30th December  2001, Volume 8, Issue 24

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SPOTLIGHT

  • Startling revelations of President Chandrika Kumaratunga's efforts to shield the murderers of Kumar Ponnambalam and Satana Editor Rohana Kumara, have been bared

'Show''s nuclear bombshell

By Insider

If readers raised their eyebrows in amazement last Sunday on reading the secret document addressed to President Chandrika Kumaratunga by the Director of the Crime Detection Bureau, Bandula 'Show' Wickramasinghe, the revelations this week are likely to attract gasps of horror.

Recall our publication last week of Wickramasinghe's September 2000 secret document to the president in which he stated that police investigations showed that it was Anuruddha Ratwatte's son Mahen who had ordered hired assassins to murder the All Ceylon Tamil Congress leader Kumar Ponnambalam in January 2000. One of the murderers, Sudath Ranasinghe, is a close confidant of the Ratwattes. Worst of all, when Wickramasinghe called and asked Ratwatte to turn Ranasinghe in, his reply had been, "Why are you worried? All the top people know about the assassination."

As we have often pointed out, the word 'murder' is very much part of Kumaratunga's lexicon. She has often referred to plots within her administration to kill journalists. She has urged her supporters to murder people they think are murderers. But for the most part the public have taken Kumaratunga's bombast with a pinch of salt, with a wink and a knowing nod, on the basis that her bark is worse than her bite.

Not so The Sunday Leader. In the aftermath of the brutal slaying of Satana Editor Rohana Kumara, a somewhat immoderate critic of Kumaratunga in October 1999, we noted in our Editorial: "There are no prizes for guessing who killed Rohana Kumara any more than there are for guessing who murdered Joel Pera. Everyone except the CID knows. It is knowledge that dares not speak its name. If you are a gambler, you would be safe in betting a substantial stake that Rohana Kumara's murder will never be solved. His killers will never be brought to book. His death will join the dozens of other unsolved violent crimes against journalists that have become the hallmark of Chandrika Kumaratunga's People's Alliance Government."

As it happens, our tongue in cheek assertion that "Everyone except the CID knows" proved ironic: the top cops did indeed know. Rohana Kumara's executioners were Baddegana Sanjeeva, a notorious underworld criminal attached to the Presidential Security Division, assisted by two gangsters, Tharawatte Ajith and Moratu Saman. Now we know that President Kumaratunga knew that it was her own bodyguard who was involved in the murder as long ago as September 2000. Yet, she did nothing. We know this from an affidavit Wickramasinghe himself swore before JP, Commissioner of Oaths and Attorney-at-Law M.H.K. Paranavithana, on 19 December 2001 (see box).

It is important to note that the affidavit of SSP Wickramasinghe together with other affidavits help corroborate that the CDB Director in fact handed over a report on the Kumar Ponnambalam case and the involvement of Mahen Ratwatte to President Kumaratunga as far back as September 2000, on which report she did nothing. The man who typed the 'secret' document, Asoka Samarasinghe, too has in an affidavit confirmed the position, he typed the 'secret' document in September 2000. It is also to be noted that the covering letter of the 'secret' document said the report was furnished at the president's request and SSP Wickramasinghe in his affidavit now confirms details of the conversation he had with the president prior to the furnishing of the report.

According to Wickramasinghe, he personally informed Kumaratunga that it was Sanjeeva who led the attack on Kumara, and that one of the murderers, Tharawatte Ajith, had confessed not only to this killing, but to no less than ten others. What was the president's reaction? Shock? Outrage? Nothing of the kind. "We can't keep this guy in Sri Lanka," she allegedly told Wickramasinghe. "We ought to send him abroad." Sanjeeva continued to be a close confidant and bodyguard to Kumaratunga for more than a year, until he himself was shot dead last November.

In fact, when Baddegana Sanjeeva was killed in October 2001, President Kumaratunga went so far as sending a wreath for the funeral of this underworld murderer, expressing her profound sorrow. Mind you, the president was sending a wreath, sympathising the death of a criminal she knew was responsible for numerous crimes including the murder of Rohana Kumara, having been so informed by SSP Wickramasinghe as far back as September 1999.

There is now clear evidence that Kumaratunga knew the identities of the murderers of Kumar Ponnambalam and Rohana Kumara at least shortly after the murders were committed, if not before. She failed to order an inquiry. She failed to disclose the information in her possession to the proper authorities. Worst of all, she failed at least to distance herself from the murderers, whom she continued to entertain at President's House. And more startling evidence is still to follow.

U.S. President Richard Nixon lost his presidency because he knew, after the fact, of the attempted burglary of the office of a psychiatrist of one of his political opponents. Bill Clinton very nearly lost his because he lied to a judicial inquirer about an affair he had with an employee. Here in Sri Lanka we have two distinct trails of blood leading straight into President's House, with credible information that the murderers were close associates of the president, and that she had known the details of these events for upwards of a year. What are we going to do?

That was precisely the issue to which the legal brains of the UNF have been putting their minds ever since Wickramasinghe's startling revelations were made. The ball has been set rolling by Gajendran, Kumar Ponnambalam's son, now an opposition MP, who has called for an investigation. The question is the president's constitutional immunity from prosecution. She herself has already called for the constitution to be amended, stripping her immunity. Whether this too, like most of Kumaratunga's utterances, is just hot air is open to question. The decision lies however, with the members of her own party. Will they lend their support to a bill to amend the constitution and thereby open the way for Kumaratunga to be prosecuted, or will they opt to play politics and block a criminal investigation?

In any event, notwithstanding the immunity, there is no legal bar to the charges being investigated and the public would expect such an investigation from the new government lest the perception is formed the heinous crimes were swept under the carpet for political expediency and backroom deals.

It is in the interest of President Kumaratunga herself to assist in an impartial investigation to prove despite the damning evidence that her hands are not stained by the blood of Kumar Ponnambalam and Rohana Kumara. Moreso, given the role played by the president's security division no less in numerous crimes including the attempted assassination of Agriculture Minister S. B. Dissanayake.

It is significant in this context that the circumstantial evidence is heavily weighted against the president. The evidence, including the Show Wickramasinghe report has to be viewed from the background of Kumaratunga's own utterances and actions.

This is a president who has publicly stated that on two separate occasions a minister discussed the murder of an "editor or two" with her. Rather than reporting the minister in question to the police, by her own admission, all she did was attempt to dissuade him from carrying out the foul deed.

What then would have been the case if, what the president said was true, the minister nevertheless proceeded to commit the murderous deed due to the president's own inaction? Would she have, as in the case of Baddegana Sanjeeva, planned to send him too overseas? By her very failure to report to the police the conspiracy to murder and have the minister arrested, did she not put the lives of the targeted editors at grave risk, leaving it to chance that the minister in question will heed her advise.

Furthermore, in the run-up to the general election in Tissamaharama, she issued an open licence to her party members to kill any person they perceived as having killed one of their members. It is subsequent to this call for murder that an attempt was made by her own PSD to murder Minister S. B. Dissanayake. And similar to receiving information on the murders committed by Baddegana Sanjeeva, rather than taking action, the president went so far as to telephone the officers at the Maturata Police and order the release of the arrested PSD suspects to Nihal Karunaratne, the godfather of the PSD, whose own role in the attempted murder has now come to light in police investigations. And mind you, Minister Dissanayake himself has a different story to tell, the story being that it was the president herself who wanted an 'editor or two' assassinated and the presses of the Ravaya and The Sunday Leader razed. The affidavit of SSP Wickramasinghe and his 'secret' document on which Kumaratunga took no action no doubt adds credence to Dissnayaka's claims.

For his part, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe is known not to be anxious to be seen as leading a witch-hunt against Kumaratunga. He is most likely to prefer, according to sources close to him, to let the police conduct an independent inquiry and, when the results of that are in, decide how best to act. Unfortunately, because of the position she holds and the legal immunity she enjoys, this is no ordinary criminal case. Like it or not, it is at the end of the day a political judgement that must be made.

Whichever option is chosen, the UNF government is now heading for an unprecedented confrontation with the executive, with serious constitutional consequences should the process go awry. All this, just as negotiations are about to begin with the LTTE, could not have been worse timed. But Kumaratunga's conduct after the fact, when she certainly had knowledge of the identity of the murderers, places her in a most compromising position. Her attempts, with no provocation from anyone, to distance herself from the subject of murder, and her call to murder murderers are, in this context ominous. They appear to reflect the bizarre behaviour of Macbeth as he was taunted by the ghost of Banquo. The question is, will the justice that awaits Kumaratunga be as swift and severe as that which met her Medieval precursor? Time will tell.

 

SSP Wickramasinghe's damning affidavit

I Bandula Pandukabhaya Wickramasinghe of 344/1 Nawala Road, Nawala being a Buddhist do hereby solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm and state as follows:

1. I am the affirmant abovenamed.

2. I am currently serving as Director Police Higher Training Institute. I serve in the rank of a Senior Superintendent of Police.

3. I joined the Police Department on 6th June 1967 as a Probationary Sub Inspector. I was promoted to the rank of Inspector Class II on a special promotion with effect from 25th March 1973. Thereafter I was promoted to the rank of Assistant Superintendent of Police on 20th May 1982. I was appointed Superintendent of Police on 20th May 1988. I was promoted to my present rank on 20th May 1993.

4. During my career in the Police I served as Officer-in-Charge of various Police stations, Assistant Superintendent in charge of Parliament, Vauniya Division before joining the Criminal Investigation Department in 10th August 1986. I was appointed Director Criminal Investigations Department on 1st May 1998. I was appointed Director Colombo Detective Bureau on 20th November 1998. On 26th November 2000 I have been functioning in my present rank.

5. I state that my wife and daughters have been wanting me to quit the Police service due to the injustices caused to me by the higher authorities of the Police Department as well as those in overall authority of the armed services and the Police. I state that my actions in carrying out orders of my superior officers has brought me a tremendous amount of adverse publicity and that this adverse publicity caused immense pain of mind not only to myself but also to my immediate family. I state that in deference to my families wishes and in order to clear any misconception of my role in actions taken by me to merely follow orders of my superior officers I wish to place on record the role played by my superior officers as well as others in authority in the events that I have narrated below.

6. I wish to firstly refer to the events that led to my having to arrest Mr. Mahanama Tillekeratne, High Court judge of Colombo.

7. Mr. Mahanama Tillekeratne was the judge who presided over the trial of Dr. Rajitha Senaratne who was indicted on two counts of attempted cheating and forgery. At the end of the trial Dr. Senaratne was acquitted by Mr. Mahanama Tillekeratne. I was sent to Brazil to conduct investigations regarding this case.

8. After Dr. Senaratne was acquitted, Mr. Punya de Silva, Deputy Inspector General of Police called me and wanted me to send over to him a copy of the order acquitting Dr. Senaratne. I obtained a copy of the order and sent it to him. I was the Director of the Criminal Investigations Department at this time.

9. After Dr. Senaratne's acquittal I came to know through other officers of the department that the DIG Punya de Silva had initiated inquiries into the activities of Mr. Tillekeratne.

10. Subsequently I came to know that Superintendent of Police Premaratne and Sub Inspector Rodrigo who was the Officer-in-Charge of intelligence, had been placed in charge of an investigation into an incident involving Mr. Mahanama Tillekeratne which inquiry was based on a Petition sent to Her Excellency the President.

11. On the 10th of September 1998 there was a conference/meeting to felicitate and thank officers who had been involved in tracking down Christopher Barry who was a notorious underworld figure. While at the meeting at about 5.15 pm, DIG Punya de Silva received a call. After the call finished the DIG turned to me and said that the caller was Superintendent Premaratne and that the warrant issued to arrest Mr. Mahanama Tillekeratne had been recalled and that he was going to get instructions from the Attorney General as to what course of action he should follow.

12. I state that thereafter he phoned the Attorney General in my presence and stated, "Sir, I am Punya here, the warrant has been recalled," and proceeded to relate the call that he received from Superintendent Premaratne.

13. After completing the call, DIG Punya de Silva turned to me and said, "Bandula, make a note of this, the time is 5.30pm. We have got instructions to arrest Mr. Mahanama Tillkeratne under normal law since these are serious cognizable offences." The DIG also told me, "Bandula, go and bring the fellow."

14. I then set out with a team of about 12 officers in two double cabs to follow my orders from the DIG and arrest Mr. Mahanama Tillkeratne. Accompanying me in the double cab I was travelling was Superintendent of Police Mr. Samaratunga. While proceeding to Kahatuduwa where Mr. Mahanama Tillekeratne was residing I got several calls from DIG Punya de Silva. The first of these calls came when I was passing the Viharamahadevi Park. In this instance he told me, "Bandu, Punya here, I just now spoke to number one of the country. She gave the highest blessings. Bring the bugger by his neck, sky is the limit. You don't worry, I am there standing by." I conveyed the message I got to Superintendent of Police Samaratunga who was travelling with me in the same vehicle.

15. Later, each time the DIG Punya de Silva called, he asked me, "Bandu, where are you?" Nearing Kahatuduwa he told me that he ( DIG Punya de Silva ) had already contacted Inspector Karawita OIC Kahatuduwa and the OIC was standing by.

16. I state that I proceeded to Mr. Mahanama Tillekeratne's house where I arrested him and brought him to the Criminal Investigations Department.

17. After arriving at the Criminal Investigations Department, several lawyers who accompanied Mr. Tillekeratne wanted to meet DIG Punya de Silva and urge him to release Mr. Tillkeratne after recording his statement. When I contacted the DIG and said that there were three lawyers to meet him, the DIG told me, "Tell the bastards to get out, I don't want to see any of them." I however informed the said lawyers that the DIG was busy and could not meet them that day.

18. I state that after this episode the Court of Appeal found me guilty of contempt of court and I was required to pay crown costs of two hundred thousand rupees.

19. After I was required to pay the said sum of money towards the end of August Mr. Gonagala, Private Secretary to HE the President called me and wanted me to come over to Temple Trees and stated that Madam wanted to see me at 11 am. He wanted me to give him a call before I left on 433215. He said that it was a one to one meeting.

20. I proceeded to Temple Trees as required and after being kept there till around 4.30 pm I was requested to come the next day.

21. On the next day I went to Temple Trees at around 2.30 pm and was kept waiting until 8.30 pm when I finally got to meet HE the President. While I was in the waiting room I met Kesaralal Gunesekera and Bank of Ceylon Chairman, and Tudor Gunesekera too was waiting to meet HE Excellency.

22. When I met HE the President she told me that she was sorry that she got me down so late and wanted to know as to the position of the money I had to pay as crown costs as ordered by the Court of Appeal. I informed HE that I had already found the money and said, "Madam, money is not the problem but I am worried about my promotions since my whole career would be affected by this judgement." I also informed HE that my family was worried that I had followed orders of superior officers and had jeopardized my entire career.

23. HE the President then asked me whether I had a copy of the Court of Appeal judgement and when I handed over a copy which I had taken along with me she read it in my presence. After reading the entire judgement HE told me, "So the AG let you down no," and smiled.

24. I state that HE then informed me that she knew the Public Services Commission Chairman and would also consult the Attorney General and sort out any legal impediments. She told me that she would make me a DIG by end 2000 or beginning of 2001.

25. I state that when HE told me about my promotion I informed HE that there were persons within her party who were conducting themselves in a way that would affect both her and the government.

26. I informed HE that Mahen Ratwatte was friendly with a Reserve Police Constable by the name of Ranasinghe attached to the Police Headquarters. I informed her that we had recovered a stolen vacuum cleaner worth about twenty thousand rupees from Mahen Ratwatte's house. This stolen vacuum cleaner had been given as a present to Mahen Ratwatte by the said RPC Ranasinghe. I informed HE that the assassination of Mr. Kumar Ponnambalam had been carried out by the said RPC Ranasinghe who had informed my OIC Mr. Nuwan Wedisinghe that he was driven to such killing by Mahen Ratwatte.

27. I also informed HE that a well known criminal by the name of Dhammika was being harboured by Minister Ratwatte's sons who were keeping him in a guest house belonging to the Ceylon Electricity Board in Kandy area. The said Dhammika was acting as unofficial bodyguard to Lohan and Mahen Ratwatte and carrying out violent acts on their behalf. I informed HE that the said Dhammika was wanted for 17 murders.

28. I state that when HE heard this she said in Sinhala, "fldusia ldrfhda uqx Tlafldu fydre"" and added in English, "the Father is no better." HE also told me that Mrs. Ratwatte was a nice lady and that she felt sad about her. She also told me to put all I wanted to say in writing and give it to Mr. Gonagala by hand.

29. I also informed HE the President that I had reliable information that it was Baddegana Sanjeewa who was instrumental in the killing of Satana Newspaper editor Mr. Rohana Kumara. This information had been given to me by suspect Tharawatte Ajith who had confessed to 10 murders carried out by him including that of Rohana Kumara. I informed HE the President that Tharawatte Ajith had confessed to me that Baddegana Sanjeeva had driven the vehicle in which he together with Moratu Saman travelled at the time of the killing. I state that when I informed this to HE the President she told me in Sinhala, "fuhdj ,xldfj ;shkak nE" msgrg hjkak TkE"" HE the President also told me to tell 'Karu' referring to the Director Presidential Security Division of what Baddegana Sanjeeva had done. After I briefed HE on the involvement of the Ratwattes in various criminal activities including the murder of Mr. Kumar Ponnambalam I was directed to submit a report containing the material I disclosed to her in writing.

30. I state that I was in two minds whether to commit all I told HE to paper since the Ratwatte family were very powerful and going around with underworld figures. I felt that my life would be in danger if I handed the report to HE the President. I state that about 10 days after the meeting with HE the President, retired DIG T.V. Sumanasekera, Additional Director General of the Directorate of Internal Intelligence called me and asked me whether HE the President wanted a report from me. When I replied that it was correct Mr. Sumanasekera told me that I should hand over the report required by HE the President without delay.

31. I state that I got the report typed by one Dulip Samarasinghe and went with Inspector Nuwan Wedisinghe to Temple Trees where after calling Gonagala on the phone from the gate personally handed over the said report to Mr. Gonagala.

32. I state that due to the aforementioned facts and circumstances I became a victim of circumstances where by merely following orders of my superior officers I earned a bad name in the eyes of the general public. I state that my wife fell sick during this period due to the pressure that was on her resulting from the adverse publicity I received during this period. My children also suffered and my eldest daughter refused to go to work. I suffered a traumatic period of being stripped off my post as Director Criminal Investigations Department and later as Director of the Colombo Detective Bureau. My wife fell sick on the same evening that I was taken off as Director Criminal Investigations Department.

33. I state that I have been compelled by circumstances to place the above matters on record in order to vindicate my position that I was merely following orders and doing my duty as a conscientious officer.

Readover and explained by me)

And signed in my presence on)

This 19th day of December 2001)

In Colombo.)

BEFORE ME

JUSTICE OF THE PEACE

 

Asoka Samarasinghe's affidavit

I Duleep Asoka Joseph Samarasinghe of 1267 Biyagama Road Kelaniya being a Christian do hereby take oath swear and state as follows:

1. I am the deponent abovenamed.

2. I state that on or about the beginning of September 2000 Mr. Nuwan Vedasinghe, Officer-in-Charge of the Colombo Detective Bureau contacted me and wanted me to help prepare a report which had to be prepared secretly and confidentially. I state that on earlier occasions too when such confidential and secret reports were required to be prepared I had assisted in the preparation of the said reports.

3. I state that I went to the office of Mr. Nuwan Vedasinghe and both of us assisted Mr. Bandula Wickramasinghe to prepare a report addressed to HE the President.

4. I state that I can identify the said report that was prepared by Mr. Bandula Wickramasinghe, Mr. Nuwan Vedasinghe and myself and annex to this Affidavit a copy of the said report which has been signed in every page by me by way of authentication. (Annexure A) I state that annexure A is a copy of the very same report referred to above.

Readover and explained by me)

Sworn to and signed in my)

Presence on this ........day of)

December 2001 in Colombo.)

BEFORE ME

JUSTICE OF THE PEACE

What you need is a Landrover

By Third Eye

The late Lalith Athulathmudali, much before he was inducted into President J. R. Jayewardene's cabinet once spoke to members of Sri Lanka's civil service. He had at that time probably returned to the country after many years abroad and was speaking from the experience he had had overseas.

His remarks had been addressed to improve the administrative service, which even then had been seen as something of a white elephant needing reform if it was to cater to the growing needs of Sri Lanka, then just a decade or so into its post-independence history.

During his address Athulathmudali had adverted to the 'inquiries desk' that adorns all government departments, if indeed it is an adornment. The 'inquiries desk' was the first point of entry for the public, which required an official with an overall knowledge of the working of that institution to be posted there. Why asked Athulathmudali, was the biggest dud in the office usually told to occupy that desk.

His audience had agreed with him. It is indeed correct that in a government department the biggest dud, or the most lethargic slacker who is useless at doing anything else, is asked to sit before the 'inquiries desk' and direct the public. He does not usually know whether a member of staff is present or not let alone the more intricate functions that involves the office, department, or ministry.

This was many decades ago, much before the introduction of the liberal economy. But what has troubled many people is whether, despite the changes in the economic system, the values of a market economy, which presupposes customer friendliness has actually seeped into our public sector and even the private sector.

The problem is one of values. It is not that the BOI is not at least striving to be investor-friendly. It is all about the other sectors with which the public has to rub shoulders not keeping pace with the norms required in a liberal economy. It gives an impression that the sloth, inaptitude and carelessness that caused Athulathmudali to make those remarks many decades ago are indeed still with us.

Among the other sectors, one of the most important, which was brought to the notice of this writer was that of the functioning of the Katunayake International Airport (KIA). A Sri Lankan working overseas and a regular traveller to Sri Lanka complained of the services we offer the public at the airport.

KIA is the point of entry to almost the entirety of foreigners visiting Sri Lanka. Among those who arrive there are potential investors and also persons who could be very influential in selling Sri Lanka's image overseas. They could be even ordinary tourists who will definitely meet friends and relatives when they go home. To all these people the first impression of Sri Lanka (unless they have flown Sri Lankan Airlines) is KIA.

And what pathetic place it is! Leave aside the disparaging remarks one uttered by someone who said it was so small that it appeared to be a model constructed with Lego pieces, the service there is appalling.

Despite a quarter century of the open economy, the counter to check immigration documents is almost never manned full strength. One official or two at the most. A queue that could be disposed of in double quick times languishes as slow, ponderous officials scan passports, quite sure they have all the time in the world.

You get past that hurdle, your bags takes even longer to come. Finally when it does comes the greatest ordeal, when baggage is checked by customs. There they stand, lounging around like a group of loafers who make it a pasttime of standing at road junctions - a common sight in the poorer districts of the city, but certainly unprofessional at Sri Lanka's only international airport.

It will be futile to dwell on the miserable sight that presents itself when you walk out of the airport to be besieged by taxi drivers and touts. But even if we assume the visitor has arranged for transport and is not accosted by undesirables, the damage has already taken place. And usually that damage is irreparable.

What we forget is that though foreign visitors will almost definitely meet local government officials, agents of business houses etc. in relation with the reason they visited Sri Lanka for, they would make their first non-professional encounter at KIA. It is pointless for BOI officials or the management of a Sri Lankan company with whom a foreign visitor will parley or interact during the course of his stay here to be impressive, because the foreigner knows its put up for show. Foreigners realise that behind the show are indifferent, lackadaisical people whom they would have to recruit as staff or deal with on an everyday basis if investment or a professional relationship is on their minds.

The show which Sri Lankans put up for the foreigner, either through mistaken notion that it impresses the visitor, or because of a inveterate sense of abjection and servitude we have for skins lighter than ours, usually never succeed in giving a message. It is casual encounters that are vital and the first impressions that matter.

If this interface with foreign visitors leaves much to desired another lesson that is yet to seep into this country that was the earliest to liberalise its economy in South Asia is the indispensability of excellence. The interface this time is not KIA, but the negotiating table.

Sri Lankans who have had the benefit of studying the business and other deals Sri Lanka has made with foreign investors, are amused at the way this country has been taken for a ride. In most of these deals Sri Lanka tries to put across with foreign investors or governments, Sri Lanka comes out the poorer. The reason: an over-reliance on local 'talent' at the expense of foreign expertise.

This slogan 'think Sri Lankan, use Sri Lankan' does not work all the time, especially when deals involving millions of dollars are made. Whereas the foreign partner comes with the best possible negotiating firm, we go with officials from the foreign ministry, trade ministry or the attorney general's department.

It is all about exposure. However talented the local official might be what is the exposure he or she would have had in negotiating deals, where the other partner is out to make a buck? A deal is not about cleaning up the legal jargon or seeing whether the deal does not violate governmental procedures. It is about what gives Sri Lanka the best possible advantage commercially. It is about not missing the wood for the trees.

This insularity is in sharp contrast to practices followed by countries that opened their economies much later like India and China, where the best international law firms and other organisations get involved in the negotiating process to reap the best benefits for their country.

This is not to say that Sri Lanka should allow foreign firms to dominate all the time. Local officials have to be trained to handle such assignments, but once again our values only help us to fall short. Two things that go with the liberal economy (and by extension globalisation). One is the ability to rid oneself of xenophobia and open up to excellence. The other is to open up the educational system to international currents, so that an educated, motivated citizenry evolves.

Not only is Sri Lanka loath to allow foreign excellence to handle jobs for which Sri Lankans have little aptitude, but our educational system, driven by the dynamo of swabasha, has little time for innovation or depth that is needed to deal with globalisation in all aspects of education. So we have an apathy for international expertise and a system that excludes the training that is required for locals if such an apathy can continue without costing the country dear.

So as the new government steps onto what itself described as a rocky road forward, it is important that the vehicle it rides is not trishaw that will bounce, damage its suspension and eventually crash. What you need is a Landrover. Otherwise the legacy of the biggest dud in the office sitting behind the 'inquiries desk' to meet the customer, will only continue.


PSD: The terror machine

By Amantha Perera

On the night of October 9, 2000 - the eve of the general election - Sub Inspector Sudasinghe of the Welikada Police Station was on patrol duty around the vicinity of the parliament. He was assisted by constables Ravindra and Shantha.

Around 12.45 that night he received a message on his communication set that a shooting incident had taken place near the Obeyesekerapura polling station and requested him to help Sub Inspector Douglas. When they were proceeding towards the scene of the crime, near the Kolonnawa junction, the police party was confronted by a row of vehicles travelling at high speed towards them while shooting in the air.

According to SI Sudasinghe's statement he tried to stop the vehicles and signaled to them with his torchlight. However, the vehicles did not stop and proceeded beyond the police party still firing. The SI then gave instructions to Ravindra to open fire. However, the vehicles proceeded unheeded. The time was around 1 a.m, October 10, 2000. Election day had dawned during the hail of bullets.

The vehicles included two Land Rovers, two pick up vehicles and two vans. They were of a dark hue and because of the speed, the police was unable to get the registration plates. Little did the police know at that time that they had opened fire on a contingent of government backed goons running away from their colleagues.

Around 1.45 a.m., a man identified as Jayasiri was admitted to Ward 72 of the Colombo General Hospital with gun shot injuries. The injuries were sustained according to information entered at the hospital logs through gunfire directed from outside the vehicle Jayasiri was travelling in. Jayasiri in fact was, PC K. H. Jayasiri Weerasekera attached to Presidential Security Division since September 9, 1997. He was injured in the gun fire directed by Sudasinghe at the fleeing vehicles.

Along with him, another injured person named Basnayake too was admitted to the same ward. He however told hospital authorities that he sustained injuries when he was fired at by a passing vehicle. Basnayake was in fact injured when he got into a vehicle near Obeyesekerapura and the vehicle was fired upon at around 1 a.m. on October 10. After the firing, Basnayake was dropped off at the residence of Kotte mayor, and then PA candidate, Chandra Silva. He was transported to the hospital in a vehicle that was parked near the residence.

The beginnings of the incidents and the injuries described above go back to the night of October 9 and to police action turning out to be a monkey on the backs of the PSD and Silva. They were travelling in convoys of vehicles armed to the teeth and terrorising the general public and setting fire to UNP offices, on the night before the election.

Silva would boast to police officers carrying out their duties that he had brought the PSD with him to teach the police a lesson. This was the levels to which the PSD which had just 10 months ago failed to guarantee the security of the president had stooped. This was what the PSD was up to, at least some members attached to the unit, on the eve of an election.

Around 11. 35 p.m. of October 9, SI Douglas and two other officers attached to the Welikada Police, were removing posters on orders received by the police from the DIG in charge. The posters they were removing happened to be of Silva.

While they were removing the posters facing the main road, Silva drove to the site along with 100 supporters in 10 vehicles. He got down and screamed at the police in raw filth. "Thopi ape poster galawanne ai, meka ape anduwa," Silva screamed.

He inquired whether the orders had come from the DIG and calling him a lackey threatened to transfer all the officers. He claimed that he had brought the PSD with him to teach the police a good lesson.

Undaunted, the police officers, according to their statements, went about removing the posters. When Silva and company moved away, Douglas says that he was able to note down some of the vehicle numbers, one of which bearing 56-3014 was registered to the Board of Investment. There were several number plate-less vehicles as well.

Around 12. 45 that night, Douglas and the other officers were removing posters near Parakumbha Vidyalaya polling booth when they witnessed a motorcade of about 10 vehicles travelling on the Kolonnawa Road at high speed.

A few minutes afterwards he heard gunfire from the direction of the Obeyesekerapura Praja Shalawa, where a booth had been set up. Douglas approached the building and saw several vehicles parked outside. Then he heard a vehicle approach from behind and ordered it to stop. It turned out to be a Land Rover carrying about seven fully armed persons in camouflage attire. The serial number 58-5933 was painted on the buffer. The vehicle was registered to the Sabaragamuwa Provincial Council.

The occupants of the vehicle informed that they were from the PSD. But according to SI Douglas' statement he did not allow the vehicle to pass and demanded to see identification papers. First, the armed group was reluctant but when the police officers threatened to arrest them two occupants handed over the IDs.

They turned out to be PC 37244, O. G. R. Kumarasinghe and PC 41992 D. W. Siriwardena, both attached to the PSD. Then the vehicle sped past the police party followed by two double cabs leaving behind the ID cards.

The police party once again heard gunfire from the direction of the vehicles and proceeded in that direction. Then the officers met SI Sudasinghe who informed him that they had fired at the fleeing vehicle.

When SI Douglas returned to the police station around 2.45 a.m., a rude reception awaited him. The reception party was spearheaded by none other than the late Baddegane Sanjeeva.

The sub inspector's statement reveals that when he reached the police station with several rounds of spent ammunition in his custody, he witnessed about 100 people near the police station and cabs, Land Cruisers and other vehicles parked all over the place. Members from the crowd were screaming that they were from the PSD.

He got down from the vehicle and inquired from the crowd what was going on stating that they were officers from the police station. Then Sanjeeva approached him and told him, in not so friendly terms, that one of their colleagues had been shot by police during a shoot-out and that if something happens to him, they were going to teach the police a good lesson. Echoing the words of Silva, he said that this was their government and boasted that he was Baddegana Sanjeeva.

The SI's statement reveals that the same vehicles that he had witnessed earlier were parked outside the police station and that due to kicking and gun butting by the PSD gang, a police vehicle bearing number 250-066 had been damaged.

The police party did not take any action as the crowd was armed to the teeth. In entering the police station premises some members of the PSD party had threatened and abused the home guard placed at the barrier and removed the barrier forcibly. The home guard had informed them simply to park the vehicles outside and go in on foot.

If the sub inspector's and other junior officers' experience show the ground reality of the situation prevalent in Kotte and most of the other areas of the country, the experience the OIC of the station went through dictates that responsibility for such wanton abuse of state power runs right up to the very top.

For, OIC Chandrasekera of the Welikada Police Station was inspecting the areas terrorised by shootings and gangs travelling in vehicles when he received a message around 2.15 a.m. on October 10, 2001. The message was that the PSD director had come to the police station to meet him.

He contacted SP Nanda Wijeratne and proceeded to the station. On his way, he too witnessed around 12 number plate-less vehicles speeding along the main highway.

When he reached the police station he witnessed a crowd of about 100, some in jungle fatigues. When he inquired whether there were any inspectors, he was informed that the director was inside. Thereafter, he met PSD Director Nihal Karunaratne inside the police station.

Karunaratne was told by the OIC that a lot of unwanted incidents had taken place that night. "That is why I came here," Karunaratne replied.

He thereafter told the OIC that he would speak to the SP the next morning in order to release the ID cards as he had to send the PSD officers for duty the next morning. He even feigned that he had no knowledge of the incidents, "ekai man ballanna awe, mun man dannne nathiwa monawa karanawada," in the director's very own words. But, when he came to the police station he was accompanied by the same vehicles that were involved in the shooting and the same people who were terrorising the Rajagiriya area.

The ID cards however were released. The OIC's statement reveals that he was informed that Silva and Sanjeeva were involved in the incidents and that police officers had been threatened and abused.

The terror tactics did not abate due to the run-in with the police as evidence suggests. Several UNP offices were attacked and an official at the election commissioner's department identified as Kulatunga informed Welikada Police that Chandra Silva's brother was intimidating and physically assaulting voters near the booth at Sudarmarama Temple on the morning of October 10.

Silva himself in a statement to police admits that there was an altercation between police and armed groups marauding in the area and that a reign of terror was being created in the area by such groups. His statement also indicates that those who were injured were Jayasekera and Basnayake. The Welikada Police filed a case on the shooting incident under case number B222/4, 00-12-7, but in the case it was not indicated that the PSD was involved.

On October 24, 2000, Chandrasekera once again wrote to DIG, Western Province (south) on the incident. In his letter he states that the police had to open fire due to the manner in which the PSD members and others were behaving and categorically says that the main intention of such action was to intimidate and turn the voters in their party's favour. He has also identified Silva as being a member of the party.

No action was taken on the report, which was directed for proper action.

In March this year, an even more damning condemnation of the PSD was sent to Jayantha Wickremaratne DIG, Western Province/(South) Range by SSP Gamini Karunathileke, who overlooks the Nugegoda Division.

"This file relates to serious allegations against some of the men attached to the PSD for committing election malpractices and serious acts of indiscipline on 09.10.2000 in the eve of the General Election.

"It is alleged that the PSD men, some who had been identified had confronted the local police who were on mobile duty where they had used automatic firearms indiscriminately," the letter under No. S 212 A./2001 states.

Karunathileke adds that the PSD Director be requested to produce the officers under him before SP/Nugegoda so that their statements could be recorded and that they be suspended till the inquiry is concluded.

No action was taken on the report as well, for reasons best known to DIG Wickremaratne who is considered a staunch PA loyalist. In fact, he just happens to be the cousin brother of PSD's Nihal Karunaratne. But later, events during the run-up to the last general election show that rouge elements in the PSD were up to their old tricks all over again. Some were even arrested with not only automatic weapons but a RPG launcher as well.

Now that the government which bred and reared the PSD into an all consuming monster machine is out of office, it is up to the new UNF government and especially the new Interior Minister John Amaratunga to initiate action on the reports.

They have to reveal to the country whether the PSD indeed was a terror machine or whether it was just a figment of the imagination of the media. The longer the new government holds back on such an inquiry, the deeper the suspicions of the people that it too is getting ready for the same old war dance.

The letter written by SSP/Nugegoda to DIG WP

D.I.G. WP/(South) Range

This file relates to serious allegations against some of the men attached to the PSD for committing election malpractices and serious acts of indiscipline on 09.10.2000 on the eve of general elections.

It is alleged that the PSD men, some who had been identified, had confronted the local police who were on mobile duty where they had used automatic firearms indiscriminately.

The local police had opened fire injuring one PSD person who had been admitted to the General Hospital on a fictitious name with serious gun shot injuries and subsequently admitted to a private hospital.

Subsequently, a number of vehicles said to be attached to the PSD with about 100 men had surrounded the Welikada Police Station. They had also damaged a police vehicle.

Director/PSD who had arrived at the scene had defused the situation. The Identity Cards of the PSD men which had been taken charge were returned to him by the police.

The connected statements of the civilians and the local police personnel had been recorded by OIC/Welikada. The investigations at the time of the incident had been directed by SP Nandana Wijeratne who had been on duty at Welikada on this day. The statements of the PSD men who were involved and the police drivers of the vehicles involved have to be recorded.

The detail report of OIC/Welikada appears on pages 97-111 and the report of SP/Nugegoda (I) appears on pages 113-115. I have instructed OIC/Welikada to keep the relevant IBB in safe custody.

I suggest that DIG/PSD be requested to produce all these officers before SP/Nugegoda (I) to be questioned and to get their statements recorded or this file be referred to Director/SIU to complete investigations.

Suitable action may be taken to prevent this sort of incidents in the future. Re: para 6 of page 115, I recommend that DIG/PSD be requested to suspend the services of these PSD men who had been identified pending completion of the inquiry for tarnishing the image of the PSD please.

Gamini Karunatilake,

SSP/Nugegoda Division.

 

 

 

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