By Frederica Jansz
after Chairman, Sri Lanka Telecom and President, Sri Lanka Cricket,
Thilanga Sumathipala went missing, the government remained inactive —
allowing the head of one of the state’s premier institutions, Sri
Lanka Telecom, to remain in hiding after being charged with a criminal
offence. The Attorney General’s Department has ruled that a prima
facie case against Sumathipala exists for having facilitated the
travel of an underworld killer to the UK in 1999 using a forged passport
and in using Cricket Board funds to do so.
to the documentary evidence available, Thilanga Sumathipala not only
authorised in writing the release of sterling pounds 1,500 to the killer
but later wrote off those monies at the Cricket Board. A statement of
minutes of the executive committee meeting of the Cricket Board dated
March 29, 2001, proves that the exco members headed by Sumathipala
“wrote off” the sterling pounds 1,500 that had been issued to the
underworld killer Dhammika Amarasinghe alias Buddhika Priyashantha
the overwhelming evidence against him which resulted in Sumathipala
going underground, Posts and Telecommunications Minister, Imtiaz Bakeer
Markar, said he has no power to remove Sumathipala from SLT “as he was
appointed by the Prime Minister.” Sports Minister Johnston Fernando
maintained that he too is unable to interfere and ask Sumathipala to
step down from the Cricket Board, as the latter remains an independent
body. The Sports Ministry can only intervene, Fernando said if there has
been a misappropriation of funds. Agreeing that the charge of
misappropriation of funds does exist in this case Fernando however
reiterated that since the matter is now before court he can do nothing
until the law of the land decides. (See box for further comments)
is no small wonder that the AG’s Department issued an order to the
Criminal Investigations Department (CID) to produce Sumathipala in a
court of law given the influence Sumathipala is clearly wielding not
just with the government, but even with officers at the CID. The Colombo
Chief Magistrate, A. R. Heiyanthuduwa last Thursday queried why the
AG’s Department was moving for the CID to arrest Sumathipala when
police have the power to arrest any suspect believed to have committed
an offence under the Immigration and Emigration Act without any
hindrance based on evidence gathered. The Magistrate pointed out that
the CID in this context does not require an arrest warrant.
AG’s Department having ruled that a prima facie case against
Thilanga Sumathipala exists under the Immigration and Emigration Act
must believe that an order was indeed necessary given the CID’s
lackadaisical methods at concluding its investigation into this case.
The CID has proved that it will bow to pressure and influence, refusing
to move fast and efficiently in a matter where damning evidence has
surfaced, seriously incriminating Thilanga Sumathipala. Sumathipala, has
meanwhile proved that he not only possesses a mastermind of criminal
bent, but is equally good at playing hide and seek. He is so good at it
that more than a week after he went ‘missing’ sleuths from the CID
were still “looking” for him. And all the time important government
business at Sri Lanka Telecom, which needs the Chairman’s attention
has to be put on hold since the man is in hiding and the government just
does not have the courage to remove him from office.
refused to surface from his burrow following his failed attempts to
jostle and twist the laws of this land. Long used to lying his way out
of any situation, Sumathipala continued to do so even after the Supreme
Court last week threw his petition out of court.
newspaper has consistently maintained that Thilanga Sumathipala is a
pathological liar and cheat with the characteristics of a common
criminal. On his part, Sumathipala has lived up to this observation as
he continued to utter more and more damning lies in the face of serious
criminal evidence against him. Lies, which he converted to written
statements, after the AG’s Department ordered the CID to produce him
very day the AG’s order was faxed to the offices of the CID, November
27, 2003, Sumathipala caring little for the public posts he holds as
Chairman, Sri Lanka Telecom and President, Sri Lanka Cricket —
disappeared. Or, in similar vein to his pals in the underworld, went
CID team that visited his home on Thursday, 27th, and continued to look
for him on Friday, 28th, said he could not be found at his home or
office. Sumathipala expected at a signing ceremony at the Board of
Investment of Sri Lanka Friday morning left the investors from Hong Kong
nonplussed as he simply did not turn up, and no explanation was given.
At a gala dinner too that evening Sumathipala did not show.
deserted his offices at Sri Lanka Telecom and the Cricket Board not even
showing up for the exco meeting at the Cricket Board on December 3.
Saturday, 29th however, Thilanga Sumathipala issued a statement. The
media release issued by the media unit of Sri Lanka Cricket was unsigned
though it bore the name of Thilanga Sumathipala. Obviously even
officials at the Cricket Board media unit had no idea where to find
Sumathipala so he could stamp his signature to the letter. So, it was
sent out unsigned. Another precedent set on the part of the Cricket
what is amusing is the wording in the press statement. Sumathipala
whether of his own bat or that of another misguided bozo, wrote that he
was completely unaware of any order by the AG directing that he be taken
into custody and produced in court. Why then was the man hiding?
then goes on to state another gem. This is what the first paragraph of
the letter said with regard to “a letter issued by the Attorney
this is on the very eve of the commencement of the England and Sri Lanka
test series, regardless of the damage to the country, that too, by the
Attorney General and Solicitor General acting in random, giving rise to
the question of the real motive?”
adds, “I regret to state that I am aware that the Attorney General and
the Solicitor General have acted in a manner of not applying the law
equally to all.”
maintains he is not avoiding this issue, but will face it in court. He
has failed to do so eight days later, continuing to play hide and seek.
Sumathipala then goes onto to say in the same release that The Sunday
Leader newspaper has carried on a scandalous campaign and conspiracy
to have him killed. From a man who allegedly authorised an underworld
killer to take pot shots at the home of the editor of this newspaper
this is certainly rich.
did not stop at that. Ever the activist, he planned his next move.
Having shifted focus from President’s Counsel Desmond Fernando, that
upholder of human rights, to Rienzie Arsecularatne, attorney-at-law and
former director general, Commission to Investigate Allegations of
Bribery and Corruption, Sumathipala petitioned the highest court of this
land seeking a stay order on the letter from the AG’s Department.
why Sumathipala needed to bother the Supreme Court with a petition if
according to his own media release on Saturday there was no order for
his arrest, he chose not to explain in a subsequent kele paththara, which
was unsigned and not on any official letterhead.
he remained in hiding all of last week is also not clear if there was no
order from the AG’s Department that he be produced by the CID in a
court of law.
hearing Sumathipala’s petition to the Supreme Court on December 3,
Chief Justice (CJ) Sarath Silva informed Sumathipala’s counsel,
Rienzie Arsecularatne that it is imperative the facts in relation to
this case are placed before court and thereafter the magistrate of that
court will take necessary steps according to the due process of the law.
was argued on behalf of the petitioner that there is no prima facie
case against Sumathipala at which point the CJ reiterated that it is for
the magistrate to make that decision. The CJ asserted that if the
petitioner’s position was that there is a lack of evidence against him
such matters should be stated to the Magistrate’s Court and not to the
CJ had further stated that the Supreme Court had absolutely no power to
interfere with the powers of the magistrate and citing a case law had
informed counsel that he should first read that particular case.
P. Edussuriya appearing visibly annoyed by the frivolous submissions
made by counsel for the petitioner interjected at this point asking
whether he expects the Supreme Court to tie the hands of the magistrate.
He further expressed his dissatisfaction by asking counsel for the
petitioner whether they expect the SC judges to say, “Magistrate
beware, if you do this.”
had then asked what if Sumathipala gets arrested on a false B report
placed before the Magistrate’s Court by the CID. The CJ had inquired
as to how the counsel knows what will be stated in the B report. It was
the unanimous view of the judges that the magistrate will make an order
based on the facts placed before court and that the Supreme Court has no
powers whatsoever to interfere with the powers vested in the magistrate
by the Code of Criminal Procedure.
Edussuriya also disallowed a proposal to inform the petitioner when the
facts would be placed before the Magistrate’s Court by saying it will
create a bad precedent and that “every Tom, Dick and Harry will come
to the Supreme Court if you allow this.”
CID on Thursday filed a B report before Colombo Chief Magistrate A. R
Heiyanthuduwa against the suspects Dhammika Amarasinghe and Thilanga
Sumathipala under the Immigration and Emigration Act. The CID requested
court to issue notice or warrant against the suspects.
the lengthy submissions made by the prosecution and the defence, the
Magistrate directed the case to be called on January 8, 2004.
Magistrate citing several authorities observed the law is quite clear in
this instance. The suspect could be arrested under the Immigration and
Emigration Act if there is sufficient evidence against him. Therefore,
the court need not issue notice or a warrant for the arrest of a
suspect, but the CID could follow the law and act accordingly.
Heiyanthuduwa observed that there had been a number of cases under the
Immigration and Emigration Act that had come before him on several
occasions, but in those instances the prosecution never moved court to
issue notice or warrant. He maintained that even without a court order
if there is sufficient evidence a suspect could be taken into custody.
the outset, Ananda Hettiarachchi counsel for the underworld killer
Dhammika Amarasinghe totally denied the allegations against his client
that he had travelled to London in 1999 to witness the ICC Cricket World
defence lawyers also maintained that the CID is yet to find any passport
belonging to Buddhika Priyashantha Godage, which according to other
documentary evidence is the forged passport Dhammika Amarasinghe
State Counsel Vijitha Malalgoda who led the prosecuting team submitted
that the second suspect mentioned in the B report, Thilanga Sumathipala,
is alleged to have assisted the first suspect to travel to London on a
forged passport according to the evidence available to the CID.
Malalgoda asserted had also assisted the first suspect to obtain
sterling pounds 1,500 from Cricket Board funds. Malalgoda further said
the voucher obtained from the Cricket Board for 1,500 pounds had since
disappeared and in place of Godage’s name now there is the name of one
further pointed out that there is evidence to say Thilanga Sumathipala
is a very close friend of the first suspect.
Wijeysekera appearing for Sumathipala said that prosecution had to lead
evidence before they moved for a warrant against the suspect.
Arsecularatne in his submission said the CID during its investigation
had not found the forged passport, the air ticket which Dhammika is
alleged to have used to travel to London or the embarkation documents or
any reports from the British High Commission with regard to a visa being
issued to the first suspect.
cannot be ignored of course is the available evidence against
Sumathipala, which is damning. The evidence is so incriminating, it
forced Sumathipala to hurriedly and with no explanation, vacate the hot
seats at Sri Lanka Telecom and Sri Lanka Cricket and take cover —
The available documentary
evidence proving Thilanga Sumathipala has indeed facilitated the
travel of an underworld killer to the UK in 1999.
The documentary proof from the Immigration and Emigration
Department that Dhammika Amarasinghe submitted a birth certificate
and identity card in the name of Buddhika Priyashantha Godage in
order to secure a forged passport.
The letter dated May 3, 1999 and signed by Thilanga
Sumathipala together with Lucien Merinnage and Subash Pathmaperuma
on official letter heads of the Cricket Board to the Hatton
National Bank (HNB) authorising the release of sterling pounds
1,500 to Buddhika Priyashantha Godage.
The statement of minutes of the exco meeting at the Cricket
Board dated March 29, 2001 which clearly states that “Rs.
184,155 in respect of Mr. Godage’s allowance of pounds sterling
1,500 recommended to write off.” This statement has been cited
under the sub heading ‘World Cup officials.’
Both Hony. Secretary, Cricket Board, Mohan de Silva and
Hony. Treasurer, Trevor Rajaratnam have repeatedly stated that
they have no idea who Buddhika Priyashantha Godage is. Mohan de
Silva has stated this in two statements made to the CID as well as
in statements to this newspaper. Why then did he and Rajaratnam
together with all the other exco members in 2001 attest the board
minutes of March 29, 2001 to write off these monies to an
individual listed as a world cup official if they have never heard
The detailed phone bill used by Dhammika Amarasinghe in
prison, which proves he has repeatedly telephoned Thilanga
Sumathipala on his personal mobile phone number.
appearing both at the Supreme Court and at the Colombo
Magistrate’s Court on behalf of Thilanga Sumathipala, recently
also appeared at the Colombo High Court seeking a bail application
order for the underworld killer Dhammika Amarasinghe. No doubt a
trade unions protest
trade unions at Sri Lanka Telecom on Wednesday began a picketing
campaign calling for the government to conduct an inquiry into the
level of corruption and wastage at Sri Lanka Telecom over these
last two years. The campaign continued upto Saturday with plans by
the unions to take the campaign islandwide.
The trade unions are holding responsible the chief executive
officer of SLT, its chairman and board of directors.
A Sri Lanka Telecom trade union forum spokesman who requested
anonymity said, “we don’t like to have a chairman like
Thilanga Sumathipala who has a criminal track record and is also
responsible for the corruption and wastage at SLT over these last
“The government should understand and remove him — after
all, how can Sumathipala be maintained as chairman at one of Sri
Lanka’s premier institutions?” he asked.
man is innocent until proven guilty” — Treasurer
Hony. Treasurer, Sri Lanka
Cricket, Trevor Rajaratnam said, “I am elected in an honorary
capacity to carry on the game of cricket in Sri Lanka. If the law
in the land finds Thilanga guilty then he will definitely have to
pay for it. Until then we can do nothing at the Cricket Board as
every man is innocent until proven guilty,” Rajaratnam said.
Rajaratnam, claimed to have been in touch with Sumathipala on
a daily basis all the while he had “disappeared.” Rajaratnam
said that Sumathipala had been away on holiday. Asked where, he
said he did not know. Strangely, even the CID and Sumathipala’s
wife “does not know” where he is ‘holidaying.’
Pressed further to comment on why no member of the exco
committee at the Cricket Board will take a stand on this issue at
least to save the image of Sri Lanka Cricket both at home and
abroad, Rajaratnam replied, “I have my own views on these
things. We are living in a third world country. I am just an
ordinary citizen. At the moment my first priority is to work
towards upholding the game of cricket in Sri Lanka. The English
team is in the country and we are in the midst of a test series.
My commitment is to see that everything goes smoothly. Once the
law in this land takes a decision with regard to Thilanga
Sumathipala only then can the executive board members at Sri Lanka
Cricket take a decision.”
Every man is innocent until proven guilty as Rajaratnam says,
but would he continue to keep in his employment a person —
without at least a suspension of services — if the said employee
is charged for misappropriating company funds? Would he
continue to allow him to do the same job he is charged for
until he is proven guilty in a court of law? If that is
Rajaratnam’s position in justifying Sumathipala continuing to
function as Sri Lanka Cricket President then it certainly opens a
new chapter in private sector industrial relations. We hope the
management of Rajaratnam’s travel firm follows this principle in
all cases involving its employees.
Minister totally responsible for disgraceful state of affairs”
Sri Lanka’s former star cricket
captain Arjuna Ranatunga said he blames Prime Minister Ranil
Wickremesinghe completely for the disgraceful state of affairs
concerning Thilanga Sumathipala. Ranatunga added that Sports
Minister Johnston Fernando must also in this context be held
responsible. “They are the two main people to be held
responsible for this disgraceful state of affairs,” he said,
adding that Johnston Fernando was even backing Sumathipala
contesting a seat at the International Cricket Council.
Ranatunga was scornful of the government advocating good
governance. “The government is only capable of going after Pradeshiya
Sabha and Palath Sabha members. The ordinary people of
this country can now see how money talks and those with influence
can thumb their noses at the law.”
Ranatunga, also lashed out at the Cricket Board officials
saying “if they are supposed to be so called upright and elite
gentlemen of Sri Lankan society they should have resigned by
Ranatunga went onto say, “now everyone will realise why
they have come into the Cricket Board. This is a group that has
wanted to get involved in cricket for their own gain. They are the
least worried about the damage to the image of Sri Lanka cricket
globally as a result of this scandal.”
Ranatunga added that some of the English players in Sri Lanka
as well as other British journalists have questioned him on the
scandal revolving around Sumathipala. “I was on a brief visit to
India recently and even there I was asked about this case — I
have maintained to all that I was a lone voice some time ago with
regard to who Thilanga Sumathipala really is — My warnings have
now all come to pass.”
Ranatunga asserted that Sri Lanka’s image from a war
battered country was lifted by the achievements of its national
cricket team. “Now in the international cricket arena we have
been reduced to a joke — as we are laughed at for the antics
going on at Sri Lanka’s Cricket Board,” he said. Ranatunga
referred bitterly to some of the exco members at the Cricket Board
saying, “some of them were not even heard of before in the
cricket world and did not even own a push cycle. Today, they are
all owners of luxury vehicles — this by itself proves how much
they have earned as a result of being a member of the Cricket
presidents at Cricket Board should take over”
Johnston Fernando said that he cannot order Cricket Board
President Thilanga Sumathipala to step down until the
investigation and court case against him are concluded, but said
he personally is of the view the vice presidents should take over
the administration of the board.
Fernando added he cannot at this moment comment on the
charges against Thilanga Sumathipala until a court of law finds
“I cannot take a decision where Sumathipala is concerned
until he is proven guilty in a court of law,” the Minister said.
Fernando added that he personally is of the view that one of
the vice president’s of the Cricket Board should temporarily
take over the board’s administration until this issue is
concluded. “I am sure there will be a resolution soon, one
way or the other. Until then one of the vice presidents should
take over,” he said.
Fernando maintained that as Sports Minister he cannot make
any such order to the Cricket Board as it remains an independent
body. He explained the ministry could intervene only if there
has been financial misappropriation of funds.
When pointed out that one of the charges against Sumathipala
is that he has indeed misappropriated the Cricket Board’s monies
by authorising the release of sterling pounds 1,500 from the
Cricket Board to an underworld killer, the Minister still
maintained that since the matter is now before court he cannot
take any action in this regard. What Minister Fernando fails to
acknowledge is the fact that any public officer once charged is
interdicted until cleared in court. But it is obvious Thilanga
is above the law as far as this government is concerned.
Fernando added, “if I make any adverse comment against
Sumathipala and he is found innocent next week — what will be my
position? So, in this context I cannot take a decision.”
Fernando reiterated further, “personally I feel politics
plays a big role in all this. This is typical Sri Lanka. In
a country like this where even ministries are taken over overnight
by the President there is little hope for fairplay. This is the
reality.” Was it then politics at play when the UNP working
committee suspended from membership some lowly members of Pradeshiya
Sabhas on petty charges or is the defence put up by Fernando
the real poltics at play is the million dollar question.
Vice President, Sri Lanka
Cricket, Aravinda de Silva maintained that the affairs of the
Cricket Board are going on as usual despite Cricket Board
President Thilanga Sumathipala having gone “missing” for over
a week. “Whether Thilanga is there or not the Cricket Board will
run. No one is indispensable — including myself,” he said.
Asked if he did not think it necessary for either him or the
other Vice President M. J. M. Muzammil or both of them to
take over the running of the Cricket Board until the case
involving Sumathipala is concluded, Aravinda replied, “It is not
necessary at the moment.” Aravinda confirmed that Thilanga
Sumathipala had failed to attend the Cricket Board exco meeting on
De Silva however attempted to deny that Sumathipala was in
hiding. “I spoke to him soon after my return from London
two days ago,” he said, speaking to The Sunday Leader
last Thursday, adding that Sumathipala had asked him to meet with
him to discuss certain matters.
When asked where he was supposed to meet Sumathipala,
Aravinda said, “he did not tell me — I was driving at the time
and could not talk for long. I have not called him back yet to
find out where to meet.”
Pressed further on where Thilanga Sumathipala is if he had
been in telephone contact with him, Aravinda said, “I don’t
where he is. I have not been able to meet him yet.
I have not seen him since I came back from London two days ago.”
Asked if the image of Sri Lanka’s cricket has been damaged
internationally as a result of the scandal surrounding Sri
Lanka’s Cricket Board President, Aravinda said, “until
Thilanga is found guilty it is difficult to say to what extent
this case has damaged the image of Sri Lanka Cricket.”
Aravinda maintained that until S. J. Associates “submits a
report on their findings ascertaining if sterling pounds 1,500 was
indeed utilised by Sumathipala to send an underworld gangster
abroad we will carry on as usual.”