28 May, 2022


A Hit Team For Hire?

By Malinda Seneviratne –

Malinda Seneviratne

The area around the Borella Kanatte turned into a battlefield one late afternoon in late April, 1993.  Crowds attending the funeral of the assassinated Lalith Athulathmudali turned violent.  The Police responded with tear gas.  There was a pitched battle with enterprising individuals tossing half empty teargas canisters back at the Police.  At one point an Army truck arrived.  The crowds cheered the Army.

There has been for a long time a negative view of the Police.  In contrast the Army (as well as the other forces) has been viewed positively.  Discipline and courtesy are not associated with the Police; the personnel of that department are treated with suspicion and even derision.  They are seen as uncouth, bribe-taking, arrogant persons out to make things difficult for the general public.

No organization is made of saints of course.  Even the Army has had its share of bad eggs, bribe-takers, commission-hawks and even common thieves.  And yet it is the Police that have built a reputation for being anti-people.  The indiscretions of soldiers, sailors and airmen, going by incidence alone, seem almost random and negligible.

DIG Vass Gunawardena’s arrest has raised some very pertinent questions regarding the state of the country’s Police Department as well as a culture of apathy where high-rankers have a free hand.  The man is alleged to have put together a team of contract killers.  As of now this team is suspected of being involved in at least 7 murders. These are early days of the investigation and it is speculated that many other cases may be re-visited in light of the evidence being unearthed.

Vass Gunawardena has demonstrated his arrogance in no uncertain terms when he not only confessed to being a murderer but vowed to ‘take care’ of those who are investigating the murder that led to his arrest.  He is in fact implying that he is confident that the courts would determine in his favor.   Now this could also indicate that people above him are also complicit and therefore have a stake in treating the man with kids’ gloves.  The confidence also casts suspicion on the integrity of the judicial process.

If he was indeed involved in 7 other murders the question is begged as to why the law did not move to arrest the man a long time ago.  It has been reported that his son was wont to throw his weight around, using his father’s position as insurance against complaint.  It is baffling that those in positions of power did not take any action but instead turned a blind eye to the transgressions as well as the abuse of office.

The question will be asked: ‘Who has been protecting him all this time and why?’

This is not a Vass Gunawardena story but a Police story or rather a police-culture story.  The Police have a considerable reputation for beating up those in custody.  There have been numerous incidents of ‘custody deaths’.  Inquiries and the occasional meting out of punishment in the form of transfers have not stopped this trend.  Bribery and the exacting of protection fees or ‘kappam’ are seen as part and parcel of police operations.  It has not helped that the constitution as well as the institutional arrangement has conferred power to politicians in magnitudes that place them above the law or allow them to bend the law with impunity.  The relationship between politician, police officer and criminality is well established.  It has come to a point where an honest police officer sticks out like a sore thumb, ironically, with the best in the Department who do not wish to partake resolving to look the other way.

This is not about Vass Gunawardena, let us reiterate.  It is about the Police not being free of political interference. It is about the Police operating in an environment where standards don’t matter.  In any system lacking adequate checks and balances it is natural for excesses to flourish and become norm.  It is not about cleaning the stables.  It is about re-constructing the building with adequate measures to ensure that the Police Department actually serves the public interest, maintains law and order without fear or favor and recovers even a semblance of the glory it often claims its history is made of.

As of now, though, the Police appear like a hit team for hire.  It will take a lot to recover image, respectability and operational relevance.  A lot has to happen within the Department.  A lot has to change in the political culture.  A lot of repairs have to be done on the institutional arrangement. Indeed it may very well be that rebuilding from scratch is more cost-effective, considering the levels of dilapidation.

*Malinda Seneviratne is the Chief Editor of ‘The Nation’ and his articles can be found at www.malindawords.blogspot.com

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  • 0

    “..The question will be asked: ‘Who has been protecting him all this time and why?’.”

    Answer is: GR!

    • 0

      Then no need for GR to take action now!

  • 0

    Malinda Seneviratna,

    “DIG Vass Gunawardena’s arrest has raised some very pertinent questions regarding the state of the country’s Police Department as well as a culture of apathy where high-rankers have a free hand. The man is alleged to have put together a team of contract killers. As of now this team is suspected of being involved in at least 7 murders”

    This above information could be:

    1. The Truth – There are dead bodies and missing persons
    2. The Gossip
    3. Half-Truth and Half-Gossip.

    There was a business customer, who gave the contract to the DIG.

    What are the other contracts taken by the DIG.

    Is this the tip of the iceberg? How many such DIG contractors are there? more? 10 more? 100 more?

    Are these DIG’s taking contracts from the regime as well?

    Can these DIG’ provide their services to the other countries as well?

    Could be a great Foreign Exchange earner, even though blood money.

    • 0

      Simply just taking care of business man… That is what this DIG Vas was doing.

      • 0

        Al Ambrilla,

        Loks lioke a great usiness Model.

        Sales = Victims Bank Account= Rs. 327,00,000= Rs 32.7 million

        Expenses: State provided Facilities and Equipment -No Cost

        Labor; State Provided Policemen-No Cost

        Gross Profit = Rs. 327,00,000= Rs 32.7 million

        Other Expenses, Comissions =Rs 5,00,000= Rs 0.5 mullion

        Net Profit = Rs. 322,00,000= Rs 32.2 million

        Profit Margin = Rs 32.2 million/Rs 32.7 million
        =99.39% Profit Margin.

        Better Profit Margin than Drug Dealers!

        Where is this so called BBS, Budu Balu Sena?

        Where is the JHU. One of their Haraka members burned.

        Monk Mahanma Myths, the curse of Lanka.

  • 0

    It cannot be a forgotten history that several politicians, when in power, have used Police and other service personnel to carry out the private operations of such politicians. Then these personnel themselves became a law unto themselves and used their positions for their own benefits. Now the situation has reached uncontrollable levels and, even if the politicians want (which cannot happen) to take corrective measures they too will be under threat. So ultimately what will happen is that the errant ones will go scot-free, suddenly disappear or something that we experience could happen so that the whole matter will be hushed-up.

  • 0

    Many citizens have died in police custody.
    So far no inquiries have been mentioned in the media.
    Postmortem reports are not divulged.
    DIG Vass G,his wife & son were earlier indicted for assaulting student Nipuna Ramanayake. Vass G did not attend courts and no arrest warrant was issued.The case ‘died’ a natural death.
    A ‘fundamental rights’ case filed by Nipuna R is still pending.
    Does this not show judicial ‘indifference’ to police brutality?
    Julampitiya Amare responsible for many murders is yet to be tried.

    Politicians Sampath Chandrapushpa and Duminda Silva have their cases postponed many times.

    But,when ordinary citizens are produced in court by police,magistrates routinely remand them without speaking with the accused in private,as required by law,even if they are obviously injured.
    Sri lanka is the only country where police accused of human rights violations are ‘punished’ by transfers to other locations where they continue their behaviour.
    The Asian Human Rights Commission has highligted many cases of arbitary arrest and brutality by police, with no action taken by the judiciary.
    We now have a Police State.

  • 0

    Milinda,I want to know the reason that in this letter you insist several times that “this is not about DIG Vass Gunawardena But something else .When you talk about a criminal act can you stop naming the criminal Who supposed to have instructed the act to be carried out ? Are you too scared to write as i am in this country that claims you have freedom to express your opinion democratically

    • 0

      Perhaps, little barking and more wagging of the tail.

  • 0

    For DIG Vaas to act with such freedom and impunity he must be confident of the backup of his superiors. He is certainly not the god-father of this mafia nor the only member of it.

    One recalls the case of one Nishantha Gajanayake who operated from a hotel in a Vey High Security Zone during the height of the war. What happened to him and what are the results of any investigation if an investigation was carried out? Questions without answers. The answer is blowing in the wind.

  • 0

    The naked truth is for every Vaas Gunewardena caught, only because the evidence was far too strong to be ignored for one as protected as the man is, dozens many are carrying out Vaas G’s trade to the hour today.
    Now we need a Police type of outfit to protect the people from the extortionists, abusers and killers in the Police force. They are far too busy with their earning-efforts to attend to the ordinary needs of the common man.

    These men are turned savages because they are said to be willing tools to carry the illegal contracts of VVIPs to get rid of opponents. During Premadasa’s days there was another Police Officer (many of us know his name) who when he went in flames the day Premadasa was killed, made a famous lady in the medical profession to exclaim “God has punished the man who abducted my son and killed him”

    If these are not signs of a Failed State, pray tell me, what they are.


  • 0

    Malinda Seneviratne’s statement that “This is not a Vass Gunawardena story but a Police story or rather a police-culture story,”is an unmitigated lie.

    Is there truly no limit to your blatant hypocrisy, Malinda? But then you ARE a paid mouthpiece for those who run this violent and corrupt system, aren’t you?

  • 0

    Malinda, you say,”The question will be asked: ‘Who has been protecting him all this time and why?’”. You mean you don’t know?? Come on, man, stop playing the idiot!

    Why don’t you read ‘Catastrophic Results: Gota And A Haven For Criminals’ by Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena – the post on CT just before yours? Maybe that will help you!!

    Otherwise, your ‘observations’, though a bit late in the day, merit positive acknowledgement. Are the scales finally falling from your eyes or is the scale of impunity finally getting to the apologists?

    • 0

      Malinda too is a hit man of a sort.

      • 0


        “Malinda too is a hit man of a sort.”

        You mean he is a hired gun or a keyboard slinger?

  • 0

    Trifle odd. The crowds turned violent. The police tried to control. It got worse and them the army came and the crowd cheered. Strange crowd indeed cheering when a further team has come to quell their violence.

    As usual the insidious messages are-
    1. there is nothing wrong with the political hierarchy and patronage offered.
    2. The army is saintly – to concede that the army is guilty would be be to open the gates for the crimes against humanity charge.

    The strangest argument that he makes is that this is an institutional problem, but that the only institution that is affected is the police. Everything else is tickety boo. Surely common sense should show that in the Sri Lankan set up it is impossible for just one institution to go bad. What about the civilian oversight? What about the defence secretary taking the police under his control?

    • 0

      Thank you for that succinct summary.
      I suppose it will provoke the usual braying from those whom it pays very handsomely to support this regime of murder and mayhem!

  • 0

    Daily mirror online reported on the 9th Jan 2012,that
    PMPS complained to the bribery commission against a
    senior cabinet minister Piyasena Gamage of a news
    report that carried a statement in which the minister
    had admitted to have paid Rs150,000 bribe to a school
    principal in Galle for an admission that happened to
    be the son of a relative of his.The “ithing ehema ne
    api apey minihava araksha karanne or salakanne”was
    part of the talk of our first man of the country.The
    irony is,these are the people who promise to the voters
    that they can develop the country.Not by eliminating

  • 0


    You know who is protecting these murderers and criminals in the police, security services, the criminal underworld and among the ruling party politicians.

    The person is Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and you know it.

    There are many others, apart from Vaas Gunawardena, in the police, military and the criminal underworld who are carrying out these anti people and illegal activities at the behest of Gota. This is public knowledge but you being a Rajapaksa follower will not say it openly.

  • 0

    Should not the US Citizen Nandasena Gotabaya Rajapakse tender his
    resignation sooner than later? Will he have to wait the CHOGM.

    • 0

      Punchinilame era of resigning is gone, the new era is holding onto the post by hook or crook, even political parties are shameless like Mahinda , Ranil, Somawansa, Tilvin, Hakeem , Thondaman, etc

      The good generation has expired long ago now we have educated thugs murderers cheats frauds rapists.

  • 0

    Prime murder suspect MP Duminda Silva back in politics. Typical Rajapaksha Governance.

    [Edited out]

    I think the cause of corrupted police\political culture are due to the fault of gvt and not the people who voted them into power. Attorney General, Chief Justice, Police and Govt should make sure that law and order is maintained according to the book. Simple is that. People had no other option than choosing bad from worse candidates into power. When elected politicians are in power, they must promote good governance. Gvt brought a code of ethics for media and Chief Justice Mohan Peiris reiterated the importance of following a code of ethics for judges and lawyers. I think CJ and the Gvt should first practice what they preach. Attorney General and Chief justice are responsible for most of crimes in Sri Lanka. AG and CJ through their representatives (state councilors or govt lawyers representing Police) decide whom to punish and not to punish in courts. If AG, CJ take soft stance/partial because they have to do a favour to criminals/ politicians since they are politically appointed, the law is in criminals hand and jcome to society and continue the business. That is what happened to DIG Vaas in Nipuna Ramanayake abduction case. Then AG Mohan Peiris did not name Vaas as a suspect. If he did, then many lives could have saved from DIG Vaas. To avoid this type of fatal mistake this should be investigated by an independent commission to find what lapsed.

  • 0

    Malinda everything is correct. You and me both were there at. Laliths funeral.but now you are trying your best to wash Gotabaya’s dirty cloths ! Am I correct?

  • 0

    The truth is that the political class that prevailed in Sri Lanka and who has convinced that they are most suitable to represent the populace has completely failed for the following reasons.
    1. Allowing the country to fall in to a state of a third world nation since the days following independence
    2. For not making provisions for industry which could have employed our youth, but murdered them when they questioned the authority right to rule
    3. Lacking of foresight which has now made sri-lanka dependent on types foreign employment, not too far removed from slavery
    3. Allowed terrorism to flourish, which brought this government and its corrupt political generation in to power
    4. Diluted the Sri-Lanka’s Buddhist heritage, through compromising cultural rights to achieve small goals, as Sri Lanka had to heed to demands from other immediate foreign powers
    5. Played in to the hands of our nauboring nations including China, driven through needs of assistance required to solve immediate political crisis

    What do you now think of the JVP’s message now, were they not right in their foresight. What we are facing now is a crises of leader ship, not merely of the police.

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