Colombo Telegraph

Welikada Prison Massacre/Riot; Cover-Up under Climate Of Fear

  • First Committee of Inquiry erased eyewitness testimony
  • Top officials were terrified the truth will out
  • Controversial IP denies everything
  • IP claims possibility of future arrest

By Ruwan Laknath Jayakody and Kavindya Chris Thomas

Necrosis is defined in the clinical terms of the Greeks, as a stage of cellular death, occurring within living tissue, and caused by an act of killing. The abstract notion of truth too is far too often afflicted by this pathology.

As far as the 2012 Welikada Magazine Prison massacre/riot is concerned there have been two separate Committees of Inquiry that were established with regard to investigating the controversial events which took place on 09 and 10 November, 2012, which claimed the lives of 27 prisoners. These two Committees, appointed in two autonomous time periods have behaved in a self contained manner; while one, as Ceylon Today learns, intentionally obscured eyewitness testimonies, the other focused on footling matters.

The first Committee, appointed immediately right after the initial incident, on 10 November, 2012, by then Minister of Rehabilitation and Prison Reforms Chandrasiri Gajadeera, and comprised of retired High Court Judge Bandula Atapattu (Chair of the Committee), former Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) Gunasena Thenabadu and former Legal Advisor to the Ministry of Rehabilitation and Prison Reforms Lalith Andrahennadi. The final report went through numerous delays and was finally released during the latter part of 2013. And even so, the report came under immense criticism for its echo chamber like effect in propagating the myth of the riot.

CT obtained information in the form of recorded telephone conversations between a former prisoner, Sahan Hewadalugodage who was an unintentional eyewitness to the atrocities that occurred on 09 and 10 November, 2012, and a Prison Guard named Madushanka.

The telephone conversation between Hewadalugodage and Madushanka took place on 28 January, 2015. Madushanka, according to Hewadalugodage, is a witness to the assault and subsequent execution of several inmates on the days in question. “He was the one who told us that some of the inmates were picked out from a list of names (‘the kill list’) and were taken out to be gunned down,” Hewadalugodage recalled.

As the conversation continues, Madushanka highlights that a clear culture of fear was seeping into play among the top officials who allegedly masterminded, perpetrated and aided and abetted in the inmate culling that took place at Welikada, three years ago. 

Such is the context; the conversation happens 10 days prior to the second Committee of Inquiry into the Welikada incident is established. According to Madushanka, who was interviewed by the Atapattu Committee of 2012, the Committee had intentionally covered up his testimony of the events that occurred in Welikada.

Madushanka claims: “Emil Ranjan (a reference to former Welikada Magazine Prison Superintendent Emil Ranjan Lamahewage who had allegedly led the Special Task Force {STF} and other Military officers who executed the 27 inmates. One such inmate, Devamullage Malik Sameera Perera a.k.a. Konda Amila (Convict Q – 21517) had previously lodged a complaint through his mother against Lamahewage at the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka {HRCSL}) asked me not mention his name to the upcoming Committee because he is afraid that if his name is mentioned, he too will have to testify. Even Kudabandara (P.K.W. Kudabandara is a Class I Jailor who was the Chief Jailor present inside the Prison complex on the days of the incident) said he was going to tell the truth to the Committee. He (a reference to Kudabandara) has to give evidence because he was inside the place when the incident took place. My statements were Tippexed (Tippex is a type of correction fluid used to erase anything on paper including words) last time. They are all terrified. This should happen. This is good.”

Whether or not Madushanka was present in person to witness the alleged deletion of portions of his testimony is not known and remains a legitimate query in the minds of the authors that is unanswered and requires further investigation.

As the conversation continues, Hewadalugodage questions Madushanka as to why the latter’s oral evidence was censored. “It was all censored by the Department of Prisons Head Office. That report (the Atapattu Committee findings) has no transparency. Top Government officers were afraid during that time. They wanted to cover it up obviously.”

Madushanka who had confided in Hewadalugodage on several occasions has also been intimidated by top echelon officers. He on one occasion had been kidnapped and tortured by supposed officers of the Army Intelligence. In the recording, Madushanka says: “During that period, they did everything they could. If they treated me, an Official, that way, you can imagine what they would do to you. Now things seem to have changed but who can tell what will happen. They have their phantoms.”

CT’s numerous attempts to contact Prison Official Madushanka directly, failed since he was unreachable.

The second Committee, to which Madushanka has supposedly given evidence to, was established on 18 February, 2015, by the then Minister of Justice President’s Counsel Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, and comprised of retired High Court Judge Wimal Nambuwasam (Chairman of the Committee), retired DIG Asoka Wijetilleke and retired administrative official, attorney-at-law S.K. Liyanage. Their report which included several eyewitness records has now paved the way for victim compensation programmes as well as a criminal investigation into the incident. The investigation, informing the Colombo Fort Magistrate earlier this year, has (ironically) reiterated almost all the details and findings the mainstream media has published regarding the State sponsored tragedy, but only six years later.

Meanwhile, an Inspector of Police (IP) attached to the Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB also known colloquially as the Narcotic) against whom many allegations have been levelled with regard to his involvement in the killing of prisoners in the 2012 Welikada Prison massacre/riot, when contacted by CT, said that he was not authorized to speak without obtaining the Inspector General of Police’s permission in prior.

However, although he did not even want to be cited as an anonymous source, he on his own volition spoke at length to the authors without prompting, and answered our queries which were made based on what he spoke of, which he said was solely for the purpose of our knowledge, expounding on his version of the events. His narrative, incidentally, puts a different spin on this serpentine narrative.

Firstly, despite two eyewitnesses, former prisoners (one of whom filed a writ petition in the Court of Appeal seeking an investigation into the murders) and a jailor who were in close proximity, placing him directly at the scene of the killing of prisoner E. Thushara Chandana a.k.a. Kalu Thushara (Remand 4230), he flatly denied being in the premises of the Welikada Magazine Prison on 09 and 10 November, 2012.

As per the eyewitness account the said IP had “grabbed a hold of Thushara like someone who saw something he liked to eat – ‘Me inne baande (here is the goods)’, he said. Thushara then shouted, ‘Rangajeewa mahaththayo (Mr. Rangajeewa)’, don’t kill me’,” and as per the said jailor’s account Thushara had shouted, “‘Sir, don’t kill me. I have two daughters,’”: all of which the IP denied. 

Furthermore, he flatly denied any involvement of the PNB in the events, attributing such instead to the Army and the STF.

“I was not there. I don’t have any involvement in this incident. I was not a part of this mission nor was the PNB. There was not even a PNB dog involved in this. No officers have said that I as alleged have been part of conferences conducted at Welikada in relation to conspiring to kill prisoners. I saw it on television, after my wife informed me, telling me not to go anywhere near the place, as previously a couple of months before the events being referred to, there was a major incident of a similar nature. My wife is willing to testify to my non-involvement in this issue at any forum.”

His view was that only four or five persons (including the two former prisoners and the aforementioned jailor) out of approximately 3,700 individuals (including prisoners, Prison officials on duty on the two days, Army, STF and media personnel) questioned in relation to the incident and from whom statements had been obtained in this regard, had levelled allegations against him of his involvement in the affair. Regarding a jailor whom he identified as being Kudabandara, he said he did not wish to reveal the stories concerning him but would instead sort out the matter in the context of a judicial proceeding.

He added that the presumption of innocence afforded to him had been suspended with regard to him, in particular when he was being made mention of in the media.

On the question of various acts of intimidation including death threats and shootings faced by a eyewitness who publicly testified about the Welikada incident and a lawyer appearing on behalf of the latter in the aforementioned Court of Appeal case, he said that he possessed no knowledge of such alleged acts and suggested that such alleged acts of intimidation could have also been self-orchestrated.

“Everything is connected to money. What can’t these prisoners, some on death row and former prisoners, some of whom are Sinhala koti (a reference to Sinhalese persons with pro-Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam sympathies), say? What do they have to lose? Some of these Sinhalese Tigers conspired against the State and the Government, from the jungles of Mullaitivu, engaging in terrorist activities. During inquiries held in this regard in 2012 and the following period until 2015, they could have at least voiced their suspicion about me, at least to a Magistrate. Yet, they didn’t. Not a word was uttered. Instead, they get together in 2015, and tell the same tale. Those who write, listen and parrot out what they say. How can the writers question? What do they know beforehand about the matter?.” 

According to the IP, the reason as to why he is being targeted since 2015 (three years after the events), was because he is an officer that cannot be controlled by the drug cartels. “I don’t eat and drink with them.”

As per the IP, he was responsible for over 40 cases (specifically 42 cases of successfully obtaining the death penalty against cartel members, he said) concerning drug lords where he had arrested suspected drug barons (he named the convict going by the nom de guerre of Wele Suda, and elsewhere drug kingpins like Ratgama Vidura and Wasantha Mendis), large scale traffickers and their henchmen and nabbed large quantities of heroin (ranging from 10 kilos to 400).

“If I deal drugs or steal, and earn money in this fashion, then all I need is a desk and a chair. There is an allegation against me that I aid and abet certain narco-traffickers while I hunt after others. If so, am I the only IP or Superintendent of Police catching drug dealers? Others too can catch these people. I am the one who has caught the most amount of drugs in this country. For days on end I go to the Courts regarding these issues. Why should I murder them? Am I mad to kill? I have no personal animosity with any of them. I am only doing my job.” In an aside, he also indicated of the possibility of him being arrested in relation to the Welikada incident at a future date.

CT previously reported that Thushara had been apprehended and remanded for the possession of a quantity of heroin which he had brought into the country along with a stock of gold. It was claimed subsequently that the arresting Officer Rangajeewa had not returned the gold in question, a Court production, following Thushara’s arrest, and nor had the gold been produced in Court. Thushara had subsequently filed a complaint cum case against the officer at the HRCSL.

He further denied any knowledge of Thushara, adding that the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) had on several occasions obtained statements from him with regard to his alleged involvement in the incident and that he had furnished evidence (oral evidence from relevant officers, technical evidence and evidence pertaining to the probability or rather improbability of him being there on the particular days) to the CID attesting to and allegedly proving his non-involvement (according to him also a fact which had been confirmed by higher officials of the STF and the Army in their evidences). According to the IP, he had even volunteered to hand over his weapon and the weapons of his PNB team to the Government Analyst’s Department thereby assisting in the investigations conducted in this regard. He however added that since the incident, no commission or committee established in this regard, had summoned him for questioning.

“I have never caught Thushara let alone seen him in person and neither has the PNB been involved in his arrest. We at the PNB don’t even have a proper photograph of him. I have only seen one with him bare-chested, donning a sarong. What then is the alleged problem I have with him? How then could I search for him in a cell in the pitch dark with the lights out?.” In what Police station in the country is there no case against Thushara, he queried, challenging the authors to find details regarding such from Thushara’s parents.   

“I don’t know of any so called ‘kill list’. Only those who died and those who speak of this are aware of such. The truth will come out one day. However, by that time all that needs to have happened would have taken place.”

Related posts:

Part -1 : 2012 Welikada Prison Massacre

Part -2 : “I Was An Eyewitness To Kalu Thushara’s Murder At 2012 Welikada Prison Bloodbath,” – Sudesh Nandimal Silva

Part -3 : Former Welikada Prison Official Testifies About The 2012 Massacre

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