23rd December  2001, Volume 8, Issue 23

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SPOTLIGHT

spotlightpic1.jpg (12116 bytes) 'Operation Scapegoat' on Katunayake attack

By Frederica Jansz

The devastating attack on the Sri Lanka Air Force Base and Airport at Katunayake on July 24, this year, resulted in most Sri Lankans calling for the blood of senior SLAF officers.

Shocked by the scale of the attack, it was not Vellupillai Prabhakaran - the mastermind behind

this operation - the people wanted. Instead, the public brayed for senior SLAF officers including the Commander of the SLAF to be held accountable and responsible for failing completely in their duty to protect a vital air base and the country's single international airport.

The Sunday Leader today has found that personal and petty relationships between senior officers of the SLAF, led to the LTTE's spectacular strike on the SLAF base at Katunayake and the Bandaranaike International Airport emerging as one of the single most successful operations carried out by the terrorists.

Air Commodore, R. A. Ananda, at the time of the attack was the Base Commander for the Sri Lanka Air Force base at Katunayake. Less than five months after the attack, on December 6, 2001, Cmdr. Ananda was terminated from his services to the Sri Lanka Air Force. The directive was issued by President Chandrika Kumaratunga and conveyed to Cmdr. Ananda by SLAF Commander, Air Vice Marshal Jayalath Weerakkody. The decision was made consequent to an investigation carried out into the terrorist attack on the air force base and airport at Katunayake on July 24, this year which held Air Commodore Ananda completely and totally accountable for failing to do his duty.

Many sides of the story

While few would dispute the fact that Cmdr. Ananda must indeed be held responsible for the manner in which the LTTE penetrated a key defence establishment - apparently catching an entire camp of military personnel off guard - there is always not two, but three sides to a story.

The public so far has been informed of the LTTE's plan of operation in carrying out this devastating attack and details of the incident including eyewitness accounts from independent members of the public, SLAF officers and officials at the BIA.

The one aspect of the story which details the SLAF high command are attempting to hide is the failure of top SLAF officers, including the Commander of the Sri Lanka Air Force to protect not only the base camp but more importantly, the precincts of the Bandaranaike International Airport and unarmed civilians.

It goes without saying that the only reason there were no civilian casualties that disastrous morn is because the LTTE chose on its own volition not to target civilians.

A military court of inquiry following the debacle has found that these men of service, failed in their duty to review the defence plan on the SLAF base at Katunayake and initiate adequate tactical measures that could and would have countered a terrorist attack.

It is a fact that 80% of the SLAF's air strength is housed at the Katunayake base camp. It does not take a regimental officer to garner the importance of such a camp. A mere novice with a basic ingredient of commonsense could evaluate the vital and strategic importance such a base would be for terrorists.

Devastation

The tragedy of the situation was the devastating attack at Katunayake on July 24, this year. Commodore R. A. Ananda, trained as an administrative officer in both Pakistan and Israel, a fellow of the Royal Institute of Explosives Engineers and Base Commander for the SLAF camp at Katunayake has been axed and held culpable for the attack.

Yet, ten other senior SLAF officers based at the Katunayake camp have escaped disciplinary action.

In fact, this report compiled by the SLAF's own Chief of Police, Air Vice Marshal Vijitha Tennakoon will probably gather dust on a shelf before suitable action is enacted against any of these men with the exception of Air Commodore Ananda.

In this report, it has been observed that while Cmdr. Ananda has failed in his duty - so has the Director of Operations SLAF, J. L. C. Salgado, under whose command the security of the Bandaranaike International Airport is handled and overlooked.

Tennakoon has observed that Director of Operations, Air Commodore J. L. C. Salgado, failed to scrutinise and detect the shortcomings in the defence plan and its execution of the base and the BIA.

The Sunday Leader reliably learns from senior SLAF officers at the Katunayake base camp, that Air Commodore Salgado had not visited this camp for the last one year before the attack in order to review shortcomings in the defence plan which came directly under his purview.

Salgado also never conducted any meetings or conferences with his men to discuss and evaluate the ground defence situation at the SLAF camp in Katunayake during the year 2001 until, the camp was attacked.

Despite this astounding revelation, Salgado received only a reprimand from his Commander in Chief, namely President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga for having failed in his duty. He has now been nominated for a scholarship in the United States - a study programme that will be entirely state sponsored.

The buck goes around

Air Commodore Salgado in fact carries far more responsibility than Air Commodore Ananda, as the former is responsible for both the SLAF base camp at Katunayake and the BIA. Salgado is in fact second in command - next to the SLAF Chief.

Following orders and directives issued by Salgado, Wing Commander Buvanaka D. Abeysuriya is the man on ground, in charge of security operations at the BIA.

Wing Commander A. M. de Zoysa, staff officer operations 2 serves under Abeysuriya and Salgado and is also in charge of handling security operations for the BIA. None of these men have been held accountable for what happened on July 24, this year, when the LTTE not only attacked the SLAF base but the airport and six commercial aircraft belonging to Sri Lankan Airlines on that fateful day.

Tennakoon's very comprehensive report on the attack also names Flying Officer S. W. W. D. K. Edwin, in charge of the armoury, as having abandoned the armoury when the camp was under attack. Edwin has also been found guilty of making a false statement thereafter while under oath. It is not known what action, if any, has been taken against this man whose actions can only be described as being those not of an officer and a gentleman but a despicable coward.

Wing Commander R. A. N. R. Ratnayake, is in charge of the ground defence at Katunayake. Ratnayake is lame and permanently confined to a wheel chair. A sick man who spent most of his time at the Ratmalana Base Hospital receiving treatment for his feet, Ratnayake on March 29, this year, requested for retirement from the SLAF. His request was not granted by Commander Jayalath Weerakkody. Instead, Ratnayake was retained, despite his physical disability, as Head of the Ground Defence at the SLAF camp Katunayake.

The many who failed

The other senior officers named in Air Vice Marshal Vijitha Tennakoon's report as having failed in their duty to safeguard the SLAF base camp and airport at Katunayake are: Squadron Leader I. D. R. D. Pituwalgoda, Squadron Leader W. R. S. Fernando, Pilot officer A. K. D. Chandanakumara and Squadron Leader Y. H. R. Y. Dissanayake.

Former Air Force Commander, Air Vice Marshal, Harry Gunatilleke when asked for his comments on the report submitted by Vijitha Tennakoon said while Commodore Ananda too has to take responsibility for what happened to the base, reiterated, "I know for a fact from the BIA side there is an airforce officer attached by the SLAF to manage the BIA. In this respect Ananda is totally absolved from any attack to the BIA despite the fact the terrorists entered from the SLAF camp area. The directorate of operations at SLAF is responsible and totally accountable for the security at the BIA."

Air Vice Marshal Vijitha Tennakoon's report states that Commodore Ananda is culpable for having primarily failed to review the defence plan on assuming command after proper tactical appreciation.

Commodore Ananda in his defence said, "My branch is administration. There are experts and specialists to overlook the ground defence and ground operations. The expert I was given was an officer who was lame and crippled. With regard to the defence plan this is the direct responsibility of Wing Commander Ratnayake who because of his physical disability spent most of his time at the Ratmalana Base Hospital undergoing treatment for his feet. In nominating a man of Ratnayake's caliber to such a vital post, the appointing authority of the SLAF should be held responsible. Ratnayake was not my choice."

The other criticism levelled against the base commander by Vijitha Tennakoon is that the former failed to prepare a proper defence on the perimeter (or the 'P' sector, namely the peripheral section).

Commodore Ananda pointed out that as far back as 1999, in writing he informed both the Air Force Commander and Director of Operations the weakness he had observed on the 'P' sector. "This letter was however ignored by my commanding officers," he said, adding that no action was taken.

In fact, seven months before the devastating attack on the SLAF base and airport at Katunayake this year, Air Cmdre. Ananda on January 19, 2001, in writing to Director Operations Sri Lanka Air Force Headquarters (SLAFHQ) and Chief of Staff SLAF requested defence equipment to safeguard the SLAF base at Katunayake.

Cmdr. Ananda noted in this letter to SLAFHQ that in order to safeguard the SLAF base at Katunayake an efficient internal security flight, a jungle rescue flight and defence/jungle rescue internal security equipment was urgently required to fulfill the task in an emergency.

Commodore Ananda's request was ignored. Ananda was appointed as base commander to the SLAF camp at Katunayake on January 8, this year. His request for additional defence security equipment was made eleven days later.

On February 2, 2001, Cmdr. Ananda wrote again to Air Vice Marshal Jayalath Weerakkody and to the Director of Operations SLAF J. L. C. Salgado. In this letter, he informed them both of a serious lack of proper security lighting at the SLAF base in Katunayake.

This time, Cmdr. Ananda wrote that a survey had been carried out by the Officer Commanding Defence, the Officer Commanding Station Service and the Officer Commanding Works on the present security lights and street lamp system at the Katunayake base.

The Katunayake base commander on this occasion informed his commanding officers that it had been observed during this survey that certain areas of the base are in total darkness. He wrote that in addition, dark areas exist between the existing security light system as well as street lamps. Furthermore, that several street lamps and security lights are unserviceable.

Cmdr. Ananda attached a master plan indicating the sections at the SLAF base in Katunayake, which required new security and street lamps to be installed. He stated that the security lighting system needed to be upgraded in order to improve and help clearly illuminate camp security. This letter too did not receive a reply.

Bad desicions

Evidence revealed in the report submitted by Air Vice Marshal Vijitha Tennakoon states that according to statements recorded by airman at the base, the SLAF Commander prior to the attack on July 24, this year had visited the base. During this inspection, Jayalath Weerakkody had allegedly instructed the ground defence officers in the presence of the base commander to turn the security lights inwards instead of outwards - thereby placing the entire periphery of the Kafir and helicopter squadron area in darkness.

Air Commodore Ananda said that Air Vice Marshal Weerakkody even instructed him to remove the barbed wire fence around the base at Katunayake. Ananda claimed that the SLAF Chief had wanted the SLAF base at Katunayake to resemble the Hichum Air Force base in Hawaii which the commander allegedly after a visit had said does not have any barbed wire fences or trees.

Meanwhile, Air Commodore R. A. Ananda was Base Commander at the SLAF base in Katunayake in 1999 too. He was moved out for a short period when he had to undergo a heart bypass surgery. Before his illness, as far back as January 7, 1999, Ananda wrote to the Commander of the SLAF, Air Vice Marshal Jayalath Weerakkody, informing him of the unserviceable state of the camp perimeter fence at the SLAF base in Katunayake.

Loop-holes

In this letter he wrote that the fence from the main guardroom towards the sewage farm, is broken extensively at the storm water canal exit and again behind the old Base Commander's bungalow. It is pertinent to note here that it was through this exact point that the LTTE entered the SLAF base on July 24, this year.

Ananda further wrote that he had serious concerns about the sorry state of the perimeter fence from Kadirana point (along church-yard) upto the "H" area. He wrote that this section is totally unserviceable. The 'H' area is the section, which houses the Kfir jets for the SLAF.

The base commander added that numerous holes 'large enough for a man to cross exist in the fence' from No. 2. Barrier up to the main guardroom, (bordering Welaboda road). He pointed out that a serious security breach had been observed along the fence from the sewage farm up to barrier No. 4 where he said there are three locations where three storm water drains exit the camp premises, which are not obstructed at all by any form of security.

He stated that along the fence from barrier No. 4 up to Kadirana point, there is one storm water drain exiting the camp which is also not obstructed by any kind of SLAF security.

He noted that all these places, "offer excellent avenues of approach to the LTTE, to gain access into the camp." Cmr. Ananda reiterated in this letter that, "It is not sufficient to have strong vulnerable area defences only, and allow the enemy to come close to these areas. They must be stopped as far away from vulnerable areas as possible. In this respect, the perimeter fence being the first line of defence, does not afford any protection to the camp, and its present condition."

This letter too, Cmdr. Ananda says was ignored and not replied by SLAF Commander Weerakkody or Director Operations, Salgado. Another letter on January 18, 1999 requesting for the shifting of intruder detection systems and improved security lighting for the area housing the Kfir jets was also ignored by the high command at the SLAF.

On February 11, 1999, Air Cmdr. Ananda wrote for the umpteenth time to the commander of the SLAF that there is also an acute shortage of gunners to secure operationally vital air assets at Katunayake.

Sharks get away

He noted that at the base where 80% of the SLAF offensive air capability is based, only a meager number of 127 gunners have been allocated to safeguard these vital air assets. He noted that even the area, which houses the helicopters for VVIP's is also inadequately protected. His plea to allocate a squadron strength of ground combatants to guard these areas 24 hours of the day, 365 days of the year to be made available in addition to the present strength of 127 gunners fell on deaf years.

The Sunday Leader now learns that Air Vice Marshal Vijitha Tennakoon was refused an extension of service on November 6, this year soon after he had concluded his inquiry into the attack and submitted a full report. In this report, Tennakoon found not only Ananda, but ten other senior SLAF officers and 26 senior and junior non commissioned officers guilty of having failed in their duty.

Of the 26, nineteen servicemen have been interdicted from service together with Air Commodore Ananda.

The bottom line is this. This is just one more example of the sharks getting away while the sprats are made to pay. After all, it is the Air Force Chief who should also be held accountable for having failed as commander to have in place a fool-proof plan of defence that would have protected a key installation of the SLAF.

Air Vice Marshal Jayalath Weerakkody is also guilty of having failed to protect the country's single international airport - the security of which is handled solely by the Sri Lanka Air Force.

More investigations

Meanwhile, Tennakoon in his report has noted further that Air Commodore Ananda failed to maintain undergrowth in a manner conducive for the defence of the camp, failed to effectively supervise the execution of defences, failed to rehearse the troops in different aspects of defensive battle and that his plan lacked vital factors, such as; detailed plans for counter attack, coordinating instructions such as boundaries of sectors and an effective communication network.

A presidential commission led by Justice D. D. Jayawickrema and former SLAF Commander Paddy Mendis is now investigating and recording statements with regard to this attack.

Paddy Mendis is heavily involved in leasing aircraft owned by the company he owns and manages 'Lion Air' to the SLAF for which services he is paid for by the SLAF. As such, Paddy Mendis cannot be seen to be an impartial member on such a commission as his loyalty will naturally lie with the SLAF.

Air Vice Marshal Jayalath Weerakkody, Commander of the Sri Lanka Air Force refuted charges that he as Commander of the SLAF should be held responsible in any way for the attack on the SLAF base at Katunayake and the Bandaranaike International Airport on July 24, this year.

Weerakkody maintained that such responsibility has been delegated to senior air force officers who function as Chief Executive Officers of various squadrons and are in charge of those particular areas. Weerakk- ody asserted, as such, Air Commodore R. A. Ananda was solely responsible as base commander for overseeing the security of the entire SLAF base and airport at Katunayake.

The air force chief reiterated that if Air Commodore Ananda is now attempting to clear his name it must be done so through the proper channels. "He should not attempt instead to cast aspersions on the court of inquiry," Weerakkody said, adding that his dismissal from the SLAF followed the comprehensive investigation conducted by Air Vice Marshal Vijitha Tennakoon and a directive issued thereafter by President Chandrika Kumaratunga.

Weerakkody added that not only Air Commodore Ananda but 19 others including some airmen have been dismissed from service after the preliminary investigation into the attack was concluded.

When questioned by The Sunday Leader, Weerakkody at first said that he could not recall the contents of the letters Air Commodore Ananda has addressed to him since 1999 stating serious concerns regarding the weaknesses in security at the base.

Pressed for a statement however on the lack of security and other shortcomings at the base, which had been observed by Air Commodore Ananda before the attack including a shortage of gunners and suitably trained personnel, the SLAF Chief had only this to say:

With regard to the security lighting and broken fences, Weerakkody replied that all Ananda's requests for an improved lighting system, repairs to fences etc., had been approved by the establishment. "Air Cmdr. Ananda however did not act or implement such approvals," the SLAF Chief said.

What is curious in this instance is why an Air Vice-Marshal had no control over a mere Air Commodore. If, as Weerakkody maintains, Air Commodore Ananda did not act on his orders on the approvals granted - why pray, did not Weerakkody in his capacity as SLAF Chief take suitable action against Ananda? Why wait until the LTTE took advantage of the petty relationship that existed between the base commander and his chief?

Meanwhile, Flying Officer Fernando in his testimony before the Jayawickrema presidential commission has said that the fence around the SLAF base at Katunayake had been in a deteriorated condition for the last four to five years and the commencement of repair work started only after the attack.

Fernando has added in written evidence that the base commander had no say in any matter at Katunayake but that the SLAF Chief interfered in every aspect and did not allow the base commander to run the base.

The Air Force Chief defended his Director of Operations J. L. C. Salgado saying that Air Commodore Ananda is trying to wash his hands off the entire sorry episode and blame someone else. "How can he say that the director operations is more or equally responsible as he is? After all, he as base commander had overall responsibility - he was the man on the ground at the site - how can he blame an officer who does not work out of Katunayake but from SLAF headquarters in Colombo?" the air force chief asked.

Quizzed as to whether he as Commander of the SLAF should not take responsibility for the attack, Weerakkody replied, "I have delegated responsibility. I don't see how I could be held responsible. It is true I am responsible for running the organisation but as such, I have placed responsibility with the base commander to direct operations. If there are problems, then I should be notified and only then is it my responsibility to address those problems. It depends on what degree of responsibility you are talking about."

He countered that he had been satisfied with the security arrangements in place at the SLAF base at Katunayake and the airport before the attack. "I was not informed otherwise by the base commander," he reiterated.


CBK's 'bloody' secrets in the house of conspiracy

By The Insider

Among the dozens of political murders that have punctuated Kumaratunga's presidency, the most foul was arguably that of Kumar Ponnambalam, leader of the All Ceylon Tamil Congress.

A distinguished lawyer by profession, Ponnambalam was an outspoken champion of the rights of Tamils in Sri Lanka - often invoking the ire of Sinhala nationalists for his extreme views. He was nevertheless a pacifist, widely perceived as a harmless gentleman whose bark was worse than his bite. In fact, Ponnambalam had no bite: wealthy by birth, his passion was for collecting Mercedes Benzes, of which he had dozens. He counted among his closest friends, Sinhala hardliners and was one of the greatest admirers of the Sri Lankan cricket team.

Tragically, early on the morning of January 5, 2000, Ponnambalam was lured out of his house by a young man called Shantha, who had befriended him of late. His bullet-riddled body was discovered less than an hour later in Wellawatte, still at the wheel of his Mercedes. Among the first to condole with his family was Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, who had known Ponnambalam well. She expressed shock and grief. She lied.

The 'show' begins

Kumaratunga knows full well the trauma of widowhood: her husband was brutally murdered before her own eyes. She knows the pathos of the orphan, for her children were very nearly orphaned in the December 1999 suicide attack in which she lost an eye.

But that is not all, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga has known for the past fourteen months. She knew who pulled the trigger of the gun that killed Ponnambalam. She knew who hired the assassin. She knew who masterminded the foul plot. The president has been privy to this information for more than a year now, and she has chosen to sweep it under the carpet.

Whether she did so in order to hide from the public the shameful fact that she hails from a family of murderers, or in order to blackmail the perpetrator, we are yet to find out.

Consider the evidence we provide below and decide for yourself whether Chandrika Kumaratunga is innocent or guilty. Then decide, as parliament soon must, whether she is a fit and proper person to hold the office of President of your motherland.

The damning evidence we publish below has to also be viewed from the backdrop of Kumaratunga's own utterances of crimes allegedly committed by various persons, whom she identifies only when she can no longer use such offences perceived or otherwise to blackmail the doer.

Take for instance, the alleged bribe offer made to her by a businessman. Todate, she has not reported the culprit to the bribery commissioner. Take also her claims that S. B. Dissanayake proposed killing an editor or two to save the government from criticism and thereby vulnerability. She chose not inform the police but the SLFP youth leaguers a year later after she and Dissanayake parted ways.

Then consider her television interview with Tissa Abeysekera where she said a minister planned to kill an editor and on hearing the news while in London, sent word to the minister concerned to stop his planned crime. Once again, she did not report the matter to the police to investigate and arrest the culprit.

Into this pot of intrigue, throw in S. B. Dissanayake's own allegations that it was Kumaratunga herself who plotted the murder of newspaper editors and the burning of the presses of The Sunday Leader and Ravaya.

'Un'known facts

Add to this scenario, Kumaratunga's Tissamaharama doctrine where she egged people on to murder stating there was no harm in murdering a murderer. Then consider the subsequent attempt on S. B. Dissanayake's life by PSD officers in Maturata.

Now, pause a while and read below the report on Kumar Ponnambalam's murder given to President Kumaratunga by then CDB Chief Bandula 'Show' Wickramasinghe at her own request after the top cop briefed her on the case. A report she did nothing on. Then consider whether Kumaratunga is fit to be the president of this country.

The Sunday Leader is in possession of the letter dated September 7, 2000, addressed to President Kumaratunga by Bandula 'Show' Wickramasinghe, Senior Superintendent of Police and (then) Director of the Colombo Crime Detective Bureau, in addition to other damning evidence which will be forwarded to the relevant authorities, including the Hague. Here is what the Senior Superintendent wrote to his president:

September 7, 2000

Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga,

Her Excellency the President,

The Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka,

Temple Trees,

Colombo 03.

Re: Report on Mr. Mahen Ratwatte and Mr. Lohan Ratwatte

Your Excellency,

Herewith I annex a report on the above subjects, as requested by Your Excellency,

Bandula Wickramasinghe,

Senior Superintendent of Police,

Director,

Colombo Detective Bureau.

 

 

Colombo Detective Bureau,

No. 50, Gregory's Road,

Colombo 7,

Sri Lanka.

 

 

Annexture

On July 28, 2000 a case of house breaking and theft was reported, the stolen goods were valued at Rs. 1.3 million. The Colombo Detective Bureau sleuths arrested the main suspect Mohammed Thahir and he confessed that he had given a brand new 'Hoover' vacuum cleaner valued at Rs. 20,000 to one Sudath Ranasinghe RPC 12559 attached to the Sri lanka Police Reserve Head Quarters. RFC Ranasinghe was arrested and he too confessed that the stolen vacuum cleaner was given as a gift to Mahen Ratwatte who is employed at George Steuarts. Mahen Ratwatte who is the son of the Honourable Minister of Power and Energy and Deputy Minister of Defence Anurudhha Ratwatte. On the statement made by RPC Ranasinghe the vacuum cleaner was recovered from the house of Mahen Ratwatte at Link Homes housing scheme at Madiwela.

On May 21, 2000 the officer in charge of CDB, IP Nuwan Vedasinghe received a call from RPC Ranasinghe and he had stated that the president of the All Ceylon Tamil Congress, Kumar Ponnambalam (Attorney-at-law) was murdered by his henchmen, namely underworld activists Moratuwa Saman and Sujeewa, on the instigation of Mahen Ratwatte. Few weeks prior to the assassination of Ponnambalam, Mahen Ratwatte had told Moratuwa Saman and RPC Ranasinghe in Sinhalese ayi yakko sinhala minissu marannay, puluwannam ara Kumar Ponnambalam jathi wadi wagay thadi demelek marapanko. As per the instigations of Mahen Ratwatte, RPC Ranasinghe master planned the assassination and got friendly with Kumar Ponnnambalam, posing as one 'Shantha.'

On January 5, 2000 'Shantha' personally went to the house of Kumar Ponnambalam's around 8.30 in the morning and lured him promising ............. As arranged, Moratuwa Saman and Sujeewa waited for the arrival of Ponnambalam, and the both of them fired five rounds from their pistol. Ponnambalam succumbed to his gunshot injuries. After the assassination, the RPC immediately informed Mahen Ratwatte about the killing.

On May 21, 2000 RPC Ranasinghe contacted OIC CDB, from telephone number 08-223993 which is at the guest house belonging to the Petroleum Corporation at No. 15, Dumindu Mawatha, Watapoluwa, Kandy. I too contacted RPC Ranasinghe on the above telephone number and he informed me that the most wanted underworld criminal Dhammika Perera is present at the above guest house. RPC Ranasinghe promised to surrender to the CDB, and informed me and the OIC CDB to make him a crown witness. But however, he was prevented from surrendering by Mahen Ratwatte. I contacted Mahen Ratwatte and spoke to him requesting from him to surrender RPC Ranasinghe, but Mahen Ratwatte prevented his appearance and told me 'why are you worried, all the top people know about the assassination.' Though several requests were made to Mahen Ratwatte by me and my OIC IP Nuwan vedasinghe, RPC Ranasinghe surrendered to the Mount Lavinia courts.

Harbouring of under world criminal Dhammika Perera of Rajagiriya

Besides the information provided by RPC Ranasinghe, my private informants have brought to my notice that Ranasinghe had been harboured by Lohan Ratwatte and Mahen Ratwatte and at present Dhammika is being kept at his mothers home on top of a hill close to Mahiyawwa cemetery, Kandy. It is also common knowledge amongst Kandy residents that Dhammika Perera travels along with Lohan Ratwatte in a tinted four-wheel drive vehicle.

My private informants have also brought to my notice that during the Wayamba elections, Lohan and Mahen Ratwatte had been transporting Dhammika Perera in their Pajero vehicle for their protection.

Dhammika Perera is one of the most wanted under world criminals, wanted for 17 murders:

Bandula Wickramasinghe,

Senior Superintendent of Police,

Director,

Colombo Detective Bureau.

Astounding. This is an official report from the Director of the CDB to the president of Sri Lanka. He tells her succinctly (a) that Anuruddha Ratwatte's son Mahen commissioned two underworld thugs, Sudath Ranasinghe and Moratuwa Saman, to murder Kumar Ponnambalam. That a third assassin, one Sujeewa, also joined in the killing. That Mahen Ratwatte was harbouring Ranasinghe until he surrendered, in connection with another offence. That Mahen Ratwatte had the audacity to tell the Director of the CDB, 'Why are you worried? All the top people know about the assassination.' That in addition to everything else, the Ratwatte family is harbouring and consorting with yet another criminal, Dhammika Perera, who is wanted in connection with no less than 17 other murders!

More lies!

Chandrika knew of these facts as long ago as September 2000, but chose to do nothing.

Bandula 'Show' Wickramasinghe came to know Chandrika Kumaratunga intimately in the aftermath of the infamous Mahanama Tillekeratne case. His wrongful arrest of that High Court judge drew a strong rebuke from the Appeal Court, and Wickramasinghe was ordered personally to pay damages of Rs 200,000. In August 2000, Kumaratunga sent for him, no doubt troubled by a rare pang of remorse, and offered to make good the Rs 200,000. This money was gratefully accepted by Wickramasinghe. At their meeting, Kumaratunga was informed of the investigations into the Ponnambalam killing, on being asked by the president who was anxious to know what the police knew. She was surprised to learn that the police knew the whole story and had all the details.

The Sunday Leader contacted 'Show' Wickramasinghe last week in relation to this damning report. Wickramasinghe declined to comment however, on the basis that the report was confidential and submitted for the eyes of the president alone.

But with the collapse of her government and her popularity, the axioms on which she crafted her schemes have disappeared. Given the damning evidence against her, it is now too late for her to wriggle out of the mess she is in.

At their meeting, Kumaratunga also discussed the issue of Baddegana Sanjeeva, a notorious murderer who served as an elite member of the Presidential Security Division under its infamous head, Nihal Karunaratne.

Time to kill the eds

Karunaratne himself is on record as having, in the euphoric aftermath of the December 1999 presidential election, nonchalantly mentioned to Free Media Movement convenor and Reuters' correspondent in Sri Lanka, Waruna Karunatilake that the editor of The Sunday Leader newspaper, Lasantha Wickrematunga, was number one on the PSD's hit list, followed by the editor of the Ravaya newspaper, Victor Ivan. This fact has been widely published and remains uncontradicted by both Kumaratunga and Karunaratne.

Be that as it may, at their meeting at Temple Trees, Kumaratunga asked 'Show' Wickramasinghe what he knew of Sanjeeva's doings. Assuming that the president was ignorant of the facts, the CDB Director went on to catalogue a list of assassinations the hired killer had undertaken in support of Kumaratunga's own administration, including that of Satana Editor, Rohana Kumar. Wringing her hands in mock dismay, the president cried in Sinhala words to the effect, "Aiyo! Now I will have to send him also abroad!" Her despair however, was faked.

Despite their kinship, Kumaratunga views Ratwatte with a mixture of respect and loathing. Here at last was an issue on which she could blackmail not only the minister, but also two of his sons. Thinking of the rich political rewards to be reaped, she directed him to submit a written report with all the facts. This the officer was most unhappy to do, for it would in effect make him too, an accessory to the cover-up that was bound to follow. He dodged. A few days later, a retired DIG handling intelligence work for the government had called Wickramasinghe and told him that the president had drawn his attention to the fact that a report that was promised had still not arrived.

The CDB head, knowing that further procrastination was futile, prepared the report immediately and personally delivered it under 'Secret' cover to the president's private secretary, Sarath Gonagala. The report was typed by one Dulip Samarasekera and SSP Wickramasinghe went with IP Wedasinghe to hand over the report. It was just what she needed. The Sunday Leader is also in possession of documentary evidence that Wickramasinghe's report was in fact handed over to Kumaratunga.

Blackmail!

With the damning evidence in her handbag, Kumaratunga could pour scorn on her cousin, Anuruddha Ratwatte. She even had the courage to describe him as the most corrupt minister in her cabinet to a visiting foreign dignitary, in the presence of another minister. Despite wide media coverage of this statement, she has never denied it. Ratwattes were thus well and truly in Kumaratunga's net.

Blackmail is in Kumaratunga's blood. She has repeatedly claimed to have 'files' (presumably with incriminating evidence) on her ministers. When it became clear that her lieutenant, S. B. Dissanayake, was considering crossing over to the UNP, she threatened to expose not just him, but his brother and wife, lest he returns to the fold. Dissanayake told her to take a hike.

The president then actually went so far as to instigate a Bribery Commission Investigation of the minister, and made a pointed public reference to his wife's 'wrist-to-elbow' adornment of gold bangles. So much is blackmail in her blood, that Kumaratunga has claimed to have files on everything and everyone, including on Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. On former ministers of the UNP government, she has claimed to have no less than 38 files!

An accessory

And for the past 14 months, Kumaratunga has known who killed Ponnambalam and chosen to keep the incriminating evidence in her pocket. Why? Because murder no longer horrifies her. It has become commonplace in her administration. In the run up to the December 5, general election, a team of assassins from Kumaratunga's own Presidential Security Division attempted to murder the defected former minister, S. B. Dissanayake. They failed, and several of the assailants were arrested. Not one word of condemnation from our worthy President. No call for an inquiry. Instead, she was to personally call the Maturata Police and call for the handing over of the assassins to PSD Chief Karunaratne.

There is ample evidence now to prove that Kumaratunga was an accessory (after the crime, at least) to the murder of Kumar Ponnambalam. In any event, there is no doubt that following her conversation with Wickramasinghe and receipt of his report, she knew who killed Kumar Ponnambalam and of the complicity of her cousin, Mahen Ratwatte.

Section 21(a) of the Code of Criminal Procedure is crystal clear on this subject: "Every person aware of the commission or the intention of any other person to commit any offence punishable under the following sections of the Penal Code, namely. 296 [murder and], 297 [culpable homicide]. shall in the absence of reasonable excuse-the burden of proving which shall lie upon the person so aware-forthwith give information to the nearest Magistrate's Court or to the officer in charge of the nearest police station." Kumaratunga manifestly failed to do this.

What is more, Section 199 of the Penal Code states, "Whoever knowing, or having reason to believe that an offence has been committed, intentionally omits to give any information which he is legally bound to give, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine, or with both." Section 209 of the Penal Code goes further: "Whenever an offence has been committed, whoever harbours, conceals, assists, or maintains a person whom he knows or has reason to believe to be the offender, with the intention of screening him from legal punishment, shall, if the offence is punishable with death, be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, and shall also be liable to fine."

On the wrong side

In addition to the dozens of other instances in which Kumaratunga has found herself on the wrong side of the law, this is one more such. The question before the UNF government and the parliament now is, are they going to turn a blind eye to all this and allow Kumaratunga to enjoy the remaining four years of her six-year second term? Or will they invoke Section 38 of the constitution and move to impeach her?

With Sudath Ranasinghe in remand, the case against the Ratwattes, and the president, appears unassailable. The corroborative evidence too, is substantial. The burglary from which Ranasinghe obtained the Hoover vacuum cleaner is on record, as is Mahen Ratwatte's possession of it, and its recovery from him. What is more, Kumar Ponnambalam's cellular phone was found following information given by Ranasinghe from a marsh behind the BMICH and it was formally identified by Ponnambalam's son Gajendra who is today a MP. What is more, records of numerous telephone conversations between the assassins and the Ratwatte brothers are on file.

Drunk with power

The case, it would seem, is open and shut. So drunk was the family with power that they never thought a time would come when they could not intimidate witnesses, threaten the police, harass the judiciary and just plain have things their own way, Don Corleone style.

The coming weeks will test the mettle of the UNF government and the president's own supporters in parliament. Will they turn a blind eye to Kumaratunga's life of crime on the grounds of non-confrontation? Or will they have the courage to act against her? The former would be an indictment indeed on the government, for Kumaratunga's catalogue of crimes is too horrendous to condone or ignore.

On the other hand, the latter course would be impossible to follow given that the UNP did bring a motion to impeach Chief Justice Sarath Silva, widely perceived to be a crony of the president. The quality of justice meted out given this background could well be tainted, so low are the depths to which Sri Lanka has sunk in the seven years of Kumaratunga's adventure in office.

 

 

 

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