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 Spotlight Abductions, white vans and videoing Tamils Barbarians at the door

Duminda's daring and Anarkali's great escape


Anarkali and Duminda

"Duminda aimed a gun at my mother
and threatened to kill her"

Cover up caught on tape by The Sunday Leader

ABC Radio Chief Raynor Silva alleged
to have bartered release

Goons were commanded by Duminda
and sported military assault rifles

Duminda says he was at temple in Kolonnawa
on Thursday; denies seeing Anarkali

Cyanide sporting Duminda confesses his
undying love for Anarkali and threatens suicide

By Ruan Pethiyagoda

The law of the jungle continues to reign supreme in Colombo - at least in the eyes of Western Provincial Councillor Duminda Silva.

Despite his dispute with actress Anarkali Jayatilleke last month ending with the Colombo Magistrate granting an interim restraining order against Silva approaching or harming Anarkali, the Provincial Councillor chose last Thursday to mastermind a kidnapping, in absolute contempt of the court order.

Silva and Jayatilleke had been in a relationship for some months, which ended sourly last month in a public spectacle, wherein the actress and Provincial Councillor traded charges of assault and theft.

Anarkali was to have to escape from a state of virtual captivity and was confronted by Silva at Elibank Road, Colombo 5 where eye witnesses alleged that he tried to abduct her, and Silva counter-alleged that Anarkali had made away with several million rupees in cash and jewellery.

A much more daring operation was allegedly carried out by Duminda Silva at gun pointon Thursday whichwould have lefteven the hardened Mafiamen in Sicily nodding their heads in approval.

"In grave peril"

On Friday, July 4, Jayatilleke's attorney, President's Counsel Denzil Gunaratne wrote to Attorney General C.R. De Silva warning that he believes that the lives of Anarkali and her mother are "in grave peril" after Silva "forcibly removed" Anarkali and her mother "at gunpoint" on a previous day, in what appeared to be a planned ambush.

Silva, however, contacted by The Sunday Leader completely denied the allegation and stated that he had not seen Anarkali since they famously gave twin statements to the Kollupitiya Police on June 24.

In President's Counsel Gunaratne's note to the Attorney General, he detailed however, a totally different version of events. He stated that at about 6.30 pm on July 3, Silva "along with about 25 other persons armed to the hilt, arrived, at 37/18 Swarna Road, Wellawatte, where she had been enticed into believing that her presence was necessary to sign a film engagement."

Gunaratne continued that Silva had abducted both mother and daughter "to a place in Nugegoda and to his absent parents' house." The PC also alleged that Anarkali "was severely warned not to report the matter to the authorities and that if she stepped into any court house, that she and her mother would be shot there and then."

Mortal fear

"My client and her mother are now in mortal fear, and I believe, in great peril," Gunaratne told the Attorney General C.R. De Silva. The Sunday Leader learns that Anarkali had called Gunaratne at 1.30 am onFriday to relate the story, after lodging her complaint at the Kollupitiya Police Station, fearing for her life. It was this sense of urgency that prompted Gunaratne to write directly to Attorney General C.R. de Silva the very next morning.

Anarkali for her part, suspects that the entire episode was part of a carefully orchestrated ambush. She says that it was planned over several days, starting with a telephone call she received from a former producer of her Anarkali Live TV programme on Derana TV.

"His name is Chaminda. He called and told me that a famous film director, Anurudha Jayasinghe, wanted me to play the lead role for his next movie. He told me that Jayasinghe wanted to speak to me, and gave me the director's number and said to call him," Anarkali recalled.

She related that when she contacted Anurudha Jayasinghe, he had said that he was in Trincomalee and would arrange to have the script for the movie sent to Anarkali through his assistant, one Bandara.

"I got in touch with Bandara, and he came to meet me with the script. He came with one of my ex-assistant producers, Nalaka." At the meeting, Anarkali says that they had arranged to meet with the film's producer, and the lead male actor, Mahendra Perera on July 2, to sign the contract for the film.

No one was at home

"They postponed the meeting for the 3rd, and wanted me to come at 6.30 pm. But when I got there it looked like no one was at home, and the streets seemed deserted. So I called the director's assistant, Bandara, on his mobile (077 415 3841) and he told me that he'd be there in five minutes."

The actress said that a young boy had then emerged from the house and asked what she wanted. "I asked him whether Mahendra Perera was there, and he said yes, and told us to come inside, so we went into the house."

At that time, a Muslim producer had greeted them inside the house and said that they should wait for Mahendra Perera. "Bandara arrived a few minutes later, and spoke to me. Then he called someone and told them to bring my advance money to sign the contract."

The next few moments were an absolute blur, Anarkali said, shaken. "All of a sudden, more than 20 huge, scary looking people, the size of gorillas, with huge black guns, came out from all over the house. One put a pistol in my mother's mouth when she screamed, and they tied our hands and held our feet together," she said.

"I saw Bandara and the producer both being tied up by them as well, but then..."

One of the goons had then placed a gun to Anarkali's head, she said, before Duminda Silva had emerged from the shadows. "He glared at my mother, and rasped, 'Hellunoth maranawa' (if you move I'll kill you) and then came and spoke to me."

Silva, alleged Anarkali, then said "please, I love you. You have to forgive me and marry me," to which she had responded "I'll do anything you want just please don't hurt my mom."

Whipped

She then says that the goon who was holding her at gunpoint released her, and another whipped her across the face, leaving a bruise to be seen. "I scolded him and said 'if you love me then you should love my mother too!' and then he took me alone upstairs."

Most of the remainder of Anarkali's story could tantamount to libel should we publish it without any corroborating evidence, thus we are only publishing those allegations that were repeated by her in her complaint to the Kollupitiya Police.

Anarkali has told the police that Silva had shown her that he was wearing a cyanide capsule. "He said that he'll kill himself if I don't agree to marry him," she said. "He promised that if I agreed and removed the restraining order, he would give up politics and the underworld, as well as everything else."

"I told him to let us go, and that I would get the restraining order removed the next day, but he didn't fall for it. He took us outside the house with some other people and put us into a jeep. I think it was a bluish-grey Prado," she said.

"I recognised one of the men who was with him. It was Duminda's PRO, Dinewa. He used to work at Odel before joining Duminda. They all got into the jeep and took us to the 'Duminda Silva Foundation' on Old Kesbewa Road in Nugegoda."

In Silva's rebuttal of the allegations against him, apart from a blanket denial he also attacked the logic behind Anarkali's complaint. "If we were going up and down with abducted people, surely there are so many checkpoints on the road where we would have been stopped. What she's saying is not possible for anyone to do," he said.

Sure of impunity

Anarkali says however that Duminda Silva was so sure of himself and his impunity that he would try to get away with anything. "While we were in the jeep, he said that he's not scared of the police or the courts, that he can do whatever he wants. He told me that he knows ways of killing people and escaping from the country, and covering up everything."

The actress has told the police that when she was hoarded into the office of Silva's foundation, she saw Bandara and the producer, from the corner of her eye, being untied and talking jovially with their captors.

When The Sunday Leader contacted Bandara on the mobile number given to us by Anarkali, he was hesitant to confirm or deny whether any event of this nature took place on Thursday. He repeatedly said that he was busy and to call him back later, and cut the phone line when asked to give a simple 'yes or no' to whether he was tied up by armed men on the evening in question.

Inside the office building, according to Anarkali's statement, one of the men approached Silva and said "chief, it's not safe here. We should go to one of our regular spots."

Duminda Silva had then returned Anarkali's mobile phone, which had been seized by the goons at the start of the ambush, and asked her to call a family friend, Nahil Wijesuriya, and inform that she was with Duminda and safe.

"When I told Uncle Nahil that I was with Duminda, he totally panicked. He asked where we were and Duminda pointed a gun at me and said not to tell him anything, but to ask if we could meet him. Uncle said to come to the Continental Hotel and meet there, but Duminda thought it was a trap."

Raynor the mediator

Duminda had then allegedly cut the call and phoned his brother Raynor, according to Anarkali, and made her speak to him. "Raynor told me to remove the restraining order, and if I was angry with Duminda, not to talk to him for a while but he said not to involve the courts," she recited.

Raynor Silva has denied that he has spoken to Anarkali on the day in question, despite the fact that Anarkali claims to have made the phone call on her own mobile phone. Should the police request that Dialog furnish Anarkali's call records for the time at which the call is alleged to have been made, and checks for the existence of this phone call and its duration, it will be possible to ascertain who is telling the truth in this sordid drama.

"He said that their family had enough money to look after me, and not to worry about anything and just work things out between me and Duminda and that then everything would be fine. Then they took us to Duminda and Raynor's parents' house in Pelawatte."

"Once we met Raynor there, I explained to him that people will come looking for me because I had missed other meetings. I told him that I would remove the restraining order and to please let me go."

According to Anarkali's statement, Raynor is the saner of the Silva brothers, and he had believed what she said and spoken to Duminda. "Listen to me, trust me. Anarkali and Indrani won't let you down. I'll drop them off myself and make sure that she calls you," Raynor had allegedly told Duminda, and finally convinced him to let the mother and daughter leave.

Anarkali told the police that Duminda had then taken her aside and said that he trusts her, shown her cyanide once again, and said that he would kill himself if she didn't remove the restraining order and agree to marry him.

Make or break

"He said I am the only one who can make or break him, and that he'll only be strong if I am with him, and otherwise he won't be. I told him everything would work out, and acted to reassure him. Then Raynor came and took us in his Land Rover to the Cinnamon Grand Hotel and dropped us off."

Duminda's brother had allegedly asked Anarkali to call Duminda "at least 10  times" in order to keep him calm. Once the duo was dropped at the Cinnamon Grand, they had made their way to the Ceylon Continental Hotel, where they took refuge.

Raynor Silva, like his brother, speaking to The Sunday Leader, completely denied that any such event took place and that he was in contact with Anarkali or her mother. He said he had not seen her since the couple had broken up, and that any other version of events was completely untrue.

Anarkali claims however that she called Duminda from the Ceylon Continental Hotel to reassure him that she was staying there and not going anywhere, but then rushed to the Kollupitiya Police Station where she related her entire ordeal to several police officers including Kollupitiya OIC, Chief Inspector Sisira, before signing a written complaint on the evening's events.

Nahil confirms conversation

Nahil Wijesuriya, when contacted by us, said that he had in fact spoken to Duminda Silva when Anarkali had called him from Nugegoda. He had made his own statement to the police, in the presence of several of his friends, relating the contents of their conversation that were missed out by Anarkali.

"Anarkali gave him the phone, and he said 'uncle, why are you stopping Anarkali from seeing me?' This guy was off his head, I told him 'anyone with half an ounce of knowledge about him wouldn't want any female coming anywhere near him!'" Wijesuriya related.

He said that Anarkali asked him to meet with Duminda Silva and that he repeatedly refused until he realised that Anarkali was being held hostage, and that meeting Silva might be the only way to get her released. "At this point I agreed to meet him at the Ceylon Continental but he refused and hung up the phone, and we went straight to the police."

Wijesuriya also scoffed at Duminda Silva's allegation made in court that Anarkali stole several million rupees worth of cash and valuables from him. He said that he has been in a relationship with Anarkali's mother for several years, and has treated her like his "fourth child" from the time she was nine years old.

"There is no way she could have been impressed with all his gifts. She must have accepted them just to feed this lowlife's ego. Anarkali has had access to more money, from the time she was a child, than Duminda Silva could ever dream of," he scoffed.

Duminda's 'trinkets'

"She has travelled the world  and I can't see her having been dazzled by his little trinkets. I have no doubt that if he were to ask her civilly 'please return my gifts' she would gladly give them all back as they are peanuts for her. But not when he has called her a thief."

The number of versions of Thursday's events make it difficult to obtain a clear picture of what exactly took place beyond knowing for certain that it is not the rule of law or moral etiquette that serve to arbitrate disputes concerning modern government politicos.

The Kollupitiya Police confirm that they received statements alleging criminal charges against Silva, and that they have forwarded all the necessary information to the Wellawatte Police, in the jurisdiction where the alleged abduction took place, to allow for investigations to commence.

Duminda Silva's alibi is that he went to the Kande Vihara Temple in Kolonnawa at around 5.45  on Thursday evening for a Bodhi Poojawa, and that there was no way he could have reached Wellawatte through traffic, in time to have taken part in the alleged incident.

Bandara's deathly silence, after having allegedly lured Anarkali to Wellawatte is another matter of concern, which could risk tarnishing the image of the local film industry if such reputed personalities as Mahendra Perera and Anurudha Jayasinghe were involved in criminal activity.

In fact soon after the incident occurred, a cover up was already underway with attempts to fix witnesses in a manner that it would coincide with the story that Duminda Silva was relating. Towards this end the film producer Sujeewa was approached by Duminda Silva and Sujeewa in turn spoke with Mahesh Bandara and told him that they must deny any involvement of Duminda Silva in the incident.

Cold feet

Sujeewa was to in fact go so far as saying that Duminda Silva was very powerful politically and that they cannot afford to knock against such people without paying dearly for it and therefore they should both make the same statement to the police if questioned and claim that Duminda Silva never came to the scene as alleged by Anarkali.

Claiming that Duminda Silva's lawyers were already in contact with him Sujeewa went so far as to say that they should both say that Anarkali came to the house, received a call on her mobile, and left the premises and nothing else happened.

Sujeewa had also said that if they stick to this story given the current political environment the whole issue would die in a day or two. Having received this call Mahesh Bandara went into further panic and was to tell a confidant that he should be helped to get out of this mess because he was actually an innocent bystander though now painted as an accomplice of Duminda Silva.

He had also said that he was under pressure to make a false statement to cover up the whole incident and that he feared that if he does so he would be found guilty of lying in a police statement and was unsure what he should do. (See box for Bandara's statement to the confidant)

 Be that as it may, once the police have collected forensic evidence, and identified the owners and residents of 37/18 Swarna Road in Wellawatte, they would be in a better position to ascertain the facts, at which point they would be compelled to take legal action against the criminals involved in this saga, and make at least a passing attempt to show that there is no 'culture of impunity' for government backed thugs to enforce their will by the bullet.

They threatened to kill us - Mother

Like my daughter Anarkali said, today we went to the house at  Wellawatte. We went to the house to finalise my daughter's work in the movie Sulangak Se. When we went there a group of gangsters came near me and my daughter and covered our mouths and tied our hands and threatened to kill us. After a short while, they removed the cloth from my mouth and put a pistol inside and threatened to kill me. Then somebody scratched my mouth and I suffered minor injuries. Because they are minor injuries, I don't need to go to hospital. I will go to a private hospital and take treatment later. This group of gangsters threatened to kill us and they had weapons with them. They appeared to be under the influence of alcohol. From time to time they threatened me that if I didn't let my daughter go with Duminda Silva that I would be killed. The incident happened the way my daughter described in her statement. We made this police entry because we fear my family members would be harmed due to the threats made by Duminda Silva and the gangsters. We came to make this statement because Duminda Silva threatened us even though there was a court order.

 

They put a pistol in my mother's mouth - Anarkali

Following is an English translation of Anarkali's statement to the police on Thursday, July 3:

There is film director named Anurudha Jayasinghe. He invited me to act in a film titled Sulangak Se. He called me when I was in Singapore to act in the film. I returned from Singapore on June 30, 2008 for court proceedings relating to a case involving Duminda Silva.

During proceedings on July 1, 2008, the court informed Duminda Silva not to have any contact with us. I was engaged in my work and one Wasantha Bandara who works with Anuruddha informed us to come to 37/18, Swarna Road, Wellawatte at 6.30 pm this evening.

I left to attend the meeting with my mother Indrani Menik Jayathileke from the Continental Hotel to the address by taxi. When we went there Wasantha Bandara was not there. I phoned him and he informed me that he would be there in five minutes. We stayed outside the gate.

Then a boy who appeared to be someone who worked there asked us to come in. I asked him if the actor by the name of Mahendra Perera was inside and he said yes. But when we went inside  no one was there. I asked where Mahendra Perera was and the boy told us to wait and went out.

Then the producer of the movie came down, I don't know his name. But I can recognise him if I see him. Before he could speak to us I gave a call to Mahendra Perera and asked him where he was, he said he was nearby and that by 7.30 pm he would be there. I told him I have a meeting and I can't wait for him. Then I stopped speaking on the phone. Then the producer told me to wait till Mahendra Perera arrived. Because, Mahendra Perera is the one who is organising everyone for us, he said.

Then the person named Bandara came there. While we were talking about the movie, the producer, I don't know his name ( Sujeewa according to The Sunday Leader investigation), took a call from his cell phone. He told over the phone to bring money and come to where we were soon. Less than five minutes later about 25 gangsters with machine guns and pistols came near me and my mother.

While one person kept a gun to my head about five of them held me. I don't know any one of them. I screamed out loud so they closed my  mouth and tied my hands. They put a pistol in my mother's mouth. My mom was also held by them. Then they took out the pistol from my mother's mouth and scratched the sides of her mouth. She was hurt. They threatened my mother that they would kill her if she screamed.

They tied my mother's hands. They took our phones from my mother's and my bags. All this while, the producer and Bandara just sat there. But, the gangsters tied their hands and mouths so that we could see. Duminda Silva then came there. The time was around 6.45.

Took out a pistol

He took out a pistol from his waist and loaded a magazine. Then he pointed the gun at my mother and threatened to kill her if she screamed. He came near me and told me that if I didn't make a scene that my hands and mouth will be free. Then he removed the cloth from my mouth. I started crying and said don't kill my mother or hurt my mother. I asked him to free my mother. He said no.

Later he said he will free my mother under one condition. That condition was that I go upstairs and talk with Duminda Silva alone. I told the gangsters not to hurt my mother. With the promise that they would not hurt my mother, I went upstairs and spoke with Duminda. While I spoke to him upstairs, I could change Duminda Silva's mind.

We came down and met my mother and the gangsters. Duminda apologised but said that if we tried to leave we would be killed. Duminda took me, my mother and about five gangsters with guns in someone else's vehicle.  While we were travelling in the vehicle Duminda Silva told me to marry him and remove the court order.

That time Duminda told me that if I didn't come his political life will be over. He said if I didn't come with him, he will take cyanide and die. He said if we told anything about this to the police he would take cyanide and die. He said that if he killed himself by taking cyanide, his friends will kill me and my mother. He took us in the vehicle to where the Duminda Silva Foundation of his was down Old Kesbewa Road, Nugegoda.

There I recognised one of the gangsters. He is Duminda Silva's coordinating officer, Dinewa. There, Duminda Silva told me to go into the office with my mother and the gangsters. I refused to get off. I told the gangsters should get off leaving me, my mother and Duminda Silva in the vehicle.

Come without my mother

Duminda Silva told me to come to the office without my mother. I said I can't go without my mother and went into the office with her. There again he said that he could not live without me and that he could not let us go. He showed me the producer and Bandara seated in a room with the other gangsters. There was another person by the name of Hirantha who works in the Duminda Silva Foundation. All of us stayed at the Duminda Silva Foundation office for some time.

Then, he put me, my mother and the gangsters in the vehicle and left saying that this was not a good place to stay. While we were going in the vehicle Duminda asked me to take a call to my uncle. I took the call. He ordered me not to tell my uncle that I was abducted but that I was doing well. I told that to my uncle and Duminda also spoke to him on my phone. While talking, Duminda said that both of us were doing well to my uncle.

I thought my uncle figured that Duminda had lied. I again asked Duminda to take a call from my phone and tell again that I was doing well. When I phoned again, I was asked where I was.  Duminda didn't allow me to answer and took the phone to his hand. 

He then secretly asked me to ask my uncle whether he would speak to Duminda. When I asked that from my uncle, he asked me to come near Continental Hotel. But, that time, Duminda Silva was driving the vehicle very fast. As far as I could tell, we were travelling towards Battaramulla.

Raynor's arrival

While we were travelling, I told Duminda to meet his elder brother Raynor and talk. Then when I spoke to Raynor, he asked me what was going on. But I didn't tell him anything. I didn't go to tell him anything.

At that time Duminda's elder brother asked me to forget all these problems. That time, Duminda's elder brother asked me whether I loved him. Because I was scared that me and my mother will be killed, I said I loved him.

Raynor Silva informed me to get the court order removed. If not he said I would look like a fool. For lies I said yes.  Raynor Silva said not to come to his house and that he could not get involved in this problem. To talk about this, I told him to come to his parent's house, where we were. Within 10 minutes, Raynor Silva came there. By this time, there were gangsters around the house. Duminda Silva started crying and told his elder brother he can't let Anarkali go. His elder brother was talking with my mother. His elder brother told my mother not to tell anything about this to the police.

At that time, Raynor said that both parties had settled. He said to get the court order released. Because we spoke to my uncle, this problem will definitely go to the police, he said and we cannot be set free. I told him that my friends and family members will start looking for us. Raynor Silva said that we were in big trouble and talked for a long time. Then, we were asked to come out of the house and Duminda Silva told us that he trusted us that we will get the court order removed. After a lot of time and difficulty, I explained the situation to Duminda.

Drop us anywhere

Thereafter Raynor Silva said he will drop us anywhere we wanted in his own vehicle. At this time Duminda Silva told me that I would not be allowed to go unless I spoke to him alone. Then we spoke alone. Duminda told me that either he will take cyanide and die or kill my mother and all my family members. Then Raynor Silva took him to a side and asked him to allow me and my mother to go.

He dropped us at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel along with a group of gangsters. Raynor Silva told me that if I didn't speak to his younger brother often, he would take cyanide and die. Once we reached the Cinnamon Grand Hotel, me and my mother got off the vehicle and went in.

After I went into the hotel, I called Duminda and told him to call me after 12 noon. Because I wanted to inform all these to police, that is why I took the call from my mobile phone and told him this. I told him that we were going to eat and if there was a necessity to call me on the mobile phone. I told him that and came to the police with my mother to inform police. I wanted to make this entry because there is a court order and because I fear these people will hurt my life and my family members.

 

Duminda: Igave millions to Anarkali

Duminda Silva has denied all the allegations levelled against him by the Jayatilleke family both during and prior to Thursday's alleged kidnapping. He told The Sunday Leader that he had given Rs. 1 million to Anarkali's mother, at her request, to helped her to buy a house.

He also alleged that he gave Anarkali Rs. 950,000 to rent an apartment at the Hilton Residences, and that she did all the paperwork under her own name. Silva claims to have opened a bank account in Anarkali's name at the Nugegoda Branch of Commercial Bank, and deposited Rs. 700,000 into this account and another Rs. 300,000 into her HSBC account.

He denies ever placing security around Anarkali, saying that he only gave her a driver and vehicle to get around as he didn't want her to be  travelling by bus. The Provincial Councillor further claims that he bought the actress over Rs. 1.3 million rupees in jewellery from Vogue Jewellers, which he alleges she has absconded with.

Silva also alleged that Anarkali's mother was seen by his servant inside the apartment stuffing Rs. 1 million from the safe into her handbag before escaping. He claims to have bought her over Rs. 2 million rupees worth of valuables which she has taken with her when she left.

Previously, when Duminda Silva was charged with rape in an earlier case, he alleged that the victim's father had owed him Rs. 10 million and that this was the reason that they falsified complaints against him.

It was not immediately clear whether Silva had disclosed the amounts ofmoney he claims to have showered on Anarkali as income in his income tax returns which is another matter the tax authorities might look into.

 

Mahesh confirms horror story

The production executive Mahesh Bandara who worked as the go-between for the film producer (known only as Sujeewa) said he was terrified after he was released and was to relate his ordeal to a confidant.

Mahesh Bandara has said that he received a call from a film director, Anurudha Jayasinghe, to help him with a movie he was planning. Jayasinghe had wanted Anarkali as the main actress and asked Bandara to arrange for her to look over the script and pay an advance for her role in the movie.

The film producer, Sujeewa had allegedly asked Bandara to get Anarkali to sign a contract and pay a deposit in order to lock her into the movie. Mahesh Bandara had thus arranged, on Sujeewa's instructions, to ask Anarkali to come to 37/18 Swarna Road, Colombo 6 at 6.30 pm last Thursday.

When Bandara arrived, he said he had seen a Prado vehicle parked outside, and when he went inside, Anarkali was already there along with Sujeewa. The producer had asked to wait until Mahendra Perera, the main lead actor, also arrived and Anarkali was going through the script while they waited.

While discussing the film, just after Anarkali had said that she was too busy to start filming until July 12 when she would attend to the script reading, Bandara had noticed about 15 men with weapons surround them and point guns at them. He had by reflexive action raised his hands in surrender and the men had tied his hands together and put sticking plaster over his mouth.

Anarkali's mother's hands were also tied together and Duminda Silva had appeared and pointed a gun at Mahesh Bandara's head. He had warned Bandara not to go to the police or media with the story, and taken Anarkali aside.

Duminda and Anarkali had returned 10 minutes later and Duminda had asked the goons to untie Bandara, Anarkali's mother and the bound and gagged film producer Sujeewa. Some of the men had then taken Anarkali with Duminda in one vehicle and bundled Mahesh Bandara and Sujeewa into another vehicle.

One of the thugs had also taken the keys from Mahesh Bandara's vehicle and driven it off as well. Bandara has said that they had then all gone in the vehicles to Duminda Silva's office on Old Kesbewa Road, Nugegoda.

When he arrived, the Prado jeep that he saw on Swarna Road was also parked at the office. Anarkali had told him that everything would be all right and not to worry. After about two hours he said Anarkali and her mother left with Duminda Silva.

The thugs had warned Bandara, while still holding him in captivity, not to go to the police. They had told him that they knew where he lived, given him dinner, and told him they'd have to wait longer until they got the green light to release him.

"A call came at about 8.30 pm and then the thugs released us, and I left in my vehicle," said Mahesh Bandara. 

 


Abductions, white vans and videoing Tamils


Karuna Amman, Mahinda Rajapakse, Jayantha Wickremaratne
and Mano Ganesan

People dragged out of their beds in night clothes

Police says 'regular' operation

Ordered to bring NICs and line-up at public ground

Nothing out of the ordinary - OIC:

By Dilrukshi Handunnetti

Just when people began to feel that the abduction saga had reached an end and the white van syndrome is a thing of the past, statistical revelations in June and the events that took place in the first week of July give lie to such thoughts.

White vans roam the cities again, driving would-be-assailants and in search of their prey. Namal Perera, a former TNL journalist and Mahendra Ratnaweera, an associate member of the Foreign Correspondents' Association were two such victims. There is no doubt that July end would record more victims.

To give a quick overview, according to monitoring work conducted by a government minister, some 94 abductions have taken place by June 30 excluding those who returned home.

Harassment continues

As if the series of unabated abductions, assaults and killings were not sufficient to drive home the brutal message,  milder forms of harassment - compared of course with assault and murder that is - were also resorted to just last week.

That's when some 800 Tamils from the Colombo area were made to suffer the indignity of being dragged out of their beds and that too, in their night clothes to be videographed by the area police in the most degrading manner. With a record like that, little wonder that Sri Lanka stands sandwiched between Nigeria and Zimbabwe in human rights indicators.

Just two days after the brutal attack on Perera and Ratnaweera, on July 2, some 800 Tamils living in the Kimbula Ela area in Colombo 15 found themselves unceremoniously forced out of their beds and homes by the area police.  Most of them, including women and children were not properly dressed and were in their nightclothes but they were not accorded the opportunity to change their clothes. "Go!" they were ordered.

According to the Modera Police, it was only a cordon and search operation conducted early morning and was 'regular.' But there were no citizens who appeared familiar with this 'regular' search operation in the wee hours of the morning.

Hauled out

Households were just waking up. It was around 4.30 am and men were still getting up to prepare for work. Women were busy preparing meals for their young who had not yet woken up to attend school.

Suddenly they found themselves out, rushed by police personnel into the nearby public ground.

Ordered out

One of the men who had the experience of being videographed by the Modera Police that day told The Sunday Leader on the basis of anonymity: "I was just woken up by the sound of someone thumping on the door harshly. I thought the door would come off from the hinges.

"My wife just managed to open the kitchen door and several policemen marched in. They took a quick look around the house, walked up to the bed on which my son was sleeping and shouted, "Now hurry up. Just assemble at the public grounds. Bring your NICs and line up, fast."

According to him, first the NICs were collected. Next, names on the NICs were loudly read out by the police personnel making the owner walk up and collect the identity card. After the NICs were returned to their rightful owners they were told to line up and walk towards a video camera and to read out the name on the identification form together with the identification number. Then they were allowed to return home.

"We were told that this was a security requirement. But all the time the police officers were rolling their eyes as we pronounced Tamil names," he said.

 The area was disturbed by the videography drama. Children were scared to go to school fearing that they would have white vans 'picking them up' near the school gates.

The only saving grace was that these people were not forced to board a bus and be driven to the north and dumped at a northern bus halt for the sin of hailing from the northern peninsula.

Panic and nonchalance

That's exactly what occurred on June 7 last year, when Tamils in Colombo were dragged out of their homes early morning to be transported to the north, courtesy the Defence Ministry. People feel lucky that they only had to go to the nearby grounds for registration purposes. "For a moment we all panicked and thought our lives were just about to change completely," one resident said.

But a nonchalant Modera Police OIC, Chandrasiri Hiriyadeniya told The Sunday Leader that the decision on how to conduct the search operations was taken by the OIC and that he took full responsibility.

"The decisions are taken by the OIC of the station. The OIC also decides on whether to video the whole process or not," he said.

According to him, the Tamils were not treated shabbily. They were treated with respect. And what kind of respect can be deciphered when people were hoisted from their beds and positioned before a video camera, he did not explain. Nor did he explain how national security could be ensured by videographing citizens in their nightclothes while half asleep.

New IGP gives dreaded white van a new spin

White vans instill mortal fear in the minds of many, mostly Tamils, but giving the dreaded concept a new spin was newly appointed Police Chief Jayantha Wickremaratne.

Foot in mouth

The new IGP put his foot in the mouth last Wednesday by mocking the whole white van concept by requesting journalists to identify the so called white vans.

"I have not seen the dreaded white van. I have only heard about it. Please help me to find one," he said at a media briefing.

Interesting comment, especially given the fact that as one time police spokesman, many were the instances that he had to at least refer to the white vans and make some excuse on behalf of the authorities for non action. 

Responding, Convener, Civil Monitoring Committee (CMC) and MP Mano Ganesan said that this issue concerned the blood and tears of the families of the abducted and it was not a matter for amusement. 

'Not a joke'

"It is not a joking matter, especially by the IGP who as a senior police officer when the abductions happened should also take responsibility for the gross human rights violations."

He added, "An IGP does not fall from the sky. He has to go through several positions before coming there. He cannot say he does not know anything about the white vans. We don't understand why it amuses him so much. Perhaps he has unique knowledge."

 

Ninety four abductions in six months - Dep. Minister

A monitoring activity by a deputy minister has revealed that some 94 persons, all of them ethnic Tamil, are reported missing during the period January 2008 to date.

According to Vocational Training Deputy Minister, P. Radhakrishnan, a total of 147 people were reported missing during the said period while 38 have subsequently returned home. Some 15 are believed to be detained, he said.

Exonerates government

The Deputy Minister who also took up the case of Sea Street jewellery shop owners being extorted, thereby forcing them to flee the country. He claims that the reasons for these abductions and extortions are unknown - and exonerates the government of being linked to the violations.

"It only proves that the community is under threat. We have no proof to say that the government is in complicity," he insisted.

However, Convenor, Civil Monitoring Committee (CMC), Mano Ganesan blamed the international community for failing to exert sufficient pressure on the government to respect human rights.

He added that continuous incidents proved that enforced disappearances still occur, and added that these incidents gave lie to the government's claims, particularly those of Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe as completely untrue.

'IC has failed'

"The international community including the EU and the UN appear very concerned about the human rights situation in Sri Lanka. The continuous incidents only prove that the international community has abysmally failed to impress upon the government of Sri Lanka to act with responsibility and to create conditions that would allow minorities to live in peace," he said.

 

CoI spills the beans on military and Karuna link to aid workers' massacre

The hand of the military as well as the Karuna faction in the Muttur massacre emerged through one witness when the Commission of Inquiry looking into the killing of 17 aid workers in Muttur was taken up for hearing last week.

A witness appearing before the commission on July 1 claimed that the military was in total control of Muttur on August 4, 2006 on which day the 17 non-governmental workers of Action Contre La Faim (ACF) were massacred. According to the witness, a person who was among the group who had carried out the shooting of the 17 aid workers had confessed to his involvement in the killing.

Confessed

The witness added that the said person had confessed not only to his involvement in the killing but also to his close links with the government forces and also the Karuna Group of which he was a member.

The witness also told the CoI that the Karuna Group in the Muttur area was provided weapons by the Sri Lanka Navy (SLN).

The statement came as a shock given the fact that the military and the government maintained stoic silence on allegations that both the military and the Karuna Group worked together in the east. However, it was obvious to the common man, that the TMVP led by Karuna at the time had helped the military in attacking LTTE strongholds. However, both parties stated that they worked independently and did not depend on each party to get rid of the LTTE.

Under military rule

Interestingly enough, this is also not the first time that a witness had come out claiming that the area was under the military at the time.

Three months ago, on April 1, another witness told the Commission of Inquiry that one of the victims, a relative of the witness, had said over the phone that the LTTE had come into Muttur on the morning of August 3, 2006.

The victim had called the witness in the evening of the same day and claimed that he was unaware of the situation but added that fighting was going on in the area and expressed fear.

However, the victim had also called the following day morning between 6.00 and 6.30 and assured that there was no problem for them, as the army was in Muttur town and that they were around the office, which was also situated in the Muttur town. The witness said the victim also indicated he would come home soon.

The statements made by the witnesses that the military was in total control over Muttur before the 17 ACF employees were killed  now point a direct finger at the military for the dastardly killings.

All time low

" It is an incredible situation. While finger pointing is not the issue, the real issue is that somebody finally did kill 17 innocent aid workers who were helping the civilians in the area. This is the level this country has sunk to. Our human rights record is at an all time low," lamented UNP frontliner Lakshman Kiriella who often comments on the human rights situation in the country.

The ACF has called for an international probe into the killings which itself is an indictment on the Sri Lankan legal system. France too has supported ACF's call for an international probe.

 

Vavuniya records four abductions in four days

Even before a week is out, Vavuniya has recorded four civilian abductions. Two persons named Ketheeswaran and Gnanam were reportedly abducted on July 3.

Besides, Sivanayam, a 25 year old father of one was abducted. The assailants travelled in a three-wheeler and dragged the young father from his lodging house and bundled him into the three-wheeler and sped. All three are still missing.

The first incident that was recorded this month occurred on July 1. Arumugam Karupiah, a 65-year-old shop owner was shot and killed. The assailants arrived at the shop in a van, according to information available.

Police Spokesman, Ranjith Gunasekera said all four incidents in Vavuniya were being investigated.

 


Barbarians at the door


Namal Perera (inset) Gotabaya Rajapakse, Keith Noyahr and Sarath Fonseka

By Dilrukshi Handunneetti

In Sri Lanka, when one feels that things cannot get any worse, it does. As for the plight of the media, it had been a continuous battle and deterioration. Each week the country hits a new low; the country report worsens and more journalists come under attacks of varying kinds.

Journalists in Sri Lanka have been having it really tough for the past two years but the targeting of media personnel have seen a further increase in the month of June. Here, we are ready to ignore the hate speeches and sinister phone calls given, for there have been far more grievous incidents with people physically coming under attack.

There is little wonder that last week had several top Sri Lankan journalists filling up their immigration papers, with the lives of their family members too coming under threat. These journalists have given their lifeblood to the industry and do not wish to live anywhere else but where they were born, where they can make a contribution.

Journalists in exile

But what can they do, if this is what the country has to offer for a job well done; for corruption exposed and systems questioned? Soon enough, Sri Lanka will be a land of journalists in exile. Some cynics just might believe that, that perhaps is the idea behind a despotic and desperate government that refuses to tolerate an iota criticism.

Back to the week's topic and we return to the latest in a series of devastating and despicable attacks on the media.

The recent most attack was on Acting Manager - Advocacy, Sri Lanka Press Institute (SLPI), Namal Perera and Political Officer, British High Commission, Mahendra Ratnaweera.

Just before the incident, it is pertinent to note here that the SLPI had been coming under attack in recent times. The abduction of Keith Noyahr, defence columnist and associate editor of The Nation newspaper was one clear sign to the SLPI too, for Noyahr was also a visiting lecturer.

And for his part, Namal Perera as SLPI's Acting Manager - Advocacy and Free Media was involved in planning the protest campaign against the abduction and assault of Noyahr held at the Colpetty junction on May 23.

Subsequently, a person dressed in army uniform visited the SLPI on May 27 and made inquiries about certain staff members. There was a lull thereafter. So thought the SLPI employees.

Drama begins

On June 14, the drama began when Perera received a telephone call threatening him, which he reported to the Narahenpita Police Station for his own safety. Besides, he has been taking precautions and has stopped traveling alone whenever possible.

Then on June 26, as if to set the backdrop, appeared a prominently displayed lead story in the Dinamina newspaper titled: "Eight Tigers sent to Norway under journalist label." That would have been enough incitement and a good enough excuse for those waiting to go on the rampage.

Four days later, on June 30 morning, around 10.30, the security guards of the SLPI recorded having seen four persons in army uniform, one bearing arms, on two motorcycles who appeared to be on a reconnaissance mission of the institute. A while later, one such motorcyclist asked the security guard whether Namal was in.

That same evening, Perera noticed, according to SLPI sources, a person talking on a mobile telephone near the SLPI just as he was leaving office around 5.45 with his friend Mahendra Ratnaweera.

The duo went, somewhat suspicious, did a detour and returned close to the SLPI premises to find the bikers all gone. At this point, Ratnaweera had smelt a rat and suggested that they travel elsewhere but Perera insisted that he wished to visit his mother.

White van

They took a different route this time, and drove through Anderson Housing Scheme and realised to their dismay, a white van with tinted glasses and a motorcycle were following then. Whenever they paused, so did the two other vehicles. At one time, the van drew parallel to Ratnaweera's car and the driver pulled his shutter down and grinned menacingly. Somehow, Ratnaweera reached the main road hoping that the highway would be safe.

The car took further detours in an attempt to shake off their pursuers and soon, the white van overtook the car, brushed against the car and finally stopped, blocking the car altogether.

The car, according to Perera was locked from inside for safety. Perera hastily dialed a reputed foreign correspondent's number to inform him of their plight. Next he called SLPI Director General, Ranga Kalansooriya informing him about the white van following them. He left the telephone switched on and read the number plates of the vehicles.

The angry assailants tried to open the car doors and failing, smashed the windscreen. Next they used the clubs they carried to smash the windows.

There were six thugs in the group, all armed with heavy clubs. The two men clung to their seats and kept the doors thoroughly locked.

Next, the attackers went to the passenger's side where Perera was seated and grabbed him by the shirt in a bid to pull him out of the car, while the others smashed the remaining windows of the car badly injuring Ratnaweera in the process. The assailants withdrew when the shouts of the victims attracted passersby to the scene.

Two number plates

The rescuers - the passersby quickly hoisted Ratnaweera and dispatched him to the nearby Apollo Hospital, bleeding from his injuries. In a minute, they rescued Perera and transported him to the same hospital.

Meanwhile, though delirious, Perera noted that the white van had two different number plates in the front and back of the vehicle.

Both telephones of Ratnaweera were stolen by assailants together with one of Perera's mobiles.

That should, if that is not bad enough, be the end of the story. The SLPI claimed that on July 1, the very next day around 9 am, a motorcycle similar to those noted the previous day and without a registration number plate was seen in the vicinity of the SLPI ridden by a person in civilian clothing.

We all know, this brutal attack will not be the last as more and more will come under attack, as such is the style of the powers that be.

As journalists suffer brutal attacks, threats, intimidation and multiple indignities, it is not amusing to have the likes of government Defence Spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella with a penchant for washing dirty linen making snide remarks about the spate of attacks being used by journalists to process their migrant visas. Such comments only show the lack of sympathy and the complicity of the state to the terror that is being unleashed upon scribes and would not cast the Rajapakse administration in a positive light.

Shocking stats

Lest one forgets, here are the damning statistics of the same administration, elected on a pledge to uphold media freedom and led by a one time human rights champion and free media advocator, President Mahinda Rajapakse.

Some 14 journalists/media workers have been killed since the advent of Rajapakse in November 2005 and seven have been abducted. More than 25 have been forced to leave Sri Lanka. If that is not damning, what is?

SLFCA condemns attack

The Executive Committee, Sri Lanka Foreign Correspondents Association issued a statement on July 3, condemning the attack on both Perera and Ratnaweera.

The statement read: "The Foreign Correspondents Association condemns the attack on Mahendra Ratnaweera and Namal Perera on June 30.

"Mahendra Ratnaweera is a long-standing associate member of the FCA. Namal Perera is well known to many of our members.

"We call upon the authorities in Sri Lanka to carry out a thorough investigation and to bring to justice the perpetrators of this crime."

 

FMM notes erosion of democracy

The Free Media Movement (FMM) has alleged government's complicity in violence against the media and claimed that it is this failing human rights record that denied Sri Lanka a seat at the UN Human Rights Council.

The July 1 statement added that noted defence correspondent Iqbal Athas has stopped writing altogether due to sustained hate speech campaigns openly conducted by the Ministry of Defence and that the government has shut down entire media establishments for spurious reasons.

"Government ministers repeatedly and openly verbally and physically attack journalists with absolutely no disciplinary action taken against them. 13 journalists have been arrested by police. Senior columnist and outreachsl.com news website editor J.S. Tissainayagam and others are in TID detentionsince March 7 without being charged. There are disturbing reports of torture and psychological abuse of journalists detained by the police."

The statement added, "Ironically, instead of investigating and preventing attacks against journalists, the police have themselves attempted to abduct journalists. Several journalists live in fear of their lives and have been forced to bunker in safe houses."

It added: "Tellingly, the chairman of the state controlled Sri Lanka Broadcasting Cooperation (SLBC) openly called for the death of a senior journalist in June. The Army Commander Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka has repeatedly named and shamed several journalists as traitors and enemies of the state. The Defence Secretary and brother of the President Gotabaya Rajapakse, named by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) as a media predator in its Annual Report, has repeatedly and viciously threatened senior journalists and editors with complete impunity."

 

SLPI condemns attack

The SLPI has condemned the assault on its Acting Manager - Advocacy, Namal Perera and Political Officer, British High Commission, Mahendra Ratnaweera.

The SLPI and its staff have been subjected to threats and intimidation in recent weeks. This follows the abduction and assault of Associate Editor and Defence Writer of The Nation, Keith Noyahr on May 22, 2008.

Noyahr at the time of his abduction and subsequent assault was a visiting lecturer of the Sri Lanka College of Journalism (SLCJ), an affiliate of the SLPI. Perera is the course coordinator of the SLCJ in addition to being the Acting Manager - Advocacy at the SLPI.

 

Horrendous monthly report on media

June 1 - Hate speech monger and Head of SLBC, Hudson Samarasinghe called for the death of senior journalist and General Secretary, Sri Lanka Working Journalists' Association, Poddala Jayantha. This outrageous incitement to murder and violence was made during Samarasinghe's breakfast radio talk show on Isira.

June2 - The editorial posted on www.defense.lk run by the Ministry of Defence leveled dangerous charges against a number of newspapers, the FMM and its former convener Sunanda Deshapriya and Sunday Times Associate Editor and defense columnist, Iqbal Athas.

June5 - Journalist M.A.C. Jalees of Kathankudi, Batticaloa was assaulted by political party supporters and his camera was taken away. He was the fourth journalist to come under attack in Kathankudi. Earlier journalists T.L.M. Jaufer Khan, M.S.M. Noordeen, Moulavi S.M.M. Musthapha were either threatened or assaulted in the same area. All these journalists belong to the Kathankudi Journalists' Association.

June8 -Two protest campaigns organised by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) on June 8 and 9 were attacked by gangs of the governing party. The protests were  organised under the theme, "Hands off democracy; defend people's freedom of expression and right to protest. 

June9 -Reporters Without Borders reported that the government reportedly put pressure on the owners and editors of several independent dailies, including The Nation and The Daily Mirror, to dissuade them from publishing critical or embarrassing articles during a visit by a European Commission trade delegation from 9-11 June.

June 10 - an alleged government hit list containing 27 names of journalists was leaked to foreign diplomatic missions delcared UNP legislator Dayasiri Jayasekara. The government denied the charge.

June12 - Supporters of the governing Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) assaulted trade unionists protesting against the railway fare hike.  

June 13 - E-Kwality printing press owner and manager of www.outreachsl.com Jesiharan who is in TID custody since March6 told court on that he was tortured by the TID officers several times. On June 23, he told court that he was tortured again due to his June 13 statement. On June 28, the Supreme Court ordered the TID to produce press owner Vetrivel Jasiharan before the Colombo Judicial Medical Officer (JMO) within one week.

June14 -Editor of monthly magazine, Montage and South Asia Co-coordinator of International News Safety Institute (INSI) Frederica Jansz received a death threat over the telephone around 11.30 am.

June 16 - A journalist included in the alleged 27 named hit list had two unknown individuals visiting his Piliyandala home in search of him.

June 18 - Through an editorial posted on the Defence Ministry website, the Ministry set forth its views and suggested guidelines for defence reporting. According to the censorship guidelines, the media should desist from:

Being critical and/or analyse military strategies, scrutinise promotions and transfers within the military, question military procurements and tenders,espouse/ discuss anti-war positions.

June20 - CID officials visited the offices of www.lankaenews.com on June 17 and questioned its Editor Sandaruwan Senadeera and News Editor Bennet Rupasinghe for nearly four hours over a war related story and questioned them for their sources. Lankaenews.com is one of the eight media institutions recently named by the Ministry of Defence as being treacherous and partial to terrorists. 

June22 - Former freelancer of the Tamil daily Thinakkural, Thiruchelvam Thirukumaran was abducted from Dehiwala and released the next day. The abduction occurred soon after a police team searched his apartment. The abductors arrived in one of the infamous white vans.

June 24 - A Christian pastor, the Reverend Fernando from the Methodist Church in Ampara was attacked by three men in Ampara while returning home from a church group meeting in Uhana. He is currently receiving treatment for his injuries in hospital. The attack comes four months after a home guard in uniform shot dead Pastor Neil Edirisinghe, on February 17.

June 26 - State controlled Sinhala language newspaper Dinamina in a fabricated lead story claimed that "police intelligence has received information on a group of members connected to the LTTE were sent to Norway through Denmark under the 'journalist label' by the Sri Lanka Press Institute." 

June 27 - The military cut offall CDMA phones used in Manner District for more than a week hampering local journalists' work.

June28 - The government has banned the use of phones with Global Positioning System (GPS) facility, purportedly for national security according to a news report in Ravaya . According to this ban, the import and sale of GPS-enabled mobile phones will not be allowed, and the facility will be deactivated in phones already having it.

June 30  - The Colombo Chief Magistrate ordered the continued detention of journalist J.S.  Tissainayagam, V. Jesiharan and Valarmadi Vaduvel with the TID. The magistrate in his order stated that the suspects were detained by the TID on detention orders of the Defence Secretary, and produced before in court on the pleadings of the suspects' counsel and that the court had no jurisdiction to make order to remand them in prison. 

June 30 - Former TNL news director and current Acting Manager - Advocacy, SLPI, Namal Perera and his friend, Political Officer, British High Commission, Mahendra Ratnaweera were waylayed and mercilessly assaulted on a  busy highway in Kirulapone, in the vicinity of an army installation, the Government Information Department and the security checkpoint at the Narahenpita bridge. The assaulters attempted to abduct Perera, but were resisted.

(Courtesy: FMM June E Bulletin)

 


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