In a repeat of history, Prisons Minister Lohan Ratwatte has been involved in a shooting incident over the new year, that has been covered up by the government. The Minister and SJB parliamentarian S.M. Marikkar were hosted at the W15 boutique hotel in Hanthana, Kandy by the hotel owner Hisham ‘Hardy’ Jamaldeen, on 29th December 2020.
Marikkar, his wife and two children were dining with Jamaldeen’s family at the hotel, when the Prisons Minister joined them with his ex-wife and son. While the children of the three families were away playing, an argument erupted among the adults. At one point, Ratwatte boasted that he had released thousands of people from prison and was going to release Duminda Silva next.
At this point, Marikkar laughed, and said there is no way Dilith Jayaweera would allow Silva to be released. Ratwatte, who was after several drinks, was enraged. “Are you saying I can’t handle Dilith? he shouted? Marikkar told the minister not to get angry, that everyone has to accept that Dilith Jayaweera is the man in charge and he would never let Silva get out of jail. Furious, Rawatte got up and screamed at Marikkar. “Dilith is in charge? I’ll show you who is in charge.”
The Prisons Minister then pulled out his pistol and started firing into the air, terrifying everyone present. The children cried and ran away to hide. Ratwatte’s bodyguards burst into the dining area with their weapons drawn. They were confused but did nothing to stop the minister from firing into the sky, as terrified hotel guests ran away from the shooting into their rooms.
Marikkar left his wife and children and fled back to his hotel room. Jamaldeen sat frozen while his German wife, Bella, came to her senses and tried to get him to get up and flee with her. The prisons minister glared at her and stopped her. “Why are you running? Don’t be scared. There’s nothing to be scared of,” he mocked her.
“Please don’t hurt us,” Bella begged the Minister. “I’m not going to hurt you,” Ratwatte replied. “I am just showing that piece of shit who is in charge. Come, you can help me,” he beckoned for Bella and Marikkar’s wife to join him.
Ratwatte forced Jamaldeen’s and Marikkar’s wife each to hold his pistol, as Jamaldeen sat in stunned silence. “It’s easy,” the minister said, aiming their hands into the sky and firing multiple shots as the women looked away in terror. The Minister’s son tried to calm the other children, explaining that Ratwatte always shoots when he is angry, and saying it was like fireworks and no one ever got hurt.
Hardy Jamaldeen finally opened his mouth and reminded Ratwatte that they were not alone. There were two families of tourists present who had fled into their rooms when the shooting started. Jamaldeen pleaded with the minister to make peace with Marikkar, while he tried to prevent the hotel guests and staff from calling the police or publicizing the incident.
Eventually, Marikkar came out of his room to check on his wife and children. With Hardy Jamaldeen’s mediation, the two reconciled. The hotelier told the minister and opposition MP that they are all on the same side, and the incident becoming public would be politically damaging for Marikkar, who as an SJB MP has lobbied hard to prevent the opposition from giving publicity to a lot of the activities of controversial businessmen.
In an attempt to make amends, Ratwatte invited the Marikkar and Jamaldeen families to have lunch at his home in Kandy the following day, on 30th December. The three men agreed to meet the following day, and Ratwatte left the hotel. Soon after the minister had left, Jamaldeen apologized to the two families of hotel guests, an Indian family and a local family, and waived their hotel bills in exchange for their silence about the incident.
The following day, there was tension in the Marikkar and Jamaldeen families on whether to attend the luncheon at Ratwatte’s residence. Bella Jamaldeen insisted that they must go, fearing that the violent and angry Ratwatte could be offended against them and retaliate if they failed to turn up. She was worried in particular about the damage another incident could have on the reputation of the hotel.
S.M. Marikkar was similarly keen to go, worried that Ratwatte could leak a distorted version of the incident and damage him politically. However, Marikkar’s wife was still traumatized and worried about the effect the previous day’s events would have on the children. She won the day and the Marikkar family refrained from attending the lunch at the Ratwatte residence.
After the two couples parted ways, Jamaldeen recounted the incident to his father, Northwestern Province Governor A.J.M. Muzammil, a key fundraiser for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa among the Muslim community. Muzammil contacted S.M. Marikkar and asked him to put the incident behind him, explaining that if the events were exposed it would cause serious damage to everyone involved.
The opposition MP seems to have agreed, and story has since been buried. (By AW Suranimala)