who give refuge to the criminals who terrorize civilians and tourists on a daily basis. I am sure the Buddha must be scandalized to see his dhamma twisted to such obnoxious forms. It is also heartening to educate the people about the true state of affairs in two towns of Rajapaxtan namely and Hambantota which are fast becoming the most dangerous cities as locals who cross the line live in fear of being attacked by ruling political groups let alone foreigners. When Vidanapathirana was arrested for murdering an elderly woman, the police are said to have submitted a medical report to the courts stating he was mentally ill and he was later released on those grounds. If this individual is a lunatic then why is he allowed to continue in politics is the pertinent question. If he remained in politics then he cannot be a madcap. Therefore the police too cannot follow the same course of action a second time.
    Political thugs and hooligans are in actual fact cowards hiding behind politicos after their so-called acts of bravado. Their heinous acts would prove to be a major setback for the “Visit Sri Lanka” campaign in Sri Lanka if remedial is not taken pronto.

  4. valentine

    Duminda junior?

  5. Sri

    When war crimes are possible anything goes with impunity. Tangalle surely rings a bell.

  6. Ajith

    Sadly the responsibilty of such incidents are indirectly related to the highest in the govt. for nurturing, suporting, assisiting, encouraging criminals as politiciens and for protecting them when ever they do a crime. These criminals ideally should have been behind bars decades ago for their crimes but shamefully they are entrusted political power enhancing their criminality with guns, security and with that invincibility of what ever they do. This and several other high profile criminality witnessed recently are the result of political leadership ‘sleeping with such criminals’ !

  7. saman

    People get the leaders they deserve. Although people of Tangalle blame the police for not taking action, it is the same people of Tangalle who voted these murderers in, in the first place. According to information provided, the concerned politician has been involved in nefarious activities for quite a while. Yet, people had continue to support him. Neither the police nor the judiciary can purge this menace off the country. Its the people who can do this. Until such time people vote intelligently, everybody will suffer the consequences. Recall, the famous politician from Kelaniya who was voted in with 3rd highest preferences!

  8. Ranmal

    The nation -mostly youngsters and leaders are sick of sex– that is the main cause of all this mayhem. Religious leaders have a big duty on their hands

  9. Lihini

    This is v. bad…Rajapakshas are loosing it. All the political thugs who commit murder in SL are close friends of the first family. What is going on with you guys? you people should be careful and stay away from these thugs. Better give them justice regardless of the level of friendship. Can’t you see, these guys can’t be your friends. By their actions these thugs are undermining your good name. If you let things go on like this you will have to pay one day. I am not threatening but just stating a fact that would become a reality one day. Power is not eternal, they work in short cycles, if you try to prolong it with undue methods things can backfire.

  10. Ken

    Kill the men and rape the women. sounds familure? it happens to the Tamils all the time. But it never becomes headline news.

  11. Rajani

    when are going to rectify all these mistakes. However, the ruler of this country must take the responsibility. We need a civilian governement rule in this country and not a military or thuggery rule.

  12. Saro

    Murderers turned politicians and politicians turned murderers are many in this government. To name a few : Devananda, Karuna, Pillaiyan, Duminda Silva, Mervin Silva. These converts are comforted by the culture of impunity. Even the LLRC named a very few to impress the international community, but, those at the top who command them will not act except making some arrests but as usual set them free once the publicity fades.

  13. These supporters of the goverment think that they are above the law. They of course have the blessing from the leadership. Our leaders need thungs to carry out their political ambition. In our Bana Repulic there is no law and order. We depend heavily on tourism and I sincerely hope this incident will not tarnish the image of the industry. I wonder if our leaders think about our country.

  14. Punchinilame

    We Sri Lankans must first understand the metamorphosis of a Dictatorship.

    These incidents are nothing – they are the teething troubles and MR + God
    father Gota are aware of it. Only the Mahanayakes/Bishops are naive to it.

    The Sinhala Voter cannot be educated in just in a couple of years what it
    means to be governed by Democracy – let them learn it the hard way, as
    Sinhala Academics dare speak out for their brethren, as Tamils do.

  15. gamarala

    “………………………… was not the weapon used to shoot Saman” has said IP Rohana”.
    How does he know, before the bullet and bullet casings found have been compared, and fingerprints on them have been identified?
    Whose gun was it, and who brought it to the crime scene? There must be many witnesses who can testify about this – this maybe why they are cloistered and are terrified about reprisals if they testify.
    Have all those arrested undergone a Paraffin Test to identify those who have discharged a firearm – so far, this test has been ignored by the police, JMOs & the Government Analyst – though this is a routine test and an essential part of shooting incident investigations, in most countries.
    The JMO has not commented on whether the woman victim was raped or not.
    Usually this is stated in such cases.

  16. perera

    the rajapakses are a curse to this nation

  17. Since a British National was brutally killed by the Ruling Rajapakse family’s
    Thugs who murder, rape & plunder Sri Lanka on a daily basis. It is only
    becausea British National was killed by these Rajapakse Thugs that
    some action is being taken. If Britain thinks for amoment that this Pradeshiya
    Thug of Rajapakse’s will be punished they a sadly mistaken. The only way that justice will be served is if Great Britain does to this banana republic of Lanka,
    the same thing Britain did to Libya. Rajapakse Hooligans who Rule this Country are just like Gaddafi & his son’s. I speak for all decent Lankan’s, when I say the British Government should send an invading military force &
    take over this banana republic; and we the People will do to Rajapakse coolies the same thing that the Libyan people did to the Gaddafi.

  18. Roshan De Silva

    In a country where GENOCIDAL WAR CRIMINALS such as Mahinda & Bros Butchers ruling the Srilanka and almost all Srilankan embassies run by GENOCIDE WAR CRIMINALS, What one expect?????/ Western Tourists must KEEP OUT of the SIN-HELL on earth

  19. Roshan De Silva

    The Killing, of the RED CROSS experienced Officer in Tangalle, is a Pre Planed SRILANKAN MILITARY TARGETED killings of all NGOs, Independent People, Journalists and Human rights activists before and after the GENOCIDE of TAMILS in 2009. This is not an ISOLATED murder, This Murder shows the SIN-HELLa TERRORIST GOTABAYA’s Blood SOAKED Filthy hands.

  20. Piravahan

    Sinhalese should be proud of their leaders. They only rape and kill foreigners as well as tamils girls not the sinhala young girls.

  21. Namal Rajapaksa is trying to follow his fathers footsteps and trying to get Vidanapathirana to be his hit man in Tangalle. Tangalle was once a very peaceful society and most Police Officers who served in Tangalle like former IGP’s and DIG’s mainatin law and order without allowing any exception to political powers. But today Rajapaksa used his powers to cover all crimes in the District and this may become his downfall very soon.

  22. deen

    the people who vote this kind of man must provide them with their wife so the people who vote them will be happy and the politicians will be happy so you have to dicite befour you vote for this politicians

  23. Lanka Liar

    If Karuna,Douglas,Pillaiyan, KP can be allowed to remain free after committing many more murders why you go after Smpath. It is unfair and against Sri Lankan culture.




  26. Yoges

    Sri Lanka is a primitive country that has been for years killing, raping and plundering its tamil citizens with impunity. Off course now they have progressed to killing and raping others like the British with impunity. The world should boycott these barbarians

  27. Lanka Liar

    In most countries humanitarian workers are treated with respect and honour. In Sri Lanka they are targeted and murdered. This is not the first time. What sort of a country is tho?

  28. Lt. Lakmal

    SRI LANKA – The next LIBYA, Foreigners must leave now as Mahinda Rajjafi and clan rules. Moto – change the regime or stay away!!!

  29. Political Ignorant

    What goes around comes around! I think the best way to have erased the root cause of this brawl, stabbing and unfortunate killing is to allow or legitimise prostituition in Sri Lanka. Then these guys have an escape valve! Hey Presto No Trouble. wonder of asia.

  30. S.M

    Lokuhetti, this murder was not done by some common criminal, the news worthy point here is that the murder was done by a politican, who was released after a previous murder, and the murder has been done with impunity. So your claim that it should not be spoken about is Bull Shit.

  31. After the 2009 WAR with the Tamils, the Sri Lanka Government was blamed for the Genocidal Act, which the Government didn’t take it seriously. Assuming that it can get away with any act, at present, it has its way of “solving” its problematic subjects with a new trend. The Balloon is being blown without knowing the “LIMIT”. When the BALOON bursts, others will have a good “SHOW TO WATCH”.

  32. Bruz

    Sri Lankans are good people by nature, but the bad & immoral politicians have spoiled & corrupted them. Impunity,lawlessness,non discipline,allowing thuggery etc are the reasons why all these heinous crimes are taking place. We cannot blame police or security apparatus ,but the politicians who allow crimes & protect criminals for their own power play.

  33. Raja B Dhammiko

    I am sickened by this country’s leaders. They and the opposition should hang, but who do we replace them with?
    That’s why an independent judiciary and a democratic constitution are so important. People need to value these things more than the promises of murderers and thugs. Until they realise this they will continue to elect dictators.

  34. Claude

    “When Vidanapathirana was arrested for murdering an elderly woman, the police submitted a medical report to the courts stating he was mentally ill. He was later released on those grounds. If Vidanapathirana is mentally ill, why then is he allowed to continue working in politics?”

    I can answer this question. Being power-crazy is a pre-requisite to taking up politics. Just look at the content and calibre of Parliament, they are all mentally ill.

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