1st January, 2004  Volume 10, Issue 29

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SPOTLIGHT

Makings of a DON

(1) Top of the pic. L-R Thajith, Madhu, Dhammika and Lanka,
(2) Dhammika (C) with his cousin Thajit (L) and another underworld figure Lanka (R)
(3) Dhammika with his wife Madhu and child
(4) Dhammika with his mother Gladys

By Frederica Jansz 

Fed and nurtured by corrupt political elements, Sri Lanka's 'underworld' has thrived - breeding in a cesspool of violence, promulgating the most chilling and foul acts of crime.It is to this vile system that the dreaded Dhammika Amarasinghe was born and bred. 

Having schooled at St. Thomas's College in Kotte, Dhammika grew up to become a psychopathic, calculating, cold-blooded killer, beyond redemption. Dhammika's terrifying track record during his short life span of 30 odd years completely nullifies a claim by a female relative that Dhammika initially wished to become a Catholic priest.There is not an iota of evidence to substantiate this wild statement that appears incomprehensible in the face of what Dhammika turned out to be from a very young age.

Vicious and utterly ruthless to the end, the fact however remains that Dhammika may never have succeeded in his bloody and gory deeds to the extent that he did, if he did not enjoy the patronage and protection of politicians and individuals of Thilanga Sumathipala's kind.

Dhammika was a willing tool, expertly wielded by the likes of Sumathipala who took on the role of a godfather contracting Dhammika when the need arose.  Sumathipala can be compared to John Gotti, the mafia boss of mafia bosses in the USA, also known as Dapper Don or Teflon Don. Gotti was the kind of man who would calmly arrange for your corpse to be encased in a barrel at the bottom of the Hudson River before adjusting his $ 400 necktie and striding out to meet the paparazzi.

Moved from the high-security Illinois Prison where he was serving a life sentence for numerous murders and other charges, Gotti died at the age of 61 in 2002, following complications from throat cancer in a prison hospital.

Like Sumathipala, Gotti too sported expensive suits and even more expensive cars, dispatching to their deaths, among others, his predecessor as head of the Gambino crime family and, allegedly, the man whose car hit and killed his son in a road accident.

It is in similar vein that Sumathipala too handed out such contracts to Dhammika to the extent he rewarded him not just monetarily but, by also facilitating his travel to the UK in 1999 so he could watch World Cup Cricket. Thilanga Sumathipala in 1999 too was president of the Cricket Board.

Senior sleuths at the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) have formulated a road map, which details Dhammika's bloody trail. But, his close alliance with politicians and political cohorts like Sumathipala and Lohan Ratwatte, sleuths in the CID claim, prevented them from netting this killer who at the time of his own murder was wanted for over 50 killings. As a wag was heard recently to quip, "Sri Lanka's police force is the best money can buy."

Acts of crime

It is alleged that Dhammika chose a path of murder most foul after his brother Chinthaka was killed by a rival underworld gang. This incident however according to police records was not the catalyst, which served to launch Dhammika onto a path of unjustifiable and terrifying acts of crime.

With plenty of links to the underworld facilitated by his own mother Gladys, Dhammika hardly needed any introduction to the underworld.Even at the time of Chinthaka's killing, in 1996, he was no stranger to the chilling machinations of mafia style gangs. At the time of his brother's killing in 1996, Dhammika was wanted by the police  for having committed at least three murders as well as for being involved in no less than 17 bank robberies in the Gampaha District.

Dhammika however needed a sponsor - a godfather - and this he found in the likes of Thilanga Sumathipala. The CID has now further established valuable documentary evidence of the link between Thilanga Sumathipala and Dhammika Amarasinghe who posed off as Buddhika Godage.

The CID has also established that Dhammika using the name of Buddhika Godage purchased a van, which he paid for by issuing a bank cheque in the name of Buddhika Godage.He also rented out a house at Moratuwa in the name of Buddhika Godage. The real Buddhika Godage, brother of Bada Mahinda continues to reside at Kotte.

A  CID sleuth confided that he personally is a witness to Dhammika and Thilanga Sumathipala travelling together in one vehicle - a Serena van.He says he followed them along  Parliament Road and at Rajagiriya tried to run them off the road but that they picked up speed and got away. The cop maintains he also had no orders from the top to arrest them despite the fact that Dhammika was a wanted man.

His brother, Chinthaka's blood had hardly dried, before Dhammika in 1996 formed his own 'team,'  who comprised of individuals identified by  police as "Christopher Barry, Gala, Moratu Saman, Piyaratne, Chamara and Sanjeewa Pohol."

In 1997, Dhammika was arrested by the Gampaha police in connection with having committed a murder.Unfortunately however, within the space of a few months he was out on the streets once more due to "insufficient evidence."

Thereafter, Dhammika formed a fresh 'team.' This gang consisted of Bada Mahinda, Lanka, Jackpot Chaminda, Gala, Dias, Podi Chaminda and his first cousin, Thajit alias Methnal Amarasinghe.

An intense police investigation has ascertained that it is this team that was familiar with Thilanga Sumathipala, president of Sri Lanka Cricket.  It is also this team that set ablaze Balasuriya's Lake Club press.They first met Sumathipala through his racing outlets,  Sporting Star. Sumathipala in order to secure his gambling business and the premises where Sporting Star was housed, embraced underworld elements and one such team he nurtured and fed was the gang led by Dhammika.

For the record it must be said that Sumathipala was not alone in this endeavour. In fact he and Dhammika's 'team' was backed by a politician of no mean stature.

It is this team that was 'contracted' in July 1998 to shoot at the home of Editor, The Sunday Leader, Lasantha Wickrematunge,

In December 1998, this team was once more out on a bloody contract.This time around it was to murder "Raja," the brother of another rival underworld gang led by a man known as "Kaduwela Wasantha."It was Raja who was believed to have killed the ill famous "Soththi Upali," the latter of who was a firm favourite of Dhammika and the rest of the Amarasinghe family. Soththi Upali too was a political favourite of some members who are today in government. And likewise, 'Raja' was a close confidant of a VIP. Kaduwela Wasantha was later killed by another gangster known as Karate Dhammika.

In 1999, Dhammika formed a close alliance with Sanjeewa Perera alias Baddegana Sanjeewa who was a constable attached to the Presidential Security Division (PSD) as well as a member of the underworld.Dhammika and Baddegana Sanjeewa were soon loyalists to each other, so much so that Sanjeewa's home at Baddegana in Pitakotte was often used as a safe haven for Dhammika. It is here that Dhammika was introduced to "Captain Ranji," another leader of an underworld gang operating in Negombo.

It was also at Baddegana Sanjeewa's house, that SI Samudrajeewa, later that year in 1999, at the time OIC of the police special team at Peliyagoda arrested Captain Ranji and two other underworld figures despite vigorous protests by both Baddegana Sanjeewa and Nihal Karunaratne, the former strongman of the PSD.

The underworld figures were handed over to the Negombo police and thereafter the CID was brought into handle the investigation - but the matter ended there.

 Killing spree

Dhammika meanwhile was out on a killing spree. Having vowed to seek vengeance for his brother's murder Dhammika finally carried out his threat.Chinthaka had been killed at Thotalanga in 1998, by underworld figures called Kalu Ajit, Anura Chutti and Victor. 

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

Chutti 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 as the story goes, one of the gang cut the neck of Chutti.

Thereafter, Bada Mahinda has told police that Dhammika shot the decapitated head three times in a rage to avenge his brother, Chinthaka's killing. Setting fire to the bodies, Mahinda says in a confession he made later before the Gangodawila Magistrate that Dhammika then took the dismembered head of Chutti and deposited it at the same site where his brother Chinthaka was murdered at Thotalanga.

Gory possession

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.

In the meantime, Dhammika travelled to the UK in May 1999 to watch World Cup Cricket, using a passport under the name Buddhika Priyashantha Godage. In order to do so Thilanga Sumathipala authorised and granted traveller's cheques amounting to Sterling Pounds 1,500 - monies which were released from the Cricket Board - which Sumathipala later wrote off as a bad debt together with the entire executive committee of Sri Lanka Cricket in 2001.

In the year 2000, Dhammika got heavily involved with Lohan Ratwatte, son of former Deputy Defence Minister Anuruddha Ratwatte.At this point Dhammika and Moratu Saman fell out with each other over who should be the leader of this gang and Moratu Saman finally moved out of this group and formed his own group of killers linking himself closely with another politico.

Dhammika's brutality knew no bounds. Thajit or Methnal Amarasinghe, a first cousin to Dhammika and also an underworld figure had by this time begun a love affair with Chinthaka's wife. Incensed and angry at the affair, Dhammika, had while 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, 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.

Bada Mahinda has said he was a witness to this incident as he had also been 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 Samudrajeewa who led a police party and arrested Thajit for his connection with previous killings.

In 2001, Dhammika read the writing on the wall and knew only too well that the UNP was on a winning streak. Well aware that he would fall with the Ratwattes, Dhammika realised he had to cross the fence.And in similar vein to the significant role Thilanga Sumathipala played in facilitating the crossovers of numerous ministers from the People's Alliance, he also facilitated the crossover of members of the underworld. 

It is Sumathipala who during this time introduced Dhammika to a former politician  of the PA who is today in government.This politician  was already savvy with the underworld and had close to him disciples of Kaduwela Wasantha. This group did not like Dhammika being  part of the fold, as Dhammika had killed Kaduwela Wasantha's brother - Raja.

But the politician  needed Dhammika and so there was no way he could be pushed out. In order to prove his loyalty to the incoming regime Dhammika was pushed into killing Baddegana Sanjeewa.

The underworld, feed off political masters - to back the right man and the right party is vital for underworld figures to ensure their survival - and Dhammika was no fool as far as this was concerned. Neither for that matter is Thilanga Sumathipala.

It was rumoured at the time that Baddegana Sanjeewa was also considering a 'cross-over'  but senior sleuths dismissed this theory asserting Baddegana Sanjeewa remained loyal to the PA. He signed his death certificate as a result and his most trusted lieutenant was instrumental in planning and carrying out his murder.

On the evening of November 2, 2001, Sanjeewa had received a telephone call from another close friend named, 'Shantha' who asked him to drive to Pitakotte junction since Dhammika had arrived together with Gala. Getting into his Serena, Baddegana Sanjeewa met up with Dhammika and Gala outside a tea boutique within close range of the UNP headquarters at Pita Kotte - Siri Kotha.

After chatting amicably, Dhammika had climbed into the back seat of the vehicle while Gala had climbed into the front passenger seat.

Barely 15 minutes later, Baddegana Sanjeewa was found dead on Pagoda Road slumped in the driving seat of his Serena, his jaw slack,  with six gun shot wounds in his body.The police claim that Gala had shot Baddegana Sanjeewa in the side of the head repeatedly. The police also say that Dhammika while the gun was being fired dialled the phone number of a top politico and said, "Sir, vedey hari, Sanjeewa mala."There wasn't a single other eye-witness to the slaying. Baddegana Sanjeewa was 29 years old at the time of his death. Despite him having been interdicted by this time from the ranks of the PSD, a police revolver together with a police identification card was found on the person of Baddegana Sanjeewa at the scene of his murder.

After having committed this murder Dhammika together with Gala and Bada Mahinda and the rest of the gang were given shelter at a house owned by Sumathipala and his wife, off Kawdana Road in Dehiwela.

Gala who was subsequently arrested in relation to other crimes got bail seven months later and was sent to England together with his whole family where he continues to reside. But Dhammika remained. But following his arrest, Gala made a devastating statement on Baddegana Sanjeewa's murder where Sumathipala's  name figured prominently and that statement will soon out.

On January 19, 2002, Dhammika killed another underworld figure known as Harrison Chandrasiri. Using Harrison's mistress Margi, Dhammika convinced her to reveal Harrison's whereabouts and shot him dead at Dehiwela while Harrison 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 allegedly 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.

Missed target

Later, on July 5, 2002, Dhammika attempted to kill Moratu Saman at Talahena. 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.

According to Bada Mahinda and the police, this attempted murder was carried out by Dhammika, Jackpot Chaminda and Lanka. Moratu Saman was finally gunned down in May 2003 by another rival underworld gang. Thereafter, Dhammika killed another underworld figure known as Senaka at Moragasmulla. This was purely a contract killing Dhammika carried out for hard cash. 

The CID thereafter towards the end of 2002, arrested Methnal Amarasinghe also known as Thajit and a member of Dhammika's gang.Amarasinghe gave evidence on the Wellampitiya and Kaduwela murders as well as told police he had driven Dhammika to the airport in May 1999 to leave for the UK together with Thilanga Sumathipala. Methnal is now free on bail.

Last year the CID got information that a contract had been handed out to murder Chairman, United National Party, Malik Samarawickrema and Executive Director, Airport Services Ltd., Gamini Abeyratne. The CID were tipped off that Dhammika had been contracted by Sumathipala to carry out these killings.

No sooner was a report to this effect made available to the CID chief, Dhammika surrendered on Sumathipala's advice to the Colombo Magistrate's Court  last year.

Sumathipala had promised he would secure Dhammika his freedom.But Dhammika remained in prison and according to sources had threatened Sumathipala recently saying he would spill the beans if Sumathipala did not secure his freedom - fast. Dhammika's threat of course did not bear fruit - he was gunned down in the Magistrate's Court of Colombo and with him was buried the Pandora's box on crime.

Thilanga lobbied Malik to have Dhammika released 

Thilanga Sumathipala sources confirm visited the home of Chairman, United National Party, Malik Samarawickrema some months back  and appealed for Samarawickrema to use his influence and have Dhammika released from remand prison.

Sitting in front of Samarawickrema, Sumathipala telephoned the jailbird and spoke to him and requested Samarawickrema to do the same.

 A shocked Samarawickrema however did nothing to ensure the release of Dhammika, which angered Sumathipala.

It is now being speculated that this maybe why Dhammika's mother Gladys, following her son's murder on January 9, this year, named Malik Samarawickrema as a possible assassin. However, when asked by the judge if she knew who Samarawickrema is she had to admit she did not know who he is or where he works. 

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