By Gamini Dullewe –
It appears the majority is unaware of the real facts, pertaining to this safe house and those with vested interest are trying to paint a different picture politically, to mislead all. In 2006 or 2007, I had the requirement to buy a barrel of Colas to get my front compound carpeted. Since it was not available in the Kandy town, I was directed to a dealer at Udathalawinna in Wattegama. When I went there, I met the person concerned and fetched the barrel of Colas. In the process of conversation, I asked him about the incident where ten Muslim youth were gunned down in a van on the Election Day in December 2001. He responded, saying it happened right in front of his house. He said, most people after voting that day had been indoors, through fear of violence. Around 5 p.m. he had heard some speeding vehicles and gun fire. When he looked out from his upstairs house, he had observed a van being chased by a Defender Jeep. The van had come to a halt just near the level crossing, right in front of his house, where upon some in the Defender Jeep had jumped out and rushed to the van and started firing into the van. The whole saga was over, in less than a couple of minutes and the Defender Jeep had left the scene immediately. A few vehicles that came afterwards along the road, had by passed the van but had not stopped to probe. There had been absolute silence and no one had approached the van that had been lying across the road. After about 15 to 20 minutes, he had approached the van and found many lying covered in blood and someone groaning asking for some water. Then another who was also alive had asked him not to drink, because there was time left to break the fast for the day. Since no one arrived from the neighbourhood to help him, he had got back to his house and kept watch. Then he had seen the one who had asked the other not to drink water, getting off the van and walking along the railway track limping and disappeared in to the fast fading daylight. After about an hour or so the Police had arrived and cleared the van along with the dead bodies. The Police had knocked on his door and had inquired for a statement and he had related what he had seen. Later that night a group of Army men had arrived and had warned him to keep his mouth shut. Later realizing the gravity and danger being a witness, he with his father, who knew Anurudha Ratwatte had gone to meet him the following day and had explained the situation. Then Anuruddha Ratwatte had assured no harm will happen, but to keep quiet, which he did.
It was subsequently that the story of Lohan Ratwatte and his brother’s involvement surfaced to the dastardly crime. The IGP then, had personally instructed SP Kandy Police, Kulasiri Udugampola to look in to the matter and report to DIG Nimal Mediwaka. Kulasiri Udugampola had looked for Lohan Ratwatte and his brother, but there was no trace of them to obtain a statement. After about two weeks, Kulasiri Udugampola had received information, that Lohan and his brother were visiting a particular house at the Millennium City Complex at Athurugiriya. Thereafter SP Kulasiri Udugampola having informed his superior, the DIG of Kandy, had set upon to visit the premises at the Millennium City Complex with a team of six Officers. Reaching Colombo they had contacted the Military Police unit in Narahenpita and a couple more Military Police Officers also had joined them on the raid. Upon inquiry they had managed to locate the house and there had been two individuals at that time in the house. One Subramanium an informant, that he came to know later and Sgt. Maj. Jayamanne of the Army. This same Sgt. Maj. Jayamanne is the person from Kegalle who later committed suicide claiming that he was responsible for the murder of Lasantha Wickrematunge, long after this incident.
On inspecting the house, there had been nothing incriminating, except the front room had been locked. When requested to open the room, they had been informed, that the key was with Capt. Nilam. When SP Kulasiri Udugampola had indicated that if the room cannot be opened that they will have to force open the room. Then only they had telephoned Capt. Nilam who had turned up with Sgt. Maj. Udalagama to open the room. In the room there had been a stock of Thermoberic Missiles, RPG Launchers, RPGs and a number of T 56 weapons. When questioned they had been unable to give a plausible reason for storing such a stock of weapons, without adequate security. The discovery had been reported to the DIG in Kandy and the IGP, which led the Army Commander being contacted about the storage of weapons at this house, to which the Army Commander had replied that he was unaware of the existence of such a Safe house, to store arms and ammunition. It is only then SP Udugampola had been given the approval to take all in to custody, along with all the weapons and be taken up to Kandy and remand them. After they had been taken to Kandy with the arsenal, SP Kulasiri Udugampola had been instructed to hand over the arrested Officers with the weapons to the STF, which he had complied. Thereafter the STF had been instructed to hand over the Officers and the arsenal to the Army for further Inquiry by the higher Authorities. That was the end of the matter.
It was only thereafter, that there was an attempt to project this house as a ‘Safe House’, by the SLFP led MPs in the Parliament led by Wimal Weerawansa, blaming the UNP in general and Ranil Wickremesinghe in particular, for exposing an Army Safe House involved of a unit responsible for deep penetration of the LTTE held areas. Ranil and the UNP were accused of exposing the Intelligence Officers by this raid that led to the LTTE gunning down the Intelligence Officers subsequently they claimed. The UNP was held responsible for their deaths as alleged by Wimal Weerawansa and the gang. To put the record straight, I am made to understand that none of the Intelligence Officers of the Army who were in this Safe House, have been gunned down by the LTTE to date. It is the informants, former LTTE cadre who had surrendered to the Army and who had been providing information, are those who had been gunned down. Here again the list of informants, maintained by the Army, was not known to the Police party led by SP Udugampola and if as alleged, it was leaked to the LTTE, obviously has to be by the anti UNP forces that kept hammering Ranil as a betrayer of the country and the Forces, before the Presidential election in 2005, accusing Ranil of a ‘Ali Koti Givisuma’ while it was none other than MR, who has had secret dealings with the LTTE, paying them money to prevent the Northeast vote, be cast, for MR to become the President. Therefore it is very clear as to who had dealings with the LTTE and passing the list of Informants to be gunned down, to blame Ranil, is the handy work of no other. Maj. Muthalif and Parami Kulathunga a school mate of mine, who had no connection to this Safe House, were both killed after information of their movements were informed to the LTTE, from within the Army itself, by an Army Capt who was arrested, tried and convicted later.
Lasantha Wickrematunge wrote extensively in the Sunday Leader, reference this Safe House then. He clearly stated that for it to be called a Safe House, it should have been in the enemy territory or at least close to the border of conflict. He also pointed out, what the necessity was, in storing lethal weapons without proper security, when the Army Camps at Panagoda and Kohuwela were in close proximity to this Safe House at Athurugiriya? The fact that the Army Commander was unaware of this safe house indicated very clearly, that this house was used to store the arsenal for a clandestine operation by some party within the Army itself and certainly not for the Deep Penetrating unit of the Army.
If one were to remember the period before the 2001 December General Election, the UNP used a Luxury Bus, painted in green with a large photo of Ranil’s, for his propaganda campaign. Ranil at times had travelled in this bus. Information had been received at that time that the Bus was to be targeted to be blown up by firing a mortar. Therefore it was suspected this house at the Millennium City, to be the store house for the purpose. In addition prior to the General Election, a Police party in civvies with SP Police Nihal Karunaratne, Chandrika’s Body Guard and a couple more Police officers, were arrested with RPGs at Hewaheta. Unable to explain their presence in the area where Ranil was to address a Political meeting they were apprehended and later charged and convicted. However they were quietly pardoned and released by MR once he became the President. Chandrika had also employed a notorious Underworld murderer known as Baddegana Sanjeeva, who was earlier in the camp of Sirisena Cooray and Premadasa during their heyday when a similar killing spree continued under the UNP.
Chandrika is a very vicious and a vindictive woman, as described in Victor Ivan’s book ‘The Choura Ragini’. In spite of SP Kulasiri Udugampola being exonerated by the Director Police of the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) and being applauded by his senior Police Officers, for a job well done in apprehending the suspects, Chandrika got a case filed against SP Kulasiri Udugampola, and got him interdicted from service in May 2005. From that time he has been denied of his Salary and later his Pension. He has been put through a lot of hardship and harassment, merely to take revenge from an Officer who only carried out his duty. Had there been a Bona Fide case against SP Kulasiri Udugampola, then his Superiors in the Police who gave him approva for the raidl, too should have been indicted. Strangely the target was only SP Kulasiri Udugampola. The case has dragged well over 14 years and SP Kulasiri Udugampola is retired now with no Pension or the past salary. As for Chandrika the Choura Bandit, could not have earned poetic justice, better, from her own successor, than from her opponents, in the most humiliating manner, that she richly deserves every bit of what was dished out to her, that she had to face. Therefore let us not be fooled when MS and MR protest against the current PSC which is in session, relating to the Easter Sunday massacre of 21/4, to find out as to who is responsible for the tragedy. The same lot who were responsible for lambasting Ranil and the UNP as Traitors, to have betrayed this Safe House at the Millennium City, now objecting that the Intelligence Officers should not be summoned and questioned, to thwart the Inquiry, to prevent the exposure of the real culprits responsible for 21/4, is understandable.