As the country reels from the triumph and shock of the events of July 9, questions have been raised about the arson attack on Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe‘s Fifth Lane private residence around midnight. It was an uncharacteristic finish to a day filled with triumph and celebratory sentiment, despite brutal baton charges, relentless tear gas attacks and live ammunition the demonstrators faced as they breached the Presidential Palace, Secretariat building and also the Prime Minister’s official residence the Temple Trees.
The Wickremesinghe residence on Fifth Lane where the Premier has always chosen to reside even while holding office and entitled to the Temple Trees official residence, was set ablaze after protesting crowds flocked to the site following the brutal attacks on six Sirasa TV journalists by Special Task Force personnel securing the residence.
STF personnel were caught on camera surrounding and assaulting the journalists and subsequently their colleagues who arrived on the scene to take them to hospital for medical treatment. A female journalist Sarasi Peiris who had been at the helm of the exclusive Sirasa coverage of the breach of President’s House and the relentless teargas attacks and baton charges the protesting crowds encountered, was also badly injured in the STF assault.
With the Sirasa cameras beaten back, scenes at Fifth Lane went dark. Incensed by the attacks on the media, crowds swelled at Fifth Lane and were repeatedly tear-gassed and beaten back, eyewitnesses told Colombo Telegraph.
Reports emerged on social media and messaging groups about unruly elements mingling with the sea of Aragalaya protestors, wielding poles and other makeshift weapons and threatening all those who dared to film events unfolding on their mobile telephones. Despite the heavy STF presence, the perimeter to the residence was breached and crowds reported seeing looting and destruction of property. Less than an hour later, Wickremesinghe’s home was ablaze, sending shockwaves across a largely triumphant nation, that had seen an unprecedented people’s movement bring the military and the political establishment to its knees.
The arson attack also brought swift condemnation upon the protest movement for allowing things to spiral out of control, with multiple messages of sympathy and solidarity going out to the Prime Minister and his wife. Ironically, despite the events that took place at the Mirihana protest on 31 March 2022, Sri Lanka’s Colombo elites were quick to heap blame on the protest movement and seek to discredit its aims. Those with familiar with the case of Arabi Wasantha and the Mirihana bus burning, are warning that there might be more to the attack on Wickremesinghe’s house than meets the eye.
The Mirihana protest outside President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s private residence took a dark turn after a man drove an army bus into the melee. Soon afterwards the man and his assistant set the bus ablaze, escalating tensions and inspiring a vicious crackdown on the protest that had been largely peaceful thus far. The bus burning incident also paved the way for President Rajapaksa to declare a state of emergency, curfew and digital clampdown for several days.
The individual who gained notoriety by first driving the bus and then setting it ablaze in Mirihana is Satha Nalaka alias ‘Arabi Wasantha’ now facing charges under the public property act at the Gangodawila Magistrate’s Court.
Arabi Wasantha is an employs of Avant Garde Security based in Etul Kotte, the security firm owned and operated by former army major and Gotabaya Rajapaksa acolyte, Nissanka Senadhipathi. Senadhipathi’s security operation employees hundreds of ex military personnel, including Arabi Wasantha who was one attached to the Sri Lanka Air Force.
Despite video footage of the bus and the moment it was set ablaze, it took police nearly two months to locate Arabi Wasantha, who taunted law enforcement on social media during that time.
Once he was arrested on 20 May 2022, a strange series of events followed. Arabi Wasantha claimed he had driven the bus into the area to “save the life and property of the President”. On June 24, the CID marched into the Gangodawila Magistrate’s Court and urged the judge to grant him bail, claiming that he honestly had not known that the bus was “public property”. The Attorney General immediately filed a motion seeking to drop the charges against Arabi Wasantha, to the shock and outrage of the Magistrate.
Colombo Telegraph can now reveal that the AG and the CID were acting on the instructions of the newly minted Minister of Law and Order Tiran Alles, also a close associate of Avant Garde Chairman Senadhipathi. Together the two powerful political influencers were seeking to have the man tasked with turning the Mirihana Protest violent on 31 March set free and leaning on the Attorney General and the CID to get him bail from Court.
In a bizarre twist, a volley of senior army officers marched into the CID headquarters in Fort to voluntarily provide testimonials for Arabi Wasantha, among them a Brigadier and seven other army officials. Strangely, the AG told court, the statements were made only after Arabi Wasantha was charged as a suspect in the case, and not before. The military personnel claimed that Arabi Wasantha had de-escalated the situation at Mirihana by his actions. The AG claimed this was completely contrary to what military and police personnel on duty at the protest had claimed.
The AG’s about-face was the result of a timely exposure on social media regarding the reasons for the Gotabaya Rajapaksa regime to seek Arabi Wasantha’s release.
The rank political interference in the Arabi Wasantha case, tells a damning story about subterfuge and external interventions in a peaceful protest movement by shadowy elements closely associated with the regime.