14 July, 2024


Former Welikada Prison Official Testifies About The 2012 Massacre

By Ruwan Laknath Jayakody and Kavindya Chris Thomas

“Who watch him lest himself should rob the prison of its prey,” questions Oscar Wilde in The Ballad of Reading Gaol.

The trio of former Magazine Prison Superintendent Emil Ranjan Lamahewage, Welikada Prison Warden M. Nimal Shantha and Prison Superintendent (since July 2014) and at the time of the Welikada Prison massacre a Jailor attached to the Intelligence and Security Division of the Prison (the Prison’s Police) Indika Sampath, were the operational masterminds behind the butchery of 27 prisoners on 09 and 10, November 2012, an eyewitness of the State, a senior Prison official confirmed.

Of the 11 prisoners who died inside the Prison, a total of three fundamental rights cases have been filed in Court and three petitions have been lodged at the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) against a Police Narcotics Bureau Officer called Rangajeewa (incumbent Officer of the PNB, Inspector of Police Neomal Rangajeewa), one case has been filed against former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa by a parent of one of the slain while a parent of one of the murdered has lodged a plaint at the HRCSL against Lamahewage.

Lamahewage and Nimal Shantha had met at their homes, planned, discussed and orchestrated it in their quarters, said a Chief Jailor who wished to remain anonymous, adding that Lamahewage’s younger brother in the Army too had come on 09 and 10, dressed in civvies.

Former Commissioner General of Prisons P.W. Kodippili who was in his office inside the Welikada Prison, Deputy Commissioners and Prison Superintendents, all present at the time when the events unfolded, did not utter a word against the slaughter, he added.

“I knew when the Army and the Special Task Force (STF) eight man teams (several) {An eight-man team is one of the basic fighting elements in an Army, comprised of members who have different skills like for an example in fighting and the use of heavy weaponry.} came pushing cupboards out of the way and barging through doors that people were going to die and head were going to roll. None of these prisoners have done any good to the society. These prisoners may deserve the death sentence but the manner in which they were killed was wrong. I have told all of this to the Committee of Inquiry into the Prison Incident 2012 (C.I.P.I.). Everyone is now against me because I am testifying against them. From 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. I gave evidence for two days before the C.I.P.I. I have all the details including the numbers of the 28 firearms’ (Type 56 assault rifles) taken from the armoury which was under me,” he remarked. 

They were looking to kill a prisoner called Mohamed Shiyam because Rajapaksa had asked for Shiyam’s house in Cinnamon Garden and he had declined despite Rajapaksa having told him to file an appeal after which Shiyam was to have been set free, subsequent to which Shiyam would have to give his house to Rajapaksa, the Official explained. As of 2015, Shiyam was in the Mahara Prison.

The scene of a crime

“I went for lunch at 1.30 p.m. on 09 November. I had had only two handfuls to eat when I was informed that there was something going on and when I went to the entrance gate they, the STF were there on both sides holding weapons. This was at about 1.40 p.m. I asked who they were and why they had come. They said around 700 had gone in. Forcibly led by Indika Sampath, they had already started searching the L Hall. I asked as to why I had not been consulted. I then asked for a senior Officer. None of them spoke to me. I had no reason to aid them in their search. When queried from the Prison Superintendent, he told me that there was no issue. Then, three of us went to the office and had tea. I told the Prison Superintendent not to go to the side where they were. Ten minutes passed. Then they had gone to the Chapel Ward stating that all the “Wedakarayas (the bigwig criminals),” were there. When I went, one Muslim Prison Police Officer attached to the Maligawatte Police whom the prisoners called Inspector of Police (IP) Nana said that he had been assaulted. He said that he too was a Police Officer and that it was no problem if we, the Prison officials had hit him but that this was unacceptable. Another Police Officer of ours too had been assaulted. When I went there the President’s Security Division was there and I asked them as to what they had to say about not allowing our Officers to do their duty. They stated that they could not do anything but that they had obtained and received permission to come to look for the prisoners they were looking for. They did not say who had given permission and neither did they have anything in writing. I never thought such things would happen. They cannot come in this manner to a Department. They cannot question prisoners or anyone in this manner. Then prisoners including Warnakulasuriya Palihakkarage Ajith Fernando involved in the Rita John Manoharan rape and murder all said that they did not want to be searched by persons outside and that if we wanted we could search but if those from outside came they would not allow them to do so and that they would kill them and eat them alive. I told the Army and the STF to go but they said they would not go. I then told that I would tell the Prison Superintendent. They then started using tear gas even inside closed cells. Normally, tear gas is fired to make people flee. I vomited several times. My skin felt stingy. Luckily it rained heavily. I shouted at them in filth. A set of prisoners were near the L Hall. The prisoners started throwing rocks, stones and bricks. One hit the wall near me. Even though they stopped throwing once I neared, there was no way to stop this. If they did not fire teargas and had withdrawn, none of this would have happened. After the initial round of tear gas, the STF went outside. Those from outside were the ones who deliberately incited this. Two prisoners got hit by bullets and the bodies were later placed on top of my office table. Then the prisoners broke the armoury and got on the roof. They went to the dispensary and took drugs after which they became real madmen. They went to the canteen and drank the aerated water bottles. They broke the armoury because the STF shot at the inside while on the outside. None of the prisoners started out having firearms. I inspected the area near the temple with a torch thinking that at least 30 would be dead. Not one was dead. After that the prisoners slept after taking pills. There was one prisoner near the temple holding a T 56 assault rifle. He was shooting at the sky. I gave him a thundering slap and demanded that the weapon be handed over. He gave the weapon and ran. If anyone wanted to runaway they could have easily done so from the other side. I collected some weapons while some were returned. The H Ward, the L Hall and the M Ward were all closed and in others only about 10 or 12 prisoners remained outside. Twice I sent people outside in three wheelers with instructions to not be shot at, nothing happened to them. Where were the weapons in the three-wheeler they are alleged to have used to shoot from the two side openings? While the shooting was going on one prisoner, a bus conductor from Anuradhapura who was taking a call got shot. Two got killed while trying to escape. There was a lot of collateral damage. The STF killed the prisoners they wanted to kill. All the people they killed were prisoners who had filed cases against those who had ordered their death. They killed all those named in the list. I overheard a conversation between those in the Army – “Gota ge list eka (This is Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s list)”. Some prisoners escaped death by being informed in advance of the Army’s arrival. A lot of the Army is in the underworld.” The Official said.

Former political prisoner and eyewitness who testified before the C.I.P.I., W. Sudesh Nandimal Silva said that there was another boy who was the one who had driven the getaway vehicle in the case of the killing of two monks and who was also a drug addict who was only assaulted and then let go of, after stating “Umba wedak nehe (You are useless).” There was a person in Army fatigues called Ranawala, who was also involved, Nandimal Silva added.

“Not a riot…”

“Wait a minute, wait a minute. If I have a firearm or weapon on me would you come two feet close to me and shoot?,” the Official queried.

When the Army officers and the STF personnel attacked the inmates in remand custody, fired tear gas inside cells, they immediately came out of the ward out into the Prison grounds. The inmates and the Prison officials who remained behind came out since it was impossible to stay inside with the tear gas. The main gates were crashed. Then only was the armoury broken into. Mostly T-56 firearms that were broken out of the armoury were taken up by the inmates.

Later on, after things relatively calmed down, the firearms were collected again, and according to the State official who was present for the entire incident, he himself had collected all the firearms that were broken out.

According to him that evening there were 28 firearms that were missing from the armoury which he had found and collected from the inmates who had taken them. He had then returned the weapons back to the armoury.

However he stressed that four out of these 28 weapons that were returned to the armoury were found near the bodies of the dead inmates after the Army’s onslaught into the Prison.

“How could the weapons that I returned end up near the inmates?,” he queried. “The weapons were taken back and placed near the inmates who were killed to stage that they had used the firearms, giving the Army a reason to shoot and kill. I recognized the firearms as I had already made a list of the missing firearms and that is when it occurred to me that the Army had broken into the armoury and had taken the weapons to stage the murder of the inmates.”

To cement these allegations there is photographic evidence of the incident. There were inmates and other Officials who took photos of the bodies. One set of the photos show bodies of the inmates; most of them who died due to head injuries caused by bullets. One can see soldiers standing near the bodies and no weapons can be seen near the bodies. However there is another set of photos which portray the bodies with several weapons lying around. According to the State Official who revealed these details, the firearms were placed so as to create the impression of something that never happened.

“The manner in which the blood splatter patterns had sprayed on the walls was also different. The initial inquiry into the deaths suggested that the inmates had died due to gunshot wounds fired from a close proximity. The blood splatter patterns which were on the wall were at a mid level point suggesting that the victims before dying were made to kneel down when shots were fired at a point blank range again suggesting that they were executed and terminated with extreme prejudice.”

The State Official said that he had photographic evidence as well as details of the firearms that he collected alongside their registration numbers.

“How could they have shot the inmates at point blank range if they were armed? Even the inmates who were taking an injured convict to the Hospital in a three wheeler that day did not have any firearms. The official statement was that they came out of the scene shooting at the Army officers who were outside. This was not a riot. It was an absolute bloodbath and massacre.”

The Kill List

All roads lead to one destination. All fingers point at the same people.

Accusations run from the likes of Rangajeewa and up as high as Rajapaksa. The State official who will remain anonymous has said that their involvement in this culling or selective slaughter was not a Prison unrest as outlined in the official statements; but a carefully orchestrated annihilation of people.

“Yes, they were prisoners. And yes, they were incarcerated because they had committed crimes of various degrees. But where is the justice of slaughtering them as if they were animals?,“ he questioned.

Twenty seven inmates were killed that evening. Others were hospitalized (the numbers vary according to different accounts of the events, ranging from 16 to 43). And according to the State Official most of the deceased or rather executed inmates had some sort of connection to Rangajeewa who was present with the Army inside the Prison when things went downhill. Eyewitness testimonies record that he was wearing a yellow coloured t-shirt.

The State Official provided a list of names and details of the deceased inmates. The details regarding their incarceration may be the reason behind them being murdered as they are undoubtedly connected to the aforementioned Rangajeewa of the Narcotics.

“Major Manamendra Dissanayake who was inside on charges of giving information to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam against former Deputy Chief of Staff of the Sri Lanka Army Lieutenant General Parami Sugandika Bandara Kulatunga, was hiding upstairs in the L Hall

They took in another person thinking that he was Dissanayake and sent him back. Dissanayake refused to get into the armoured car.”

The Yahapalana Govt’s Response

It was Former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. who once informed an overzealous young man who found himself in a courtroom that, “This is a court of law, not a court of justice.”

The C.I.P.I. led by retired High Court Judge Wimal Nambuwasam has recommended that steps be taken to initiate fresh criminal investigations, conducted by a special team of investigators under the direct command of the Inspector General of Police (IGP), into the matters that have not been taken into consideration with a special focus on alleged violations corresponding to torture and matters that constitute an offence under Section 162 of the Penal Code (offence in relation to the conduct of a public servant).

Make payments of compensation to the families of the deceased persons and those who were injured in the incident; compensation will be paid only for the people who did not take part in violent activities.

Review unreasonable sentences imposed on the inmates relating to the incident with the view of granting them redress in view of the fact that the inmates alone could not be held responsible for the commission of mischief to the Prison’s property.

Ensure the protection of witnesses who appeared before the C.I.P.I., as some Prison officers have voiced their concern in relation to fear and apprehension since some of their comments involve disclosures made against their senior officers.    

Recognize the active engagement of Prison staff to subdue and control the situation that prevailed during the aftermath of the search operation with the payment of monetary rewards and promotions to the next rank as arduous efforts by all officers must be recognized and duly rewarded in the form of monetary rewards as considered appropriate by the Prison authorities because some officers have contributed courageously under trying circumstances.    

United Nations

The A/HRC/25/23 annual report of the Office of the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights and the report of the UN Secretary-General promoting reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka, presented as agenda item two at the UN Human Rights Council’s 25th session on 24th of February, 2014, under C., extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary killings, under 24., noted that, “On 12 November, 2012, the Ministry of Rehabilitation and Prison Reforms appointed a committee to inquire into the events in the Welikada Prison on 9 November, 2012, when STF personnel conducted a search operation and Army personnel subsequently intervened to control a riot; where at least 27 inmates were killed and 43 injured. The committee handed over its report to the Ministry of Rehabilitation and Prison Reforms on 15 January, 2014, but it has not been published. According to media reports, it concludes that the prisoners shot each other.”

“I did not tell a word to the Committee appointed by the previous Government under former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. I said I did not remember.”   

The Prison’s Officials who stayed behind

The only ones present on 09 night and 10 November, 2012, inside the Prison were Class I Jailor P.K.W. Kudabandara, Class II Jailor Chanaka Weerasinghe, Warden B.M. Karunaratne, Warden A.N. Dabare, Warden T.S. Welagedara, Warden S.A.D. Udayashantha, Warden M.L.R.E. Fonseka, Warden O.M. Munidasa, Professional Advisor/Consultant W.A. Upul, Store Keeper P.R. De Silva, Overseer S. Sarana Ranjana, Dispenser W.D. Wimalaratne, Warden H.G. Wijesinghe, Warden A.N. Chandrasekara, Warden M. Nimal Shantha, Overseer D.D.N. Pushpakumara, Warden G.N. Samaranayake, Warden K.L. Wimal Shantha, Warden G.H.H. Eranga, Warden G.V.N.C. Gunawardena and Overseer T.A. Punchinilame.

Well over 150 Prison Officials should have been there including the ones who reported to work at 5.30 p.m. on 09 who would have had to wait till early dawn on 10, he said, adding that one Prison Official named Chaminda Perera had been wounded after a stone had hit him and had subsequently been hospitalized.

Of the closing up to 182 officers who were supposed to be in Prison, only 21 remained. The others had fled. They were all supposed to be on duty.

“When I informed my higher Officers including Prison Superintendent Gamini Jayasinghe to intervene, they did not and instead ordered me to wait where I was.”

Nandimal remarked that when there was nothing left to do, violating laws, he himself had given a call to Jayasinghe who had told him and the others with him to wait with Kudabandara and to not go anywhere.    

“When Kalu Thushara, was being shot, Kodippili was there. ‘Sir, do not kill me. I have two daughters,’ Thushara shouted. Kodippili just laughed and said that it was the end of Kalu Thushara too. Jayasinghe on the other hand when contacted was in mortal fear at the time. Those outside knew that these prisoners would be killed,” the Prison Official observed.   

Fleeing can be construed as aiding and abetting in the crime, both, directly and indirectly or as an act of omission tantamount to professional negligence.   


Of his time in one of Siberia’s penal labour camps, Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote that “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” It is highly doubtful that civility was what was being extended to the prisoners and inflicted by the State’s protectors of public order including Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Rangajeewa, Sampath, Lamahewage, Shantha, former Minister of Rehabilitation and Prison Reforms Chandrasiri Gajadeera and Kodippili. That their choice was violence and that they actively chose it is exemplified by this exercise in pure, brutally banal evil and sickening wickedness. By bandying the term riot or calling the State’s or then Government’s slaying a quelling of disquietude, and thereby contriving the punishing act of killing to have been within the confines of the law is to only affirm in light of the material evidence that has come to light through material witnesses, both dead and alive, what the senior Prison official who testified is quoted as saying, “To kill whom they wanted, they killed those they did not want. This was to give the impression of a riot.” With the exception of two prisoners, none of those boarded in Welikada despite the ample opportunities to do so, had attempted to escape the caged world hospitality of the Welikada Prison. 

Regarding the inquests into the deaths, an open verdict has been given. Mohamed Wije Rohana, whose body was found riddled with bullets, contains wounds symptomatic of those caused by gunfire at close, point-blank range, to the head and thus the exhumation of Wije Rohana’s body could reveal that he was indeed shot and killed, execution style, a matter regarding which, the senior Prison official said he was “Seeyata (100%) Daahak (1,000%) sure.”

The Savage of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World nodded, frowning. “You got rid of them. Yes, that’s just like you. Getting rid of everything unpleasant instead of learning to put up with it.”

Rangajeewa when contacted said that he was not authorized to comment. Attempts by the authors to contact Lamahewage, Shantha, Sampath and Kodippili failed as their contact details (office or home landline/s and/or mobile phone numbers) could not be found.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa was not available for a comment.

Related Posts:

2012 Welikada Prison Massacre

“I Was An Eyewitness To Kalu Thushara’s Murder At 2012 Welikada Prison Bloodbath,” – Sudesh Nandimal Silva

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 7

    Let them live. That is the punishment for the perpetrators for this dastardly crime.Living they will die a thousand times thinking of the crime committed. If they are Buddhists they and their generations to come will pay for this crime during many births.

    • 4

      What are u bubbling man… peoples have been abused and manipulated by those thugs even today. Media men work for the thugs not against. So the very same people woule never know what is right and what is wrong.
      This country is appalled by wrongful news being spread by Media mafia.
      Just check printed and electronic media. Most fo them today are baised to their pay masters.
      This country will never be taken a ride to so called hub. It will rather become a somalia. for sure.
      Social media men too are very abusive.
      They dont care about what is said to be good.
      They just work for their agendas.
      Rajanapakshes should be hung by their balls for all human harms they have deliberately made to this nation regardless of the race.

    • 2

      Upali, unfortunately, they belong to the ‘Nigantanatha Puththa, Poorana Kassapa, Makkalee Gosala, Kakunda Kachchayana clan. Percy Mahendran is not a ‘Buddhist’ at all.

  • 4

    Ruwan Laknath Jayakody and Kavindya Chris Thomas have taken extreme risks in this piece of investigative journalism.
    One expected very dark side of humanity but not as dark as this.
    One wondered how in the late thirties, the gas chamber operators went back home, ate dinner and slept. It was clear that they were conditioned.
    The Welikada massacre in our own back yard? This is an important political issue but no politician dare take it up. Those who were to uphold law and order have become a law unto themselves – Contract killing is money for jam.
    We, the Lankan silent majority must not remain silent any more.
    Ruwan and Kavindya please please take care

  • 4

    You will have to outsource Sri Lanka’s justice system if you really want justice to be served. Current system is already bought and paid for by the previous government.

    “The stay order issued by the Appeal Court, preventing the FCID from taking action against former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa under the Public Property Act”

    “The Supreme Court has issued a stay order preventing the Colombo Magistrate’s Court from hearing the case filed by the Bribery Commission against former Chief Justice Mohan Peiris.”

    “Ex-President Mahinda Rajapaksa bas slammed a law that allows SL to borrow more money this year to repay large volumes of loans that are maturing later”

    Why not if you can get cheaper loans to set-off higher interest loans?

  • 7

    Is Dayan J Alzheimer’s “Gota for President Campaign” still alive?

    • 2

      Ben Hurling

      “Is Dayan J Alzheimer’s “Gota for President Campaign” still alive?”

      Recently Dr Gota said he was not interested in presidency. Probably he would be happy operating white vans while his brother is in the saddles. If true Dayan the public racist will now back Sajith Premadasa who like Dayan believes Sri Lanka should adapt Bumiputra system of governance.

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 5 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.