Wild west show in
By Frederica Jansz
A crackdown on firearms owned by private
individuals has resulted in the police admitting that a large number of
weapons, mostly .9mm pistols have been issued by the Interior Ministry
to various wealthy business magnates for reasons of personal safety.
"People have been issued with so many weapons of
this nature we do not even have a clue how many such guns are in the
possession of private individuals," SSP D. P. L. Dissanayake in
charge of Colombo Central said.
Having secured a licence for the firearms citing threats
to their life, these businessmen in most instances do not carry the
weapons themselves but have assigned the guns to henchmen and private
Managing Director, Greenlanka Shipping Ltd., Prashan
Nanayakkara is one such individual. Having secured a licence for two
.9mm pistols from the Interior Ministry on September 25, this year,
Nanayakkara was caught out by police at Lotus Road, Colombo 1 on October
5, with one of the guns in the possession of his personal bodyguards.
Needless to say, these are not the only two guns in
Prashan Nanayakkara's possession. An incident at the Blue Elephant night
club on September 7 this year, proves his personal bodyguards were
already armed at the time the Interior Ministry granted him an
additional two .9mm pistols two weeks later, on September 25. This is
ironically just days after the prime minister called for the disarming
of "rich brats" and their bodyguards.
In his statement to police Prashan Nanayakkara has
claimed he bought the two guns from the Welisara navy camp where the
guns are stored for safe keeping once imported. The matter came to a
head after an incident at the Blue Elephant night club on September 7.
On this day, around 4 a.m. there had been a crowd of around 150 to 200
guests at the club when an argument had broken out between the guests of
Nalin Fonseka and bodyguards of Prashan Nanayakkara. Fonseka has told
police that when he saw the argument break out he had warned Nanayakkara
to stop his bodyguards from meddling with his (Fonseka's) guests. While
a heated argument ensued, Fonseka says he saw someone whom he has now
identified to police as being a personal bodyguard to Prashan
Nanayakkara, drop a revolver onto the floor. As the argument continued
and voices rose higher, the management of the night club had switched on
all the lights and the crowd began to hastily disperse. The West Indian
cricket team had also been present at the time.
Following this incident being highlighted Prime Minister
Ranil Wickremesinghe who was at the time on an official visit to America
sent an urgent missive to IGP T. E. Anandarajah to conduct an immediate
investigation into the incident and bring the culprits to book.
A subsequent police investigation however did not produce
any results and all those who had been present that night at the Blue
Elephant night club and whom the police had an opportunity to question,
denied having in their possession any revolvers.
SSP D. P. L. Dissanayake was called in to head the
investigation. Mounting special police patrols and enlisting the
cooperation of the STF as well, the cops monitored the movements of
individuals or 'regulars' known
to frequent the Blue Elephant night club.
Their efforts were not in vain. On October 5, the cops
arrested two retired army personnel and a driver who had in their
possession a .9mm pistol, which did not belong to any of them. Rtd. Army
Corporal Ranaweera Arachchilage Somapala of Weeraketiya together with
Harshana Chandana Gemunu Kuruppu of Maharagama, also retired from the
army and Karawita Badalage Upul Niranjan of Kalutara were arrested by
the police for being in possession of a gun that did not belong to any
of them, a walkie talkie and three cellular phones issued by Greenlanka
The suspects were produced in the Fort Magistrate's Court
and remanded until October 18. A permit for the pistol, the sleuths
found had been issued by the Interior Ministry to Prashan Nanayakkara on
September 25, this year. The government in fact has issued two
Czechoslovakian made .9mm pistols to Nanayakkara in September this year.
One is .9mm CZ 75B AP 371
and the other .9mm CZ 75B
At the time of arrest, Prashan Nanayakkara was not
present in the Land Cruiser vehicle driven by Upul Niranjan. According
to a statement recorded from Prashan Nanayakkara, he claims that on
October 5, he had travelled in his Land Cruiser to the Continental Hotel
in Fort with these two bodyguards and driver.
After consuming some cocktails and liquor at the
Continental, the group had decided thereafter to go to the Blue Elephant
night club at Colombo Hilton. Nanayakkara however did not get back into
the Land Cruiser but had called for his Mercedes Benz car and getting
into the Merc he left the hotel leaving his weapon inside the Land
Cruiser with two of his bodyguards.
His bodyguards followed in the Land Cruiser. The police
meantime were on the lookout and the vehicles were checked at Lotus Road
by members of the Fort police as well as the STF.
The gun was thus detected and all three persons arrested
and charged under the Amended Firearms Act for being in unlawful
possession of a gun. The charge is a non-bailable offence. The Land
Cruiser is registered in the name of The Riverdale Hotel, Kandy.
Imported on a BOI permit, this vehicle was purchased by Greenlanka
Shipping two years ago for a sum of Rs. 5,500,000.
Nanayakkara meanwhile has denied that any of his
bodyguards were involved in the September 7 incident at the Blue
Elephant. His claim however is contradicted by Nalin Fonseka who insists
the man who dropped a revolver to the floor and picked it up again on
that day during the course of an argument is a personal bodyguard of
Why Prashan Nanayakkara would need so many bodyguards and
guns to accompany him on his night entertainment is not clear. He
refused to comment when The Sunday Leader tried to contact him.
Nanayakkara is also an executive member of the Chamber of Young Lankan
Entrepreneurs (COYLE). SPP Dissanayake is amused. He said, "when
people are too rich, I guess they have to spend their money in some
Interior Minister John Amaratunga insists that such
weapons are issued only when the government is sure that such an
individual's life could be at stake for monetary reasons. The fact of
the matter however is that these weapons are not issued to personal
bodyguards but to the individual only. A letter to Prashan Nanayakkara,
dated September 25, 2002 and signed by Additional Secretary, (Civil
Security) Malini Peiris in fact states very clearly that the two .9mm
pistols are being issued specifically to him only and not to any
When asked how he intends to combat this menace,
Inspector General of Police, T. E. Anandarajah said, "from the
first incident on September 7, we have now mounted police surveys in
Colombo and near night clubs. Police parties including the STF have been
assigned to check vehicles for firearms. If anyone carrying firearms is
detected they will be arrested and remanded." Anandarajah pointed
out that despite these firearms being licenced "the person holding
the license in most instances does not carry the gun - which is an
meanwhile claimed that he had stopped the issuing of personal firearms
five months ago. The minister's claim does not hold water given that in
this instance the two guns in question were issued by the Interior
Ministry less than a month back. When informed of this fact Amaratunga
was surprised and claimed he did not know the two pistols in question
had been issued to Prashan Nanayakkara as recently as September 25, this
Secretary, Interior Ministry, M. N. Junaid says there are
absolutely no statistical records of how many such guns have been issued
to private individuals. "The government nor the police have any
idea how many such weapons have been issued and can only make such an
assertion after studying individual files," he said.
Bodyguards on the
The Sunday Leader learns that on a separate occasion
personal bodyguards of Prashan Nanayakkara beat up at the Blue
Elephant night club Andre Fernando, managing director of an
American freight forwarding company called Expeditors Lanka (Pvt)
Andre Fernando said the incident took place two years ago
and Prashan Nanayakkara "punched me in the face."
Fernando said later four of Nanayakkara's bodyguards had
also beaten him up and another Canadian citizen who had been with
him at the time.