MTV attack: Mystery deepens as police trail temple lead

By Damith Wickremasekara

Mystery and missing links abound, defence lawyers say, as police continue investigations into the attack on the MBC/MTV television station, strongly believing that there is a connection between the incident and a row a group of four people had with a monk at a nearby temple.

A senior police officer said detectives believed that the gang which attacked the television station at Pannipitiya on January 6 and the people who had a heated argument with Devuram Viharaya’s chief incumbent Ven. Kolonnawe Sri Sumangala Thera about five hours before that had some link.

Ven. Sri Sumangala Thera

He said that police had arrested one person and were on the lookout for the other three people involved in the temple row which erupted when the monk declined to go with the group for a Bana ceremony.

On Friday January 9, a day before the suspect in the temple incident was arrested, police took into custody Kotte Municipal Council Opposition UNP leader Suraj Anthony Perera Jayasuriya in connection with the TV station attack. The arrest was made after an anonymous caller told police he had seen weapons being transferred from a van to the councillor’s jeep.

The police officer said the detectives believed that since the suspects in both the incidents were UNP supporters, there could be a nexus. They said the four people who came to the temple were supporters of Kotte’s former Deputy Mayor, Chinthaka Udaya Shantha, a UNP member. But lawyers defending the suspects said the police had failed to produce any evidence to show a link between the two incidents.

Ven Sumangala Thera told The Sunday Times that four persons turned up at his temple at 9 in the night on January 5 to take him for a Bana preaching ceremony at Obeysekarapura in Rajagiriya.

The monk said the group claimed that they had informed the temple in advance about the Bana ceremony but when he checked the records there was no such request. He said he declined to accept the invitation and asked them to leave. But the group stayed on and refused to leave the temple, insisting that he should come with them.

Ven. Sri Sumangala Thera said he had no option but to call the police. “The police arrived within half an hour. When the police questioned them, they told a different story, claiming that they wanted to take me to the Bana ceremony as the monk who was scheduled to come from another temple was not available,” the thera said.

Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe in conversation with the wives of the two UNP members who are in remand prison over the MTV attack and temple incident

He said the group then apologized and left but the police officers asked them to come to the temple the following day and offer a proper apology. The monk said the four people came to the temple as promised and apologized and the matter ended there.

When The Sunday Times contacted Kotte’s former deputy mayor, he acknowledged that he had sent the four persons to bring the monk for the Bana ceremony. Meanwhile Kotte MC opposition leader Jayasuriya was produced in court this week and remanded again till tomorrow. The police objected to bail, saying they needed him for further investigations.

Police told court that Mr. Jayasuriya’s jeep was taken into custody and the vehicle had not been registered with the Registrar of Motor Vehicles (RMV) and the chassis number too had been altered. But Mr. Jayasuriya’s lawyers said their client had produced the relevant documents to prove that his jeep was first owned by the Agriculture Department and thereafter by two other people. He had also produced documents to prove that permission had been given to change the chassis number by the RMV, the lawyers said.

Police also claimed that the anonymous caller who alerted them had seen weapons being transferred from a van to Mr. Jayasuriya’s jeep bearing 32- 6701 at Rajagiriya hours after the attack on the MBC/MTV.

Mr. Jayasuriya’s lawyers scoffed at this claim, saying the anonymous caller who noted down Mr. Jayasuriya’s jeep number had failed to note down the number of the van.

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