By Chris Kamalendran and Mahangu Weerasinghe
Failure of the Police to provide adequate protection
to judges was highlighted and allegations of manipulation of evidence
surfaced as the investigation into the killing of High Court Judge
Sarath Ambepitiya and his MSD guard continued yesterday.
Police log book at the residence of the judge had been removed soon
after the incident and returned later, allegedly after it was tampered
with, the investigators were told.
family members of the slain judge told Colombo Crime Division investigators
led by SSP Sarath Lugoda that protection given to them was inadequate
and on certain days Police officers assigned to guard the residence
did not turn up.
Lugoda told The Sunday Times that they had questioned the driver
of the cab in which the assassins had arrived. According to the
driver, the assassin had booked the cab from Maradana, saying they
had to go to Moratuwa. After getting into the vehicle, the killers
had asked him to go to Sarana Road in Colombo 7 where the judge
lived. The SSP said the killers were drunk and one of them had even
vomited before they arrived at the judge's residence. The cab driver
had told the Police that the killers had waited for half an hour
near the judge's residence till he arrived. Besides the CCD team,
four more Police teams have been assigned by IGP Chandra Fernando
to track down the killers. Stringent security measures for judges
were discussed at a high level meeting mid this year after an intruder
attempted to molest a female High Court judge. Former IGP Indra
de Silva and Bar Association representatives were among those who
attended the meeting, presided by Justice Minister John Seneviratne.
Among the measures discussed were providing full security to judges
and establishing a unit similar to the MSD or PSD to protect judges.
months back High Court judges and District Court judges had met
at Mr. Ambepitiya's chambers where they had discussed security measures.
The meeting was attended by an Assistant Superintendent of Police
and the OIC for Keselwatte. They also discussed security measures
within the courts complex. Mr. Ambeypitiya had left courts at about
3.25 p.m. and had just reached home where he was shot. He had stepped
out from the front seat of the car and was reaching out for some
of his belongings from the back seat when the attackers opened fire
killing him on the spot. His bodyguard, IP R.A. Upali had been shot
from behind. His body lay sprawled on the ground and the boot remained
open. IP Upali took two shots from a 9 mm weapon. The vehicle, a
white Mazda van, 253 - 0882, was found opposite the Elvitigala Flats
in Narahenpita at about 5.45 p.m.
Ambepitiya charged that Police had taken far too long to arrive
at the scene. "They took over half an hour to get here. When
they did come they gave a feeble excuse for their delay saying they
thought they were looking for the house of Minister Sarath Amunugama,"
said a tearful Mrs. Ambepitiya.
senior judge told The Sunday Times that judges were not given adequate
protection. "The government needs to take steps to give better
protection to the judiciary so that they can carry out their duties
to the best of their abilities."
Ambepitiya who had celebrated his 58th birthday the day before had
joined his wife and 13-year-old son on a visit to the Kelaniya temple
to mark the event. Judge Ambepitiya, an old boy of Royal College
joined the judiciary 27 years ago and served in many parts of the
island as a Magistrate. He later became Chief Magistrate, Colombo
and Additional District Judge, Colombo. His first posting as a High
Court Judge was in Galle after which he was appointed as a High
Court Judge in Colombo. As one of the most senior Judges of the
High Court, Mr. Ambepitiya was expected to be promoted to the Court
of Appeal shortly. The Sunday Times learns that the judge was thus
clearing up his stack of cases, and that many had been fixed for
judgment in the next few weeks.
was due to sit in the Trial-at-Bar due to commence sittings on the
Mirrussuvil massacre where nine soldiers were charged for the killing
of eight civilians.
Assassins dash IP's retirement plans
By Sachithra Mahendra
The slain High Court judge's body guard, who was
acting as the driver on that fateful day, was planning to retire
on February 15 next year following his 55th birthday, said his grieving
Security Division Inspector Upali Bandara was shot dead along with
High Court Judge Sarath Ambepitiya on Friday. Upali Bandara's wife
Tilaka Kumari told The Sunday Times that her husband had been a
vegetarian and a teetotaller for the last five years and wanted
to devote himself to religious activities after retirement.
first obligation was to his job and next to religion. He took leave
at least once a week to visit a monastery in Kosgama, introduced
to him by Judge Ambepitiya. He did not miss a single Poya day. He
was planning to get ordained after all our daughters are married,"
Tilaka Kumari said.
to Mrs. Kumari, Inspector Bandara used to wake up every morning
at 3.00 am to meditate for two hours before starting the day. He
had a separate abode built recently at the Kosgama monastery, she
shocked parents, wife and three daughters of the deceased were awaiting
the arrival of the body. Two elder daughters of Mr. Bandara were
married, while the youngest was engaged.
husband was not the usual driver to Judge Ambepitiya but was the
bodyguard. The judge's wife or a friend of his used to drive the
car most of the time. Unfortunately on this fateful day he happened
to drive the car", Mrs. Kumari said.
least a couple of guards in the car to watch the surroundings would
have prevented this tragedy. I asked him to stay at home that day
as he looked unusually tired. But he was too loyal to his duties",
Mrs. Kumari lamented. Mr.
Bandara counts a service of 24 years with the Police.
UNP condemns killings
Condemning the killing of High Court Judge Sarath Ambepitiya,
the UNP has appealed to the President to "pay serious attention"
and "ensure that the basic needs of the community, at least
in respect of life and limb, are fulfilled by the Government".
extending its sympathy to the wife and family of the slain judge
and of the Ministerial Security Division officer R.A. Upali, the
UNP said the fate of the respected judge showed society's collective
UNP further stated that for the first time in Lanka's history a
judge had been assassinated, and regretted that a Judicial Officer
administering justice with honour and according to his conscience
had fallen victim to an assassin's bullet.
represented a collapse of the judicial system, where Judges could
no longer perform their official duties in an atmosphere free of
fear and intimidation. It was regrettable that judges, when presiding
over dangerous trials, were compelled to consider the effects of
their verdicts on their own safety, the UNP stated.