5th March 2000

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Ragama horror unearthed

By Chris Kamalendran

The breakthrough in the mysterious murder of a woman soldier in Ragama came from one of the persons who reportedly helped the businessman allegedly involved in the killing to dispose of the body, police said.They said he had leaked information to a special Police unit.

Angry mobs torched at least 10 houses and eight vehicles belonging to the main suspect - a 26 year old businessman when the body was discovered on Wednesday in his backyard.

Inoka Sewandhi Weerasekara, 24 attached to the Women's Corp II of the Army in Anuradhapura had been carrying on with the businessman who later turned out to be her alleged killer. Her parents had objected to the affair, but they had carried on regardless.

"We had complained to the Police about the man's behavior as we did not trust him. Our suspicions were built on information we got from neighbours," said Lalitha Piyaseeli, Inoka's mother.

"Inoka had also told us that the man was threatening her but she could not break the affair," she said.

Last year in February Inoka had joined the Army and served in Anuradhapura. Three months later the suspect Prabath de Saram had called over at the army camp and got her to come with him allegedly saying her parents had met with an accident. Two days later Inoka's mother had called the camp only to find that she had been taken away on a false alarm.

Efforts to trace the daughter proved futile and eventually she had complained to the Kadawatha Police in June.

"Towards the end of June Inoka came home with a stab injury and complained that Prabath had stabbed her and was forcibly keeping her at house in Batalanda, in Sapugaskanda. She said that she wanted to get back to the Army. But we asked her to stay at home. One day when I was out of the house my daughter was taken away. That is the last I saw her," Ms. Piyaseeli said.

In July the family lodged a complaint at the Kadawatha Police about the alleged abduction of the girl by Prabath. Soon after they lodged another complaint, but without any results.

Eventually both parties - Inoka's family and Prabath's family were summoned to the Police station on August 31. Police said Prabath had claimed that Inoka had demanded her passport which was in his possession and left the country. But Inoka's family did not accept this claim.

As their suspicions mounted, Inoka's family continued to search for her. They were aware that Prabath was having a mistress in Ganemulla.

The mistress allegedly posing off as Inoka had called home and said she was keeping fine and not to worry.

Family members fearing that the Police were not carrying out investigations properly decided to lodge a complaint at the Peliyagoda Special Operations branch.

The Special Operations Branch, led by IP H.Samudrajeewa now came into the scene and launched its own investigation.

They began by gathering information about the suspect which finally led them to one of the people who reportedly helped Prabath dispose of the body. The man is now in custody and has reportedly made a confession about the murder allegedly carried out by Prabath.

According to him Prabath had allegedly taken Inoka to the mistress's home at Ganemulla in September and on the 26th of the same month had allegedly murdered Inoka by strangling her. Later he had sought the assistance of his mistress and two others, who are now in custody, to dispose of the body.

They had first taken the body to a cemetery in Kadawatha, but had failed in their attempts to dispose of it.They had taken the body which had been cut into three parts to Parabath's house at Kurukulawa in Ragama and buried it there in the backyard, police said.

The informants who had helped in disposing the body were arrested in February and police had kept a tab on the alleged mistresses phone.

Police said the mistresses involvement in the killing came to light when she gave a call to Inoka's home posing off as Inoka and saying they were fine and would be visiting the family during the Sinhala New Year.

Prabath and the mistress were arrested on Tuesday while the vehicle used to dispose of the body was seized.

Less than 24 hours after body was discovered and the culprits arrested, villagers in shock and horror went on a rampage torching houses and other belongings of Prabath's family.

Two leading bookshops in Kiribathgoda and Kadawatha owned by Prabath's family were also attacked.

On Friday the body of Inoka was exhumed on a directive given by the Gampaha Magistrate, Irangani Perera. More than 200 policemen were deployed in the area along with army personnel to control the large gathering who had thronged the place.

As the body was being exhumed there were more unruly scenes.

Inoka's mother was able to identify the body with the ear - stud and the T-shirt on the body.

Colombo North JMO Ananda Samarasekara supervised the exhumation.

Big time crime hits Colombo

By Nilika de Silva

A wave of crime appears to have hit Colombo city just two months into the new millennium. The public are still trying to come to terms with the hold ups and increased violence in the city which until in recent years was protected from such incidents, only reported from distant crime capitals in the West.

But today many complain that Colombo is fast becoming another crime capital, as armed youth strike in crowded locations with no fear of the consequences.

The hold ups at McDonald's in Kollupitiya, the Rajagiriya food city supermarket, the gang rape incidents reported on Beach Road, Mt Lavinia and the hundreds of petty crime incidents that take place almost on a daily basis are too much for a city less than a thousand square kilometres in size.

While those in authority point their finger at deserters who are still in possession of' weapons they took when fleeing, for rising crime figures, highups in the police also say that the shortage of manpower within the police force is a pressing problem.

"If day and night patrols take place none of these things would happen, but then we really don't have the manpower," a senior police officer confirmed.

This senior officer at Police Headquarters who wished to remain anonymous, went on to say, "It's obvious that the police cannot do sufficient patrolling to prevent this kind of thing. Hundreds are engaged at road blocks and checking people. Buses, railway stations, rail tracks and bus stands also have to be guarded. There is no place that the police are not expected to guard. Water tanks and transformers have to be guarded. This thins out our strength and makes business establishments vulnerable."

The hold up at McDonald's on February 21 saw six armed men walk away at around 1.15 a.m with more than one million rupees, three days income from this fast food outlet in Kollupitiya.

The group carrying automatic weapons, had entered through a door which was open to discharge the day's garbage, and had taken the money after assaulting two of those who were in the process of counting it.

After taking possession of the money the gang forced the staff into a cold room and walked away, police said.

Another hold up at the Rajagiriya food city in which Rs. 400,000 was robbed took place last week.

However, the senior police officer who spoke to The Sunday Times said the disturbing factor was that there had been a person armed with a T 56 automatic weapon at the McDonald's hold up, indicating it could have been a job by Army deserters or underworld characters. Speaking on the subject of deserters he said, "For the last two or three years they have played a major role in the increase in crime."

He said, " However, I believe this situation is not unique to Sri Lanka. In other war torn countries weapons are available to underground, gangs and deserters who stage robberies. It even happened in America, where after the Vietnam war there was a sudden increase in violent crime."

"Some cases have attracted public attention, as they have been highlighted by the media, but these are things have been happening. Just because McDonald's had been robbed that doesn't mean that this is the first time that an establishment has been robbed. It's a prestigious place so it attracts attention," he said.

Regarding crime taking place in business establishments this officer felt that they have now to take extra precautions.

"They have to take these precautions themselves. Normally in any country, all these big places have their own security. They don't depend on the police for their security," he said.

He felt that the responsibility to provide security to these establishments lay with the private security personnel employed by the establishments. "They will have to play a bigger role," he said.

As proof of the efficiency of the police force the senior police officer cited the relative peace prevailing within the city.

"A major incident has not occurred for a long time now in the city you know, such as a huge bomb explosion, like at the Galadari or the Pettah bus stand," he said. That shows that the security arrangements have been effective. Otherwise they would have destroyed the city, they would have pulled down the city by now," he said.

Another S.B. stunt rocks House

By Dilrukshi Handunnetti, Our Lobby Correspondent

Recorded conversations are used world wide as electronic evidence. Often they have proved volatile like the infamous Hulugalle saga better known as the Channel 9 scandal.

It was another tape-allegedly containing some vitriolic utterances by a senior cabinet member in an address at the 17th sessions of the Institute of Architects-which grabbed headlines this week.

Although such utterances by the political tribe have become almost the norm in our kind of Banana Republic, the cherubic sports minister S.B. Dissanayake's political googlies went a little too far earning the wrath of the judiciary and all civic minded and democracy- loving people.

His astonishing remarks about a possible closure of Parliament in the event of not mustering 2/3 majority in Parliament to put the package through and marching orders to members of the Judiciary unwilling to fall in line may have been an instant of thinking aloud, yet it may turn out to be something quite costly for him.

At a time when an absconding opposition is pressurized to act responsibly and a government equally pressurized to reach a consensus, Mr. Dissanayake's comments can only add fuel to the already divided lobbies.

His comments have apparently stirred a hornet's nest as expected.

While the parliamentarians' salary increase was passed without debate (which effectively silenced protests from the likes of Vasudeva Nanayakkara), what received notice of the entire House was the suicide jacket discovered on the second floor and the vitriolics of minister Dissanayake.

While this new controversy was greeted by the House with the same fanfare accorded to the infamous Susanthika episode, the UNP was quick to cash in on the embarrassing situation which puts the government in a negative light.

Perhaps this was why on Thursday when the votes on the ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation were taken up, that Ranil Wickremesinghe decided to discuss the many ailments plaguing the tourism industry; the chief being the threat to democracy

He said he believed the country was either heading towards a pariah state or a police state. He also questioned Dharmasiri Senanayake on the validity of Mr. Dissanayake's statement and whether the SLFP stance was the same as Mr. Dissanayake's.

"If this is the trend, there won't be tourists coming here, and you would be out of a job too. See the many threats to democracy and justice in the country ," he opined.

Enjoying the opportunity to rub some salt on the PA, he continued amidst protestations by deputy Speaker Anil Moonesinghe that while some of Mr. Dissanayake's suggestions were laughable, the one about converting the House into a Constituent Assembly and send home judges who opposed such a move should be condemned outright.

"What is tragic here is sir, that some have forgotten that the sovereignty was in the hands of the people, though exercised by Parliament. There could be a separate Constituent Assembly but the House must function. It should pass legislation, allocate finances and raise issues. The minister has sought to flout with blatant disregard this rich democratic tradition," he charged.

Mr. Wickremesinghe also warned that the country was heading towards disaster. "My party Chairman and General Secretary were questioned under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) like common criminals by the CID in connection with a bomb blast which devastated my party.

The PSD was running the state and the country has taken a nose-dive, " he thundered amidst protests from government benches about born again democrats and defenders of justice.

Mr. Wickremesinghe also offered to play the controversial cassette allegedly containing the minister's address anywhere or any place the government wanted him to.

"You know that a verification has been sought from the newspaper which carried the news item in a distorted manner," protested minister Senanayake whose comment was brushed aside by UNPers who were enjoying tormenting the government.

The UNP also further cashed in on the situation by moving an adjournment motion on the same.

The irrepressible W.J.M. Lokubandara who moved the motion couldn't resist comparing the subdued G.L. Peiris' repeated pledges to democratize the entire process of governing with the utterances of the burly sports minister Dissanayake.

"What is the official stance? Mr. Dissanayake's comments were chilling and killing. Like a Valentine Princess, the President descended upon the House to deliver the budget speech.

Everyone enthused about a possible indication of a transition from an absolutely powerful presidency to a Parliamentary system. What bunkum? She was here only for dramatic effect- and she has disappeared from the House with the same swiftness with which she came," he opined.

And then came the Hanguranketha tornado- Mr. Dissanayake.Given his high profile in government, his comments had to be treated seriously.The implications of his speech were quite in contrast with the lofty ideals expressed by the PA prior to seeking a mandate from the people.

Yet it was the fiery Vasudeva Nanayakkara who drove the point home with his customary zeal. Firing salvos, he said that a Cabinet member who could utter such shatteringly devastating vitriolics should be dealt with in a like manner and be tried for treason promptly.

"It is a terrorist move, part of a conspiracy to undermine democracy and the minister is party to such," he alleged. "Set an example by taking stringent actions," he urged.

Following him was the young deputy minister of justice who was obviously stuck in the past as all he could speak of was J.R. Jayewardene's 'Dharmishta' treatment of the Judiciary.

Quite forgetting that two wrongs did not make a right, he heaped scorn on the UNP with his fiery zeal. "Here are members who gave undated letters of resignation to the architect of the evil Constitution now posing off as defenders of democracy. When this deceptive and draconian Constitution was introduced, there was not even a whimper of a protest. When judges gave determinations against them, their houses were stoned and there were no passionate speeches made in their defence, but deafening silence," he lambasted.

Finally, it was upto the gentle professor of law G.L. Peiris to smoothen the ruffled feathers with mild assurances, which the Opposition sought to rip apart mercilessly.

"First let me assure the House that the Executive Presidency under the transitional provisions would continue for six years with no increase of powers. Similarly, there would be a president and a premier and not a singular person exercising powers of both," he said.

"I am the minister of Justice, so accept what I say please. And I say with great emphasis that it is not the policy of the government to close the legislature or to dismantle courts in stark convention to the ideals we hold precious," he said, stoically refusing to be drawn in or to elaborate on the sports minister's remarks which has become a political minefield. St. Augustine in his The City of God has raised the pertinent query- 'Justice being taken away, what are kingdoms but robberies?' Perhaps the legislators would learn at least at this latter stage to lead by example and to refrain from attacking those who enjoy no parliamentary privileges and therefore denied the right of reply or simple defence.

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