7th September, 2003 Volume 10, Issue 8

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SPOTLIGHT

Thilanga named as contractor by underworld gangster

By Frederica Jansz

Confessions of a key underworld character have revealed that Chairman, Sri Lanka Telecom  and President, Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka, Thilanga Sumathipala has masterminded contract killings having maintained a close relationship with an underworld kingpin.

Chairman, Sri Lanka Telecom and President, Board of
Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka, Thilanga Sumathipala

Mahinda Godage alias ‘Bada Mahinda’ alias ‘Central Mahinda’ in written statements to the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) has confessed his active participation in a number of killings and attempted murders — some of which he has  alleged  were planned and financed by Thilanga Sumathipala.

Bada Mahinda as he was familiarly referred to among figures of the underworld was a classmate of the feared underworld kingpin Dhammika Amarasinghe alias Ruwan Liyanage alias Dhammika Perera.

Mahinda Godage alias Bada Mahinda being taken to Gangodawila Magistrate’s Court

Bada Mahinda trying to avoid photographers

More commonly known as Dhammika Perera, Amarasinghe is now in remand custody having surrendered to Police Headquarters recently. His pal and strongman Bada Mahinda was arrested about eight months ago by CI Shani Abeysekera, a sleuth attached to the CID.

Bada Mahinda was nabbed by Abeysekera at Kotte having been found in possession of a Brownie pistol that had been identified as the murder weapon of another underworld figure — ‘Kandana Pradeep’ who was killed at Kandana in 2001. Pradeep was heavily involved in human smuggling. The real reasons for the killing have  not yet been identified.

Meantime, Mahinda while being held in remand custody has made shocking confessions, hoping his evidence will be substantive enough to name him as a crown witness. A detailed account revealed to police discloses how he operated together with Dhammika Amarasinghe alias Perera and a host of other underworld figures, on many occasions under the patronage of Thilanga Sumathipala.

On three such occasions, Bada Mahinda has confessed that Sumathipala contracted Dhammika Perera to attempt the murder of  Editor in Chief of The Sunday Leader, Lasantha Wickrematunge.

According to Mahinda, Dhammika Perera had one day in July 1998 asked him to come and meet him together with another underworld figure known as Jackpot Chaminda. Jackpot Chaminda is an army deserter and is also now in custody.

Confession

When they met, Perera had said they had a job to do at a “paththarakaraya’s  house.  Mahinda claims that at the time he was unaware that it was to be at the home of The Sunday Leader Editor.

In his confession, he describes how the three of them arrived at the house situated at Kandawatte Terrace in Nugegoda and that Jackpot Chaminda got down from the vehicle they were travelling in, aimed a sawn off T56 weapon through the grills of the main front gate and unloaded a burst of gunfire.

Nobody was injured or killed in the incident. The Wickrematunge’s  driver at the time Lalith, however narrowly escaped death as he peered from his room facing the front gate to find out what the noise was and a  bullet whizzed past his head.

Bada Mahinda states in his confession that thereafter Dhamikka Perera telephoned Thilanga Sumathipala from his mobile phone and told him, “Sir, vadey hari” (the job is done.)

Mahinda’s evidence appears to be  credible as the Wickrematunge’s following this attack on their home replaced their front gate with one that has no grillwork.

And for Bada Mahinda to describe the gate that was in place five years ago lends credibility to his story.

On two other occasions Mahinda says Sumathipala masterminded two more assassination attempts on Lasantha Wickrematunge. On both occasions he said, he together with Dhammika Perera lay in wait for Wickrematunge as he drove in a red Pajero from his Nugegoda residence to work. Twice however their plan to murder the Editor had to be abandoned as Wickrematunge was accompanied by his wife Raine, and Mahinda claims he prevailed upon Dhammika not to shoot as she too would have run the risk of being murdered.

At the relevant time Wickrematunge did drive a red Pajero which was also damaged in the shooting at the residence.

The fact that Sumathipala has had close links with Dhammika Perera is substantiated by a detailed bill of mobile phone calls taken to and from Perera’s cellular phone to the cellular phone number of Thilanga Sumathipala.

Amazingly, Dhammika Perera is contactable on a Dialog mobile  phone number while in remand. His telephone number is 077 6093568. The phone is registered under the name of one H. G. Priyankara of 101, Market Road, Dambulla.

A breakdown of his mobile phone bill has proved that Thilanga Sumathipala has been in touch with Dhammika repeatedly while the underworld kingpin sits in prison. Sumathipala’s mobile phone number reflected in the bill is 0777 765544.

On one hand it is curious how prison authorities are allowing Dhammika Perera to use a mobile phone while in remand. More serious  of course is the evidence that Thilanga Sumathipala has been telephoning this very mobile phone to speak with the underworld thug.

When we contacted Sumathipala and asked him if he has had any relationship with the underworld figure Dhammika Amarasinghe alias Perera, he said, “absolutely not.” Quizzed as to whether he planned and financed the assassination attempts on Lasantha Wickrematunge, Sumathipala strongly denied the charge saying, “I was one of the first to rush to Lasantha’s house when it was shot at in 1998 — we have been friends for many years and all this is the work of Gamini Abeyratne in an attempt to split the party.”

Gamini Abeyratne is executive director,  Airport Aviation Authority and a strong loyalist of the United National Party.

Mobile phone bill

Reading out the mobile phone number presently used by Dhammika Perera, we asked Sumathipala if he was familiar with the phone number. He said he did not recognise the number at all. “This is news to me. I cannot remember this particular number. If anyone is giving this kind of information, it is very serious because I have had nothing to do with this,” he claimed.

Told that a breakdown of the mobile phone bill for the phone used by Dhammika Perera proved that Sumathipala had repeatedly telephoned this number and received calls from this number while in remand, he said, “anyone could have called me from that number — I do not know, But I have never spoken with Dhammika Perera.”

Sumathipala added that all these allegations are being made by people who are trying to split the government. “They are doing this by now hitting out at me,  and by hurting or upsetting Lasantha they think they can cause a split,” he said.

“Trying to play dirty”

Sumathipala charged that “President Chandrika Kumaratunga has suddenly woken up and is trying to divide our people. This is the result,” he said. He added that Gamini Abeyratne “controls underworld figures and this is the way he is now trying to once more play dirty.”

Apart from these assassination attempts on Wickrematunge ‘Bada Mahinda’ meanwhile has further stated in his confession that Sumathipala is believed to have paid Dhamikka Perera Rs. 90 lakhs to murder Baddegana Sanjeewa, a former member of the Presidential Security Division (PSD) and another underworld kingpin.

The motive for the killings and attempted murders on Lasantha Wickrematunge allegedly planned and financed by Sumathipala is believed to have been due to Sumathipala’s close association with a former PA stalwart.

The stalwart at the time was a strongman and a minister in the People’s Alliance government and a bitter adversary of Lasantha Wickrematunge whose newspaper consistently published scandalous misdeeds of the PA where both  the  stalwart  and President Chandrika Kumaratunga were named.

Interestingly both President Kumaratunga and her one time ally, S. B. Dissanayake have accused each other publicly of planning to kill an “editor or two.”

The fall-out with Baddegana Sanjeewa is believed to have taken place due to the fact that Sanjeewa’s brother had begun working for Rajitha Senaratne preceding the December 2001 general election and even presently is under the employment of the Lands Minister.

It is speculated that Baddegana Sanjeewa had begun “talking too much” and was about to spill the beans to the then opposition UNF on the eve of elections on some of the atrocities committed during the regime of the People’s Alliance.

According to Bada Mahinda the killing of Baddegana Sanjeewa was carried out by Dhammika Perera and another underworld figure known as ‘Gala’ alias Udaya Kumara.

Signed confession

It is Gala who allegedly shot Baddegana Sanjeewa dead when they drove together in the latter’s vehicle — a black Rav4 jeep. Gala subsequently made a signed confession to the Peliyagoda police Special Crimes Unit but senior cops never took the initiative to remand him for this murder. He is now believed to be residing in the UK.

Recounting the murder of Baddegana Sanjeewa in 2001, Bada Mahinda has stated that he had been watching the Sri Lankan team playing a cricket match in Sharjah on the upper floor of a pharmacy situated at Kotte, together with other underworld figures Jackpot Chaminda, Dias and Pradeep Malli.

He says he then got a call from Dhammika to go to Baddegana Sanjeewa’s house situated at Duwa Road in Kotte and find out who he was with. On the pretext of dropping a close friend and associate of Baddegana Sanjeewa, one Duwe Shantha who lived in the same neighbourhood as Baddeg- ana Sanjeewa, Bada Mahinda says he carried out a casual recce on Sanjeewa’s house and returned to the pharmacy.

After an hour had passed he claims Duwe Shantha had turned up at a timber depot in Kotte which was a popular haunt of Dhammika and his cohorts. Dhammika is believed to actually own 40 perches of land where this timber depot is located. Land, police claim he was able to purchase from the blood money paid to him for contract killings.

Meanwhile, Duwe Shantha was soon joined by another underworld figure known as Ratmalana Jesmi and thereafter Dhammika and Gala. A short time later, Baddegana Sanjeewa himself turned up in his Rav4 jeep. After some discussion, Dhammika climbed into the front seat of the vehicle while Gala got in the back. They had then driven off in the direction of Mirihana.

An hour later, Mahinda claims they returned to the pharmacy where he was still watching the cricket match, but only Dhammika and Gala had come upstairs and there, they exchanged their guns with each other. They once more had left together with Baddegana Sanjeewa in the latter’s vehicle. They did not travel far as on Pagoda Road, Gala pulled out Dhammika’s gun which was in his possession and shot Baddegana Sanjeewa from behind. The victim according to Mahinda had fallen on Dhammika who was seated in the passenger front seat, but Dhammika pushed his long time friend away shouting at the limp body in raw Sinhala filth.

The two killers had then got down from the jeep and got into a blue car that had been following the jeep driven by a man called Suminda. To date police have been unable to trace this person.

Abandoned vehicle

The killers however got stuck as the car ran out of petrol and Mahinda says he received an urgent telephone call from Gala telling him that he had just killed Baddegana Sanjeewa and their getaway car had run out of petrol. He was told to retrieve the car, which had been parked in a side lane in Nugegoda, with the car keys inside, fill it with petrol and await further instructions. He says that Dhammika had also telephoned and told him to leave the pharmacy and not hang around until the heat died down over Baddegana Sanjeewa’s killing.

Mahinda however claims he did not go and retrieve the car and it was later found abandoned in Nugegoda by the Mirihana police. Todate this car lies at the Mirihana police station as the cops found it to be unregistered and one that had been imported in parts and assembled locally.

Bada Mahinda in his confession states that Baddegana Sanjeewa was shot dead at around 7.45 p.m. on November 2, 2001. Later that night he states that he received another phone call from Dhammika telling him to meet him at the Kaduwela Bridge at 12 midnight. He says he did so, and was met by Dhammika Perera, Jackpot Chaminda, Dias and Gala. Dhammika had told him to join them and that they were driving to Polonnaruwa to escape detection for the murder of Baddegana Sanjeewa. Bada Mahinda however had refused to leave and the group left without him. Ten days later, he claims he got another phone call from Dhammika asking him to join them at a house in Dehiwela which is  allegedly used  by Thilanga Sumathipala’s brother, Jagath Sumathipala.

He states he went there and this entire group were fed and looked after well —  supplied daily with bottles of whisky and eatables purchased from Keells Supermarket — all allegedly at the cost of the Sumathipala brothers.

Mahinda claims that this group stayed at this house for a period of two months before it was deemed safe enough for them to return to their respective homes.

When questioned, Thilanga Sumathipala denied he financed the murder of Baddegana Sanjeewa saying: “I never even knew the man — why would I want him killed? He was a member of the PSD — I have had nothing to do with the PSD.”

Gala was subsequently arrested by, the Peliyagoda police on suspicion of another killing which is when he confessed to the murder of Baddegana Sanjeewa. Amazingly though, senior cops did nothing further to pursue the matter and Gala was released due to a lack of further evidence for another murder he had been arrested for. It is believed that he later sought safety by travelling to reside in London.

Bada Mahinda has in the meantime also confessed that it is Thilanga Sumathipala who recently instigated and financed the burning down of a rival bookie club in Kandy called Lake Club.

Dhammika Amarasinghe alias Perera is wanted for at least 50 murders. He has escaped arrest so far as a result of a lack of evidence in all these killings and the immense political protection he enjoyed during the regime of the PA and later the UNF as well. His alleged relationship with Thilanga Sumathipala appears to be a testimonial of this fact.

Deadly tentacles of an underworld kingpin

Dhammika Perera alias Amarasinghe is believed to have over the years carried out a spate of killings to avenge the murder of his brother Chinthaka Amarasinghe. Chinthaka was killed at Thotalanga by underworld figures called Kalu Ajit, Chutta and Victor in 1998.

Dhammika later killed Chutta at IDH. At the time he was accompanied by Moratu Saman, his cousin Thajit, Tharawatte Ajit alias Ajit Kulatunga who is the main accused in the killing of Satana Editor Rohana Kumara, Jackpot Chaminda, Bada Mahinda, Baddegana Sanjeewa and three other unnamed officers from the PSD.

Chutta was killed at a restaurant at IDH while in the company of one Tuwan who was also shot dead in the shoot out. Both bodies were taken by Dhammika to an isolated area close to the Sri Jayewardenepura Hospital where he according to Bada Mahinda cut the neck of Chutta and shot the decapitated head three times in a rage and a fit of vengeance for his brother, Chinthaka’s killing. Setting fire to the bodies, Mahinda says in his confession that Dhammika then took the dismembered head of Chutta and deposited it at the same site where his brother Chinthaka was murdered at Thotalanga.

While carrying the dismembered head the group was stopped at a police checkpoint at Ingurukade but Baddegana Sanjeewa had shown his ID and said he is from the PSD and the group with its gory possession proceeded.

Tharawatte Ajit wanted for the murder of Rohana Kumara has also escaped the police net and is believed to be at present hiding in France.

Subsequently, Mahinda says Dhammika had a fallout with Moratu Saman and tried to kill him at Thalahena. He missed his target but shot dead in the process one Gihan Mendis who happened to be travelling in the same vehicle as Moratu Saman.

Mahinda maintains that this attempted murder was carried out by Dhammika, Jackpot Chaminda and another underworld figure called Lanka. Moratu Saman meantime was gunned down in May this year by another rival underworld gang.

Meanwhile, Thajit (Dhammika’s first cousin) had by this time begun a love affair with Chinthaka’s wife. Incensed and angry at the affair, Mahinda has confessed that Dhammika on another occasion was travelling in the company of his wife, mother, two brothers, Chaminda and Buddhika, Kotte Pradeep, Wanigasekera, Susila Amarasinghe and two other cousins called Bunty and Deepa.

Dhammika had stopped at the timber depot at Kotte where Thajit had been standing, got down from the vehicle and shot him at point blank range in the knee demanding he end the affair with his sister-in-law who had also been inside the vehicle at the time of the attack. Bada Mahinda says he was a witness to this incident as he had also been present inside the same van.

Thajit was warded for his injuries but refused to divulge who had shot him — fearing for his life. He later staked a hide-out at Dambulla but was tracked down and arrested by CID sleuth CI Samudrajeewa who led a police party and arrested Thajit for his connection with previous killings.

Bada Mahinda further maintains that Dhammika met and formed a close alliance with Lohan Ratwatte via Baddegana Sanjeewa. Dhammika according to Mahinda later assisted Ratwatte in the 2000 elections to “stuff thousands of stolen ballot papers into ballot boxes.” Dhammika during this time had been detected at a police checkpoint at Kadugannawa with a haul of weapons and arrested but later released after Lohan Ratwatte had prevailed upon the Kadugannawa police OIC to free him.

The triple murder at Kaduwela where Kaduwela Wasantha’s brother Raja and two others were killed according to Bada Mahinda was also carried out by Dhammika, Jackpot Chaminda, Moratu Saman and Lanka. Bada Mahinda says he drove the van that carried the killers.

Kaduwela Wasantha was also later killed by another gangster known as ‘Karate Dhammika.’

Dhammika’s deadly tentacles spread far and wide. He was later involved in the killing of another underworld figure known as Tudor of Negombo. This killing he carried out together with another underworld kingpin from Negombo known as Capt. Ranjit.

Even Capt. Ranjit has escaped the police and is hiding in Italy. In the meantime Dhammika did not forget his brother’s murder and targeted yet another underworld figure called Harrison Chandrasiri. Using Harrison’s mistress Margi, Dhammika convinced her to reveal Harrison’s whereabouts and shot him dead at Dehiwela while he was distributing invitation cards for his daughter’s forthcoming wedding. Harrison became a target for Dhammika as the latter believed that Harrison had financed Kalu Ajit who killed his brother Chinthaka.

Harrison also enjoyed a close relationship with the OIC Crimes, Grandpass police, IP Mahindasiri. In his confession Bada Mahinda has said that Inspector Mahindasiri narrowly escaped death the day Harrison was murdered as he was due to travel in the same vehicle together with Harrison that day as he often did but later changed plans.

In fact it is Mahindasiri according to Bada Mahinda who even telephoned Margi and informed her that Harrison had been gunned down, unaware that she had assisted the killers to murder her lover.

Police believe that Dhammika is still calling the shots from prison. Using a mobile phone, he continues to threaten adversaries and issue instructions to other underworld figures to carry out various contract killings and extortions. Obviously, his contacts with police and politicians, continues to hold him in good stead.

A high level investigation led by Superintendent of Police M. A. Gnanaratne of the CID is now underway to determine the links into the above cases between politicians, high ranking political appointees and the underworld ‘Mafia’ style gangs.


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